The Green Knight Review

Dustin Koski
4 min readAug 1, 2021

Based on my past experience watching A24 films in theaters, I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of apprehension when a couple sat next to me in the theater this afternoon. To me movies such as The Witch, It Comes at Night, Midsommar, etc. are not to be watched while accompanied by a romantic interest unless you want to risk driving a wedge in the relationship, if only for a couple hours. They’re movies for loner weirdos to immerse themselves in for awhile. So imagine my surprise when the couple seemed to watch in rapt attention while the single guy sitting to my other side got up at about the 2/3 mark and left the screening, never to return. Such are the surprises that A24 films can provide for me after all these years.

As many of you know, The Green Knight is an adaptation of one of the stories of King Arthur’s knights, the lesser known Sir Gawain. I thought I was going in more or less aware of the broad contours of the story because I’d watched a summary from the Youtube channel Overly Sarcastic Productions:

Obviously David Lowery’s adaptation wasn’t going to be as lighthearted and cutesy as all that. As the movie began I got the musical score composed of unusual instruments, the earthy art design, lack of exposition, stately pace, and other hallmarks of an A24 production. I was so ready for a gritty, down to earth deconstruction of Sir Gawain the Well-Meaning-but-Flawed’s story. And although I enjoy the A24 aesthetic, I found the idea kind of eyerolling.

You see, I’d recently watched video review of from the Youtube channel Breadsword called “Disney’s Robin Hood and the Death of Color.”

The thesis of the video essay is basically that doing a bright, colorful, larger-than-life version of the legend of Robin Hood, with the cast of archetypes on swashbuckling adventures that his stories entail, is truer to the spirit of the character than the grim and grittier retellings of Robin Hood that became fashionable since the 1970s. Trying to make Robin Hood more “real” just flattens the character, setting, and story. It’s a legend, and should be allowed to stay one.

While Robin Hood and King Arthur are very different folk traditions, the principle seemed to be the same. I expected that even as David Lowery tried to blend the realistic textures of Medieval Europe with fantasy creatures, he’d end up making such a dry and artsy version of the story that it wouldn’t quite mesh.

What I didn’t account for was that the end product has a sense of humor about itself, albeit a very dry one. Dev Patel as Sir Gawain isn’t so much a noble but flawed man as he’s a living pile of flaws overcompensating, so his hardships are often more amusing than they are harrowing or admirable. To the end, his nobility gets undercut in ways that made me snort. The final line of the movie in particular solidifies for me that the entire movie is meant as a straight-faced but intentional joke. Hell, what is the Green Knight as portrayed in the poem if not a trickster spirit?

I suspect on rewatch I’ll find The Green Knight even funnier. I’ll find more deadpan comedy in the scene where a ghost asks Gawain why he would ever presume to be compensated for retrieving her head. The fact that Gawain’s mother seemingly accidentally sent her son on a death trip in an attempt to spite Guinevere is likely to read as more comical while watching at home while reflecting on the movie than while absorbing the scenery and production design during a first watch. There’s plenty more humor that Lowery and company wove into the movie than I initially realized.

In hindsight, if I had seen the poster, I think I would have had more a sense what I was in for:

This might seem like the usual A24 misleading marketing, but I think beneath the surface it’s actually truer to the spirit of the movie. That’s not trying to sell you a “somberly majestic” movie as the film is inaccurately (in my opinion) described in the Variety review. That’s a poster for a comedy, something on the Apatow model. The color choices, which are totally unlike the color design in the movie, are more like a logo for a fast food joint than a grounded medieval fantasy. The only time Gawain demonstrates anything like the bravado he’s depicted showing in the poster is when he’s oafishly committing the act that gets him in this whole mess.

So to those of you who think that just because The Green Knight is told with signature A24 tropes and techniques that you can go in knowing what to expect, I believe you’ll find the movie to be trickier than that. For all its trapping of being a modern deconstruction, it’s heart is much lighter and truer to the spirit of the original anonymously told tale.

Dustin Koski cowrote Return of the Living, a post-apocalyptic supernatural comedy, with cult webcomic creator Jonathan “Bogleech” Wojcik. Click here to check it out!



Dustin Koski

Dustin Koski is a stagehand with IATSE Local 13 and a librarian who has written numerous articles and scripts with millions of views.