For the first time together on one DVD, Mill Creek assembles the “Merlin” film trilogy, which chronicles the epic beginnings and legacy of the iconic wizard who helped King Arthur in his battles against evil. “Merlin” is one of my all time favorite miniseries and appeared during a time where miniseries on basic network television was still a thing that was used to grab big ratings, and I fondly recall visiting this miniseries again and again. I enjoyed “Merlin” so much, in fact, that I bought the oversized black clamshell VHS from Blockbuster video back in late 1998 and watched it almost every weekend.
“Merlin” from 1998 is a television miniseries (from Hallmark) starring Sam Neill as the iconic wizard, and the miniseries pits the focus mostly on the character and his origins. This is not at all about King Arthur or Lancelot, but more about how Merlin was born, how he emerged as a wizard, and how he would deny all forms of evil and darkness from the sorceress Mab (Miranda Richardson). When Mab pits her focus on corrupting Morgan LeFay (Helena Bonham Carter) and systematically working toward the downfall of King Arthur, Merlin makes it his mission to put a stop to her once and for all. With an all star cast and stellar production values, “Merlin” takes a while to get moving, but when it finally does, it’s worth the time invested.
Neill is also very good as Merlin, commanding the screen as a valiant hero in his own right. “Merlin’s Apprentice” from 2006 is the long gestating sequel to the original miniseries, which finds Merlin still alive after the fall of King Arthur, and seeks to find the Holy Grail. When the Grail, the protection against sorcery for Camelot is stolen, Merlin seeks the sacred treasure alongside a young thief and beggar named Jack. “Merlin’s Apprentice” is a very loose sequel from Hallmark Entertainment and rejoins the characters, including Neill’s iteration of Merlin, but alters the mythology and continuity here and there. For example, the story is not based on any Arthurian legend, and establishes the Holy Grail as an object claimed by Arthur.
It’s a mostly generic and goofy follow-up and not at all the kind of sleek dark sequel one would want from 1998’s version, but if you really want to revisit Sam Neill as Merlin, you could do worse. Not at all a part of the Sam Neill Merlin movie series, “Merlin: The Return” from 2000 is included, and features a whole different cast and narrative. It’s a ridiculous fantasy comedy featuring Rik Mayall of “Drop Dead Fred” infamy as Merlin who is warped in to modern times with King Arthur and his knights. As wacky culture shock ensues, King Arthur seeks to stop the evil Mordred from returning. “Merlin: The Return” is bereft of laughs or comedic value and seems on the collection for the sake of filler. It’s best skipped unless you’re a hate watcher for bad movies.
The DVD set comes only with a Digital copy consumers can redeem to watch online for any platform.