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Breaking Down The Trailer For The Green Knight

In a world in which sequels, remakes, and comic book movies dominate the filmland, "The Green Knight" seems just about as far-fetched as a movie can be. Fortunately, it's also one of the most interesting upcoming big-screen offerings out there. Director David Lowery's ("Pete's Dragon," "The Old Man & The Gun") take on Arthurian legend tells the story of Sir Gawain (Dev Patel), a brash knight of the Round Table who makes the mistake of answering the challenge of a mysterious, gigantic, and seemingly wooden Green Knight (Ralph Ineson). This sets him on an epic, terrifying adventure that, from what we've seen of it, seems like it's destined to join the pantheon of classics from the esteemed A24.

Now, a trailer for the movie has dropped, and it makes clear that fans are right to expect great things. Let's take a moment to break down the excellent trailer of "The Green Knight." 

The Knights of the Round Table meet a knight who won't die

The trailer kicks in when the Knights of the Round Table are hanging around in Camelot, and their ruler, King Arthur (Sean Harris), requests entertainment for himself and his queen (Kate Dickie). In a textbook case of "be careful what you ask for," a monstrous, green knight who looks like he's made out of wood steps in and challenges a knight to take a free shot at him.  The young Sir Gawain is quick to accept the challenge and decapitates the strange visitor — only for the Green Knight to pick up his head and proclaim: "One year hence." As the rest of the trailer makes clear, this means Gawain must meet the monster in a year to complete the game and receive a blow in turn. 

It's pretty clear that the Green Knight enters the castle in full knowledge that he was setting his opponent up, not least because he delivers a pitch-perfect evil laugh as he exits stage right in full Headless Horseman mode. So, while Gawain might be mostly concerned with the fact that his days are likely numbered, the trailer makes sure that the viewer can't help but wonder exactly what the Green Knight is all about.

Arthur doesn't like unfinished games

The year has almost passed, and Gawain seems to be fine with setting the whole Green Knight incident aside. (To be fair, who wouldn't?) However, his king doesn't want to hear any of it. In a meeting between Gawain and Arthur, the ruler states in fairly clear terms that Gawain must find the Green Knight in order to fulfill his pact. "Was it not just a game?" Gawain asks. "Perhaps," Arthur replies. "But it is not complete."

And, just like that, a quest is given. Because the Green Knight survived Gawain's blow, and the mythical King of Britons turns out to be a game completionist, the young knight has no choice but to leave the confines of Arthur's stronghold and travel through a land that's unlike anything he's — or you've — seen before. It's a pretty solid, if more than a little ominous, start for an epic adventure. 

Enter the fox

As Sir Gawain rides toward an unfortunate fate, a creepy voice speaks ill of his chances for survival. "You will find no mercy," it says. "No happy end." It's easy to assume that the raspy whisper belongs to a soothsayer or witch of some sort, but the source of these pessimistic portents turns out to be an otherwise perfectly cute and furry fox that, for some reason, chooses to hang out with Gawain. 

It appears that whatever fate awaits the young knight, the fox isn't particularly happy about it. "Why do you stop me?" Gawain asks, as he walks the woods carrying a massive ax, and the fox rushes to block his path. "Your doom is at hand," the small animal replies, while lifting its ears and trying to puff itself up. Since the very next thing we see is Gawain swinging his ax at the camera, and the shot looks a whole lot like it might be from the fox's point of view, it's unclear if the fox is trying to warn the knight of a threat — or bragging about the fact that it is the threat. Either way, a talking fox seems like a pretty cool creature in the movie's heavy fantasy setting, and one can only hope that it won't meet its own doom. 

The Scavenger and the ax

"The Green Knight" is a pretty star-studded production, and the trailer features all sorts of legendary characters and amazing creatures. Even so, one of its most threatening figures seems to be entirely human — though not any less dangerous for it. Right after the fox has given its warnings and Gawain has swung his ax, the trailer introduces the Scavenger (Barry Keoghan) — a bandit type who has managed to tie Gawain up and steal his massive weapon. "You rest your bones," he proclaims. "I'll finish your quest for you." 

The fact that the Scavenger and his men manage to defeat a knight of the Round Table is one thing. The fact that he appears to be aware of Gawain's quest takes things to a completely different level — and the character's prevalence in the middle of the trailer gives the impression that he might be more than he seems to be. But, then again, that could be said of pretty much any character here.

Gawain meets the giants

Did you think that the Green Knight is kind of tall? Well, buckle up. As Sir Gawain climbs up a hill, he observes a misty vista, over which a group of gigantic, shadowy figures slowly march toward an unknown destination. Gawain doesn't seem awfully surprised or shocked to see them, and in the very next moment, he lifts his ax and appears to scream triumphantly.

The trailer makes it seem that these two things happen in quick succession and take place in the same location, which creates the impression that Gawain has been actively seeking out these giants or at least knows what they are and is very pleased to witness their travels in person. Eagle-eyed viewers also note that the fox from earlier seems to be by his side. As such, there's a chance that whatever happens between the two in the forest earlier in the trailer, the fox survives the meeting to annoy Gawain even further. 

As befits the trailer's general air of mystery, the nature of the giants remains very much up in the air. Though their introductory shot shows them just wandering, a later one shows one of them actually reaching for Gawain. Did the knight really intend to seek them out, or did he just stumble in their dangerous path? This remains to be seen.

Fleeting glimpses of potentially important characters

A casual viewing of the trailer might give you the impression that it gives away a whole lot of the plot of "The Green Knight." However, the moments near the end make it clear that the trailer only barely scratches the surface. The movie has plenty of big-name actors that we barely see in the trailer — like Joel Edgerton's Lord, Alicia Vikander's Lady, and Erin Kellyman's Winfred. 

Toward the end of the trailer, we see a succession of quick, adequately mysterious shots featuring several of the hitherto unseen characters. Lord, in particular, gets a quick shirtless scene and later returns to ask Gawain: "And what do you hope to gain in facing all of this?" Gawain seems to have come a long way from the opening moments of the trailer, since his answer is clear and devoid of his earlier hesitancy. "Honor," the knight says. "That is why a knight does what he does." 

A final confrontation

It's generally not a great idea for a trailer to give away even a small part of the ending. Then again, the very premise of "The Green Knight" relies on the assumption that Gawain and the titular character cross paths again by the end of the movie. As such, the trailer ends in pretty much the only way it can. As the last words of his heroic reply to the Lord ring in the air, we see Gawain enter some sort of wooded area in which nature seems to have taken over. The Green Knight awaits within, walking down a set of stairs to meet Gawain and asking in a nearly gentle tone: "Are you ready?" 

This, fortunately, isn't even close to a spoiler. Though the trailer offers a series of short, exciting glimpses into the movie's world, it does a commendable job at not revealing anything beyond the most general outline of the plot. There are still many entirely unexplained moments, such as the halo crown that's familiar from the movie's marketing, and the inexplicable scene that features Gawain's head seemingly catching fire. All in all, it seems that while "The Green Knight" trailer has seemingly revealed some of the film's secrets, it has also hinted at even greater and deeper ones that you can't possibly hope to comprehend without seeing the movie. That's the sign of a pretty great trailer.