Chivalry Today was asked by Paramount Pictures to help promote the opening of the movie Timeline, a time-travel adventure based on the book by author Michael Crichton. The movie is directed by Richard Donner (Superman, The Omen, Lethal Weapon) and stars Billy Connolly, Paul Walker, Frances O’Connor and Gerard Butler.
Crichton’s book was (as his fans would expect) painstakingly researched, and for many readers it presented a shockingly realistic look at the gritty, harsh reality of 14th century medieval culture. Several of the characters in Timeline — knights, mercenaries, ladies, peasants and even priests — are crude, selfish and violent. Will viewers who value the notion of chivalry enjoy this movie, or will they be put off by its grim (some might even claim it’s “excessively grim”) portrayal of the age of knights in shining armor?
In fact, Timeline gives us the opportunity to remember that the Middle Ages was a gritty, crude and violent time period — elegant, refined and genteel images of the King Arthur’s Round Table come from the 19th century, not the 14th century. There were plenty of medieval knights (as well as ladies, peasants and priests too) who were not chivalrous, valiant or ethical, whose only motivation was their own social advancement and personal enrichment. Yet it was this gritty, violent culture that gave rise to the concept of the Code of Chivalry as a way to overcome cruelty, greed and self-interest in favor of courtesy, honor and duty.
Medieval authors like Ramon Lull and Geoffroi de Charny (both successful knights who personally experienced battles and tournament combat) remind us that chivalry did exist in the Middle Ages, and although it may have been uncommon, it was still a worthy and admirable ideal.
Similarly, Michael Crichton’s writing reminds us that honor, heroism, loyalty and sacrifice didn’t disappear into history — they live on in the modern world, and are still valued by readers and viewers who identify with characters such as Andre Marek, Professor Johnston, Kate Erickson and Chris Hughes, who triumph against the unscrupulous villiany of Robert de Kere (in the 14th century) and Bob Doniger (in the modern world).
And Timeline reminds us that re-creating the past at Renaissance Faires and knightly tournaments (and in historically accurate movies) can provide a new perspective on the idealism and the realities of historical events and personalities, demonstrating yet again the importance of ethics, honor, responsibility and chivalry in the modern world.
Chivalry Today readers are invited to take an intriguing behind-the-scenes look at the Making of Timeline (link no longer available) in this short video feature. You can read reviews of this movie, as well as finding nearby theaters and showtimes, at our favorite entertainment website, Rotten Tomatoes.