On Friday, the first image of Chris Pine as Scottish hero Robert the Bruce in Netflix’s upcoming film Outlaw King was released via Entertainment Weekly. Looking upon Pine’s bearded, chain-mailed visage, I couldn’t shake the notion that I’d seen this look somewhere before.
And then I had a visceral flashback to the '90s. Not to the big budget historicals of the period (hiiii, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves), but to a particular figure I knew best by the satisfying crunch of rooting around in a big ol’ pile of LEGOs.
Chris Pine in Outlaw King looks kind of exactly like the Black Knight on the left from LEGO’s Castle theme, right?
One of the many unnamed day players available in the venerable theme, our Mystery Knight (our M. Knight, if you will) can be found in the 1993 “Black Knights Boat” set, which, as you can imagine, features two Black Knights in a boat. The beard… the slightly yet powerfully nippled helmet… the sheer charisma… why, they’re practically the same. And is a mighty Black Knight of the realm going to let one of our finest Chrises just steal his act? Of course not!
There is but one way forward to adjudicate this conflict: the age-old mortal combat of Who Wore It Best. Dilly dilly!
First, we come to the beard. Clearly, Pine’s Bruce’s beard game is very strong here. The introduction of grey and white into the brown makes him seem human and authoritative, while its relative unkemptness is not so much as to be repulsive, just enough to make him seem like An Important Man Too Busy to Tend To His Beard.
But is it lovingly tended handlebar mustache laying proudly on a field of equally well-maintained stubble? I think not. Look at this facial hair; the Black Knights may spend their days in constant land battle against the Black Falcons and any number of other toys, but they take the time to make sure that they look good.
Point: M. Knight
As much as I enjoy the more expressive faces printed on new LEGO Minifigures, the old heads with simple dots for eyes have a special kind of charm. There’s a reason Emmet, the protagonist of The LEGO Movie, has the simplest LEGO face. M. Knight’s slightly high, benevolent expression communicates a positive and worryingly can-do attitude towards everything in his tiny, plastic life. Being dissembled to create a Frankenfig? No worries! Slaughtering all that would oppose the mighty Black Knights? NBD!
But you know what M. Knight doesn’t have? Chris Pine’s face in the prime of his life. The dude’s basically invented the midpoint between dashingly handsome and pleasantly grizzled, with icy blue eyes that are somehow still so warm and gentle, calming crow’s feet. I mean, just look at this mug:
Point: Chris Pine
M. Knight’s dark gray chin-guard helmet is a timeless classic—literally. First introduced in 1979, this helmet was a staple of medieval-themed LEGOs until 2003. (Castle as a theme limped along in various incarnations until licensed LEGO themes, such as Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings, put it out of its misery. It’s a whole thing.) It provides an arresting silhouette easy to identify from miles away, while also not obscuring the friendly face of the wearer.
But M. Knight lacks the billowing aventail (the chainmail curtain enveloping Bruce’s neck and shoulders), which both elevates the look and provides much-needed protection for the delicate neck area. I mean, you’d have a time hacking through that with a sword, but you can just pop M. Knight’s head clean off his shoulders, helmet intact!
Point: Chris Pine
Tragically, we see so little of Pine’s Robert the Bruce armor that it would be unfair to compare that glimpse of chest plate with the glittering scales and midnight black codpiece of M. Knight. So we must instead default to the shields.
While we only see a corner of Bruce’s shield, it’s clearly meant to be the Royal Arms of Scotland. While the bright colors are appreciated, especially given the realism of the film (a.k.a., let’s get some mud on these earth tones), it seems such an obvious choice for Bruce, and those fleurs-de-lis look a little sloppy given how sharp they are on the heraldry today.
M. Knight, on the other hand, sports the shield of the Black Knights, one of the finest shield prints in all of LEGOland. It’s crisp, sharp, and vivid. The Black Knights prefer a classic color scheme—dark neutrals with a pop of red—and save their big fits of primary colored expression for the shield. The teardrop shape adds a shapely element to these bricky boys. And that left turn of dragon—it's almost a griffin!—make this shield simply superb, for both bashing in your enemy’s heads and displaying in your own creations.
Point: M. Knight
Tragically, we find ourselves tied. Sure, Chris Pine has the right face for the right helmet, but his facial hair and accessories lack the zazz and zest that M. Knight brings the table twenty-six years after his debut.
Truly, we don't have enough information to settle the score between these two worthy competitors. I suppose I’ll just have to wait to make this ruling until I see Chris Pine’s Robert the Bruce in action in Outlaw King this November on Netflix and I encounter M. Knight again—likely embedded in the sole of my foot after hanging out with my nephew.