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King Arthur

movie review out of 4

All-Reviews.com Movie Review: King Arthur

Starring: Clive Owen, Keira Knightley
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Rated: R
RunTime: 130 Minutes
Release Date: July 2004
Genres: Action, Drama, War


*Also starring: Stephen Dillane, Ioan Gruffudd, Stellan Skarsgard, Ray Winstone, Hugh Dancy, Ray Stevenson, Til Schweiger, Charlie Creed-Miles, Joel Edgerton



Reviewer Roundup
1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie review
2.  Susan Granger read the review video review
3.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie review

Review by Harvey Karten
2 stars out of 4

You're a single woman, an incurable romantic, who lives in Anytown USA but longs to take up residence in Camelot. You dream that Merlin will conjure up a Galahad or Lancelot and that your garden will be guarded over by a large sword stuck tightly in stone. Your friends tell you to come down to earth, so you go to Antoine Fuqua's "King Arthur" where you find out that, yes, the title character probably did exist, a half-Roman, half-British fellow by the name of Lucius Artorius Castus, that Lancelot and Galahad are as handsome as you imagined, but then you wake up from your reverie. You see this new, de-romanticized version of Arthur. You note that Clive Owen in the title role (along with the rest of the cast and crew) is taking a bigger gamble than he ever did in "Croupier," and that while you might be wide-eyed at the final battle scene between the Arthur-Merlin alliance against the dirty Saxons, you'll write even that off as typical, hackneyed, seen-it-done-that-in-"The Last Samurai" and scores of other action pics. You may go home and open a physics book to see how arrows shot at 45-degree angles over an Irish landscape the size of a football field can kill scores of well-armored warriors.

In this version Arthur, in the service of Rome with the knights of the Round Table, including Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), Galahad (Hugh Dancy), Bors (Ray Winstone), Gawain (Joel Edgerton), Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen), and Dagonet (Ray Stevenson), is ready to accept discharge from the legions when the bishop tells him that discharge papers are his, but only after one more assignment. (You'd almost think that writer David Franzoni wants us to think of our soldiers in Iraq whose discharge was put on hold by the Bush administration.) He has to go to war to bring back the pope's favorite godson, but that part of the story gets kind of lost in the fighting. We're not in the fifteenth century of the Camelot legend but in the down-and-dirty fifth when the Roman legions were being besieged by Saxons, Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Huns and assorted rabble determined, like America's enemies today, to crush Western civilization. As Rome exits from Britain, Merlin and Arthur, former enemies, make an alliance against a common enemy–something like Sunni and Shiites banding together today against their liberators. The best thing about this picture is the chief villain, the Saxon Cerdic (Stellan Skargard) known to Arthur as simply "Saxon," a chap fond of saying "kill them all and burn the village."

Before the big battle, Arthur frees Guinevere (Keira Knightley, who turns out to be a handful on the battlefield), as the lady has been incarcerated for practicing paganism. Over the next few weeks, though Guinevere is destined to pad down with Arthur, she does cast a few glances toward Lancelot, but one wonders what she sees in him or any of the other knights since nobody, not even the female warrior, is blessed with the slightest character development.

When Arthur ultimately decides that he's no longer fighting for Rome but for a higher cause, we strain our ears to hear that, like our president today, his higher cause is freedom–to the cheers of the unwashed in the background. Huh? Freedom from what? Not even the alleged slavery is given any exploration, so we're about as in the dark about Arthur's motive as we are about Mr. Bush's. All in all, a forgettable epic drowned out by music and, speaking of drowning, there is a nifty scene that will remind biblical scholars of the parting of the Red Sea.

Copyright © 2004 Harvey Karten

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