Written by David Franzoni
Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Running Time: 2:06
for intense battle sequences,
a scene of sensuality
and some language.
King Arthur had a kind of, been there, seen that, feel to it, which left me feeling like I had been there, and seen that, all before.
The legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table was supposedly based upon real life people. Lancelot, Galahad and the rest were Britains fighting for the Roman Army in Britain. Artorius, or Arthur, was their leader. After a 15 year term in the army, the men were supposed to be given their papers for freedom, while Arthur would return to Rome a hero, and live a lavish lifestyle till the end. But at the end of their stint, they are asked to do one more task; to retrieve the Pope's favorite godson, and bring him back safely to the walled border that separated Britain's north and south. They also find out that the Romans are planning on leaving Britain, without care as to who takes control. Most figure that the Saxons from the north, a terrible group of people who kill without mercy, will take over the country. Arthur and his brave Knights, although free to leave one they finish their last mission, stay on to fight, so that Britain may be in the hands of the right and true. Some will live, some will die, but all will be free.
The word 'freedom' was tossed around so much, and with the big battles and men on horses giving speeches, I almost felt like I was watching a lesser version of Braveheart. I fully expected Mel Gibson to come out in war paint and a kilt and start slaughtering Saxons. Alas, it was not meant to be. There was nothing inherently wrong with King Arthur, other than the fact there was nothing new about it. From a visual standpoint, everything shown had been shown before, and generally in more entertaining films. The scenery, the massive battles, the close-up fighting; all that I saw in films like Braveheart and Gladiator and of course, The Lord of the Rings. So there was nothing new to look at, which left whether or not the movie was any good to the actors and the story.
The actors are not a well known bunch, with Keira Knightley as Guinevere being the most recognizable. The actors themselves were fine, but they all tended to blend in with each other, and after a while you sort of lost track of who was fighting for what side. Yes, the main actors became distinguishable, but other than Arthur himself, none were very deep. Oh they tried, what with one of them saving a young boy and bonding with him, and another having at least a dozen children and wanting to come home to their mother. But the one with the young boy, Dagonet, was only shown in a few scenes, and the one with all the children, Bors, kept calling them all bastards, and instead of names they only had numbers. Yeah it was kind of cute, but at the same time, didn't make me feel much for him. Lancelot screamed and yelled a few times, but I could never figure out why. Guinevere showed up in the strangest of all places; she was held captive in a sealed up room, for not believing in God; but after that she didn't have a lot to do. Merlin was there in spirit, and only showed up on screen a couple of times with no real purpose. Which left the bulk of the movie to be held together by Clive Owen as Arthur. Owen is a talented actor, and in this case I felt like cheering for him, but his role wasn't enough to hold the entire movie together.
So then comes the story. Had the names not been familiar, and this been just a story about a group of soldiers almost out of the army, but dragged back in for one last mission, there wouldn't have been anything special about it. The fact that the ads trumpet the idea that all these mythical characters were based on real people, makes the movie stand out a bit more. That being said, the story was in fact, fairly simple. Having Arthur take a chapter from the book of William Wallace (and don't write to me about which story came first, I mean in film release dates), and start barking about wanting freedom for his people all the time, didn't make me enjoy the movie any more. Granted, there isn't a whole lot one can do with the story, but since the producers are banking on the idea that people will see this movie because they know the legend, then I think they should have played up what made the characters legends to begin with. The scene where a young Arthur gets the sword out of his father's grave was a nice touch on the myth, but for instance, where was Merlin's supposed magical abilities? They were spoken of once, but never shown. His character could have been used a lot more. So while the story wasn't bad, it just wasn't very different from other movies.
I will say this however. There was one extended battle sequence that I had never seen done before. It lasted at least 10 minutes and it took place on a frozen lake or river. I've seen massive battle sequences, sand storms, snow storms, twisters, earthquakes, volcanoes, giant mechanical spiders, tidal waves, and just about any other natural and man made disaster you could think of, but I had never seen a battle on ice. And I have to say, I was pretty impressed by the whole thing. The rest of the special effects were well done to the point where you could barely tell the difference between what was real and what was CGI. But that battle on the ice may go down as one of the best action sequences in recent memory.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So overall, there was nothing bad about King Arthur, but there was also nothing new or special about it. None of the actors really stood out from the rest, the scenery and visuals had been done before, and the story was pretty simple. In the end, I think I prefer the legends, over reality.