Pros:Keira Knightley and Clive Owen, originality of this version of the story, action
The Bottom Line: In an original tale about the knights of the roundtable and their Arthur, this movie depicts all of the characters quite well, and gives us an action-packed story.
The story of King Arthur and his brave knights of the roundtable, has been done over and over in any fashion imaginable. This latest version was touted as the true story (according to recent archeological finds they claim) that you haven't heard yet. Taking place somewhere around the years 500 to 600 A.D., it depicts the Roman Empire as having spread to the far reaches of the globe. The movie comes in near the fall of the Empire, and coincides with the battles taking place within Britain. Instead of telling a mystical story about knights and their King that overlooks the land, Director Antoine Fuqua gives us a story that has a lot of originality to it. We are shown the time period before Arthur would be King, and long before he wanted anything more than to live off of the land. We are given the back-story of the men who would sit at his roundtable, and we are taken on a ride through the trials and tribulations of what made these men indeed great. Fuqua didn't let history, or facts burden his story, and instead told a story that could have very well happened, or could have had nothing in common with real life at the same time.
Recommend this product?
Tapped for the role of Arthur was Clive Owen, who has gained more notoriety in the movies Closer and Sin City. I actually picked up this movie, because he along with Keira Knightley were playing large roles in the film. Over the past few months, I have gained a respect for his acting ability, and it caused my desire to see this movie to grow exponentially. Normally it takes great acting for me to see timepiece movies like this, and when I was finally convinced it would be well acted, I finally picked it up off the shelf. As I stated, Keira Knightley is also in the film, and plays Guinevere. This is not the Guinevere that we have become used to, who is demure, lady-like, and is only given dialogue and no action in the stories of King Arthur. Instead, Fuqua casts Knightley as someone who can kick butt just as well as the men can. Armed with a bow and arrow, she becomes a very valuable tool in Arthur's arsenal. Back to the character of Arthur though, I was quite pleased with how Owen portrayed the soon-to-be-king. He wasn't over the top, and he resembled everything that I would want in a King: humble, uninterested in self-gain, and willing to put his own life on the line before his men.
The back-story of our main characters comes from a Roman war against the Sarmatian's of Britain. This came a hundred years before Arthur, and involved his ancestors and those of his compatriots. The Romans overpowered the entire army, and decimated the population. The only remaining soldiers were members of the brave Sarmatian cavalry. These men had fought bravely, and impressed the Romans so much, that they offered to spare their lives in exchange for service in the Roman army. The catch was that their sons, and their sons sons would have to fight for the Romans as well. That leads us up to Arthur and other sons who have been "drafted" into the Roman fighting force, and given an area of Britain to fight for and protect. That is putting it in good terms though; because they were basically mercenaries doing anything that the Roman leaders told them to do. Reaching 15 years of service would grant them their leave, and that was all they looked forward to completing. But, after 15 years of service, the Roman dictatorship did not offer the reprieve from service they had been seeking, instead giving them a suicide task into Northern Britain.
Cutting the country in half, was a great wall that spanned from one side of Britain to the other. This wall separated the two populations of the country, and it was at this point where Arthur and his men were stationed. Never having ventured North of the wall before, they were tasked with the mission of retrieving a family whom the Pope had chosen to be blessed in the church. Having to track down this family was going to be the easy part, but the hard part was going to be living through the ordeal. The reason for the urgent "saving" was the impending attack of the Saxon army sweeping down through the country. They were killing everything in their paths, and this family would be next on the list. Rome began to abandon the country, sending Arthur and his knights into the darkness with the promise that their freedom would be granted once they completed this one last task. Of course the group was angry, but holding to their duty, and wanting to stick with Arthur the knights all agreed and followed Arthur on his quest to the North. Between the Romans and the Saxons were the inhabitants already on the country, led by the magician Merlin, who would also come to play a part in this story.
The film was actually quite good in its depiction of how all of the sides of the coin could be shown. Arthur was not shown to be a saint, but rather a man who learned from his mistakes and decided it was time to overcome the lack of freedom bestowed upon his native land. By his side as always is Lancelot, who is given two swords to work with instead of his normal one. This actually added to his allure as a knight, and made it quite exciting to watch him in battle. The only thing I felt lacked in the film, was the lack of a larger presence of Merlin. He was not conducting any magic, but appeared merely as a man who would stand up for what is right. Clive Owen and Keira Knightley did not disappoint in their leading roles, and I was very pleased that I had given this film a chance. The battle scenes were all very well done, and the action within the movie never seems to end. The best part of all, is that we are not told what to think about the characters by the story, but left to form our own opinions of each of them. With a story that was very original in its presentation, great acting by the leads, and a lot of intense acting sequences, I thought that King Arthur was a pretty good film all in all. I recommend this film for anyone interested in the subject matter or the time period, and I don't think you will be disappointed if you give this one a try.