[The following review contains SPOILERS; YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!]
Knightriders is a movie about legacy.
I mean, if you want to get superficial, it’s “about” a ragtag group of Ren Faire carnies staging spectacular jousting tournaments, substituting souped-up motorcycles for majestic steeds. But George A. Romero’s films rarely benefit from literalist interpretations of their plots. Dawn of the Dead, for example, is perfectly enjoyable for its surface-level thrills (zombies, gore, and pie fights galore), but it’s significantly more compelling when read as an allegory for the ravenous nature of consumer culture.
Knightriders is likewise rich with (admittedly unsubtle) thematic subtext. Ed Harris plays King William, a gallant warrior poet born in the wrong era. Billy knows that his demise is imminent—he is slowly succumbing to a grievous neck injury that refuses to heal properly—and fears that his values (honor, chivalry, and valor) will die with him, vanquished by the greed, materialism, and commercialism of the 20th Century. This conflict is personified by the troupe’s designated heel, Morgan (Tom Savini in a surprisingly substantial role), who believes that money can solve every problem—from promoting their act in sleazy, sensationalistic tabloids to simply bribing the corrupt cops that insist on incessantly harassing them. When the tension between their opposed philosophies fractures the nomadic community into rival factions, both men must confront their demons in order to reunify their makeshift family—Billy discovers that being flexible needn’t entail compromising one’s morals, while Morgan learns that old-fashioned idealism isn’t necessarily obsolete.
Thus, Knightriders is a modern myth of the highest (Ex)caliber, elevated by its novel (and unapologetically absurd) premise without being solely defined by it.