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King Arthur Review

By Shawn McKenzie 07/09/2004

I don’t know why, but the various stories of King Arthur have never interested me.  The Sword in the Stone is one of my least favorite Disney movies, and movies like 1981’s Excalibur didn’t do anything for me.  Producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s latest version, King Arthur, promises all the swashbuckling battle scenes while telling the “true” tale of Arthur.  He brought the action, but without the mysticism, it is surprisingly boring.


In 467 A.D., a group of Roman knights known as the Sarmatians, led by Lucius Artorius Castus, a.k.a. Arthur (Clive Owen), had spent the last 15 years of their lives battling unfriendly forces in Roman-controlled Britain as part of their indentured service to Rome.  They were looking forward to finally going home when the papal emissary Bishop Germanius (Ivano Marescotti), after they had rescued him from the Scottish Woads, led by resistance organizer Merlin (Stephen Dillane), tells them that they have one last mission: to go north of Hadrian’s Wall and escort the Pope’s favorite godchild, Alecto (Lorenzo De Angelis), to safety.  Rome is about to pull out of Britain due to the impending group of militant Saxons arriving, led by Cerdic (Stellan Skarsgård) and his cold-blooded son, Cynric (Til Schweiger), and they don’t want Alecto to be harmed.  Arthur and his “Knights of the Round Table” (though I don’t remember them being referred to as that), consisting of Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), Bors (Ray Winstone), Galahad (Hugh Dancy), Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen), Gawain (Joel Edgerton), and Dagonet (Ray Stevenson), reluctantly head for the Roman outpost to complete their mission.  They arrive to not only find Alecto, but also several other pagans working in slavery and torture in the name of Christianity, including Guinevere (Keira Knightley), who’ve all been imprisoned by Alecto’s father.  They decide to lead the large group also to safety, and are soon joined by the Woads, since the Saxons are their common enemy.  Not only does Arthur fight alongside Guinevere, but he also starts to fall in love with her.  There is no love triangle this time around between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot, aside from some mild flirting between the latter two.


Director Antoine Fuqua has yet to impress me.  The Replacement Killers, Bait, Tears of the Sun, and the critically lauded Training Day were all just so-so to me.  We can add this movie to the list.  I’m not sure why a movie filled with so much action didn’t excite me.  David Franzoni, the man who wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-winning Gladiator, wrote this screenplay.  While I didn’t think that Gladiator was the best movie ever to win an Oscar, it was a lot more thrilling than this one, which shows how much a director can affect the results.


The acting was decent, but I had one small problem with the casting.  This might sound like a shallow thing to say, but the movie could have used a slightly bigger star for the lead.  Owen has always been on the cusp of stardom for over a decade, but this being a big budget Bruckheimer flick, we needed someone we could recognize.  Since they had decided to take all the magic and suits of armor out of the story, everyone looked the same.  During the battle scenes, it was hard to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys.  Knightley wasn’t hard to spot, since she is a rising star, one of the first Guineveres to fight herself instead of being a damsel in distress, and looked hot in her warrior costume.


There was one very cool scene involving a battle on a lake of ice.  The good guys try to lure the bad guys to the middle of the lake and then they chopped it so the bad guys would fall in.  It was the only scene that stood out in this movie, because their attempt to tell the actual story instead of the mythological one made it too generic looking.  The other battle scenes in the movie could have been substituted with stock footage from many other movies.

Maybe history buffs might like King Arthur for telling the historically researched tale, but people looking for a good time at the theater might be bored.  If you want to be entertained, I’d recommend renting Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  It is completely inaccurate, and it’s a comedy, but it’s a lot more fun to watch than the “true” tale.

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