- Antoine Fuqua
- Reviewed by
- Jorge Castillo a.k.a. Mithrandir
- Review date
- Thursday, December 23, 2004
The movie begins with a narration of how the Roman Empire controls many nations, Britain included, and how the Romans, with their lust for land, invaded Sarmatia, a place known for its excellent cavalry. Impressed with their skills, the Romans decided not to murder the Sarmatians, but rather juxtapose them to the Roman army as knights. Time passes by (about 15 years) and the audience meets Arthur (Clive Owen), Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), and the rest of the knights who formed the round table. The director decided that their names weren’t important to the story (they really aren’t), so we only get a happenstance of their names whenever they shout it to each other during battle. The contract of these men established that after 15 years of service to the Roman Empire (and to the Pope who presided), they would become free men. When this time is due and they attempt to receive such freedom, they’re sent on a final order to rescue a Roman family and especially their son, who are in danger of being invaded by the Saxons. Unfortunately for Arthur and his men, the Saxons are not the only enemies they must face, as another group of anti-Roman rebels, named the Woads, attempt to finish them off in direct orders from their leader, Merlin.
I expected this movie to turn out a lot better than it actually did. Don’t get me wrong. Most of it is fairly enjoyable, but certain aspects (such as the acting) fall flat on their face for the most part.
When you read the stories of King Arthur and his Knights, you are most likely going to encounter situations and characters that dwell upon the supernatural. Most (if not all) of the movies that I have seen on King Arthur and his stories tend to have parts that blur into the mystical aspect of his life as it is told by countless “historians.” This is not the case of this movie, which is why I was a bit thrown back at first. The fact that Arthur’s sword was just lying around and he just happened to find it, takes away so much of the romanticist ideology that fuels his stories; the fact that Merlin is not a powerful wizard but just an old man who turns out to be somewhat philosophical at times sheds away so much of the greatness of the original story that one might be compelled to think that all films regarding King Arthur, in the future, should float around the mystical and beautiful part of his stories, not the non-existent historical aspect of it.
Battle scenes do not proliferate, which is not a negative reflection on the film itself. It’s rather refreshing from your average epic (again, not sure if it can be called that). The audience is treated to three major battles, which in term, outdo each other every time. The photography is excellent, with beautiful scenes of the Ireland landscape, and use of fog and mist to give it a more calm and solemn beauty to the scenery. The calm before the plunge. In that aspect, it succeeds.
The version of the movie that I saw was the director’s cut which, as it should have been, would have given the movie the chance to explore more deeply on the characters’ personality and psychological aspects. Unfortunately, its attempt to do so fails miserably; this is where it gets bad.
Clive Owen, although very charming with his looks (in other words, he’s hot), does a bad acting job. His performance as Arthur leaves so much to be desired that I still, to this day, wonder why he was cast as the lead in the first place. The way he delivers his lines seem superficial and at times even forced. Why did they cast him, beats the hell out of me. Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot is almost as bad as Owen as Arthur. It simply does not work. Why did they cast these actors is bewildering to me. On the other hand, there are the good actors, or supporting actors, in this case. Stellan Skarsgård shines in his portrayal of Cerdic, the evil commander of the invading Saxon forces. Til Schweiger, who plays Cynric, the son of Cerdic, and second in command in the army, is very convincing. In fact, they both are. They could pass as evil guys any day.
And then, there is Keira Knightley. Now, if you want to discover the reason why she is awesome, you should watch this film. Although her time on screen is limited to about 30 minutes of the entire film, she is magnificent as Guinevere, the captured Woad who teaches King Arthur many things he did not know about himself, and helps him discover his true essence as a Briton, not a Roman. Personally, I have always been a fan of Knightley’s work. Ever since “Bend it like Beckham” and her line “Mom, I AM NOT A LESBIAN”, I’ve fallen in love with her (in the strictest of senses; I am gay after all). She shines in this movie, and it’s a shame that she does not receive as much time as the others.
The score, though very short, adds to the film’s better part, and it’s actually a very good effort from composer Hans Zimmer, although his own for Gladiator (2000) remains one of my all time favorites. Surprisingly enough, there is little resemblance (in the instruments used, per se) from this film to those used in the scoring of Gladiator.
Overall, King Arthur is not necessarily a bad film. It’s just that certain aspects of it don’t work (mainly the cast). Even then, there are those who save it from falling deep into the “bad movie” territory, i.e. Keira Knightley. As a matter of remembrance, producer Jerry Bruckheimer should be shot in the head.
“Lancelot: There is a large number of lonely men out there.
Guinevere: Don't worry; I won't let them rape you.”
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