King Arthur
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Antoine Fuqua
scr David Franzoni
with Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Ray Winstone, Stellan Skarsgard, Ioan Gruffudd, Mads Mikkelsen, Joel Edgerton, Til Schweiger, Stephen Dillane, Hugh Dancy, Ken Stott, Charlie Creed-Miles
release US 7.Jul.04, UK 30.Jul.04
04/UK 2h10

Medieval action: Gruffudd, Knightley and Owen.

owen knightley winstone
skarsgard gruffudd edgerton
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In the tradition of, erm, Troy, here's a sprawling historical myth with its story simplified and its production overblown. It's entertaining--fully enjoyable but never remotely engaging.

It's the 5th century, and Rome has just decided to abandon Great Britain to the advancing Saxon army. But Rome's indentured warrior knights are given one last mission to rescue a Roman family in the remote north. Leader Arthur (Owen) begrudgingly accepts the assignment, taking his faithful sidekicks (Winstone, Gruffudd, Mikkelsen, Edgerton, Dancy) into battle with the indigenous Woads, led by Merlin (Dillane), while the Saxon leader (Skarsgard) and his warrior son (Schweiger) bear down on them from the north.

Oddly, this is the exact same plot as Fuqua's Tears of the Sun, in which Bruce Willis is given a hopeless mission to rescue a European trapped in war-torn West Africa; then he decides to go further, rescuing innocent people, risking his life in skirmishes with various brutal factions. Mix in rather a lot of stylish Braveheart-style roaring and muddiness and here we are.

The cast is fine: Owen does dignified grunting gruffness very well indeed, Winstone is lively and funny, Gruffudd is soulful and brooding, Skarsgard is hairy and whispery, Schweiger is bald and slithery, and so on. But these fine actors are badly underused. As the rescued young Guinevere though, Knightley glamorously moves from wasted dungeon chic to fierce action girl in record time. She is absolutely ridiculous, and yet so chirpy that she quickly becomes the best thing about the film!

And then there's that Jerry Bruckheimer touch. Despite being set before the gunpowder age, the film is full of scorching pyrotechnics. Bonfires burn everywhere, filling the landscape with moody black smoke. Trebuchets launch nuclear warheads that detonate in mushroom clouds. Trenches drizzled with tar blast 100-foot tall flames. Even ice on a frozen lake doesn't merely crack, but erupts in jagged shards of cacophonous horror! Sadly, nothing's balanced by even a hint of emotional authenticity, which leaves all the rah-rah freedom stuff hollow and corny. Yet as it builds viscerally to the mammoth final battle, the film is great fun to watch even though it's completely preposterous.

cert 12 themes, violence 1.Jul.04

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... King Arthur Sarramee, Winchester: 3/5 "I resisted watching this movie when it was initially released because I love the King Arthur legend and figured this movie would disappoint. Well, the screenplay did disappoint. So many questions: why was the Roman family living in enemy terrority? why didn't the Woads kill them? How did the lake become so solidly frozen when it seemed that it was only the beginning of winter in the lowlands? when the Romans are leaving before the final battle why are they just taking their good old sweet time when there are a kazillion ugly-ass Saxons on the other side of the wall? In spite of a crappy screenplay I found myself loving the movie. Hey! What's not to like - seven sweaty, moody guys with British accents and big swords! I found myself quite taken with the character of Tristan, and Dagonet was rather beguiling too. Heck, I loved them all. The character I liked least was King Arthur. Clive Owen's performance left a lot to be desired." (26.Jul.05)
2004 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall