Review by Sean Boelman
An adaptation of the illustrated novel by Tom Wheeler and Frank Miller, the new Netflix original series Cursed is the latest attempt to fill the void in big-budget fantasy action. However, not even benefitting from Miller’s signature style, this is a dull and messy take on a common tale that would have benefitted from being a few episodes shorter.
The series reinvents the Arthurian legend through the eyes of a young sorceress as she is tasked with delivering a powerful and ancient sword to the wizard Merlin. While the idea of an origin story for the Lady of the Lake sounds very compelling on paper, in execution, it turns into something much less satisfying: a mediocre coming-of-age tale with a few strong action sequences.
For the most part, the series feels like it was made predominantly for viewers who do not already have a firm understanding of the underlying folklore. Revisionism does have its charms, and while there are some moments that this feels like it is going to do something truly edgy and unique, a majority of the plot points revolve around the “surprise” of discovering these characters’ folkloric identities, and that is hardly enough to sustain a ten-episode arc.
Furthermore, the series suffers from having too many antagonists. The main storyline, involving an extremist religious group setting out on a sort-of “crusade” against the influence of witchcraft on their society, is compelling. However, when there is on top of that a secondary (a deadly assassin who is cool but underdeveloped), a tertiary (a tyrannical King), and even a quaternary (a warring faction vying for power) antagonist, there is simply too much happening.
Had the series stuck to the main storyline involving Nimue’s quest to deliver the sword to Merlin, with the secondary threat of the Red Paladin crusaders persecuting her people and the romantic subplot between Nimue and Arthur, everything would have been much more streamlined and far more entertaining.
That said, perhaps the single biggest disappointment of the series is that it feels artistically uninspired. Apart from the animated transitions and a few of the early action sequences, this barely feels stylistic in any way. A majority of the footage feels generic, as if it could have come out of any medieval action series, which is a shame given the talent involved.
If the series does do one thing extremely well, it is the casting. Despite often mediocre dialogue, the stars are able to pull a solid amount out of this material. Katherine Langford is extremely likable and does a great job of leading her own series. Hopefully this will earn her some more opportunities with a lead role. Also a standout is Devon Terrell, who is wonderfully charming with his different take on Arthur.
The concept of Cursed sounds like it would be a lot of fun, but alas, perhaps rushed in an attempt to capitalize on recent trends in popularity, this ended up being rather disappointing. For a hormonal teenager just discovering folklore, this may hit the right balance between sex and mayhem, but it’s too dark for the kiddos and too tame and pedestrian for most adults.
Cursed is now streaming on Netflix.