After seeing many previews and various clips on talk shows I have to tell you that it was with trepidation that I set out to see King Arthur today. By reading this review you may be lead to the conclusion that my fears were founded. You would be wrong. Yes, I am indeed about to pick this movie apart... but we will be ending with 4 stars nonetheless. I am female, that's all the excuse you need. I am not suppose to make sense. heh.
Recommend this product?
Ok, firstly, this is not the fairy tale you are used to at all. The legend of King Arthur is hard to pin down to an exact beginning, but it was around long before Sir Mallory put it to paper. There were indeed 2 King Arthurs of history, both of which wished folks to think they were the Arthur of the legend.. they were not. The legend preceded both their births. No, it is widely believed that this legend is not based on a king at all, but on a man named Arturius who did command an army and did hold lands in Britain, very likely Celtic lands if you want to get technical about it.
This movie, then, tries to go back to one of the earlier versions of the legend. Arthur is a pawn of the Roman army and is patrolling along Hadrian's wall to prevent those north from invading south. Good enough. They do toss in a brief round table and a bit about Excalibur but those are mainly nods to remind you which Arthur we are talking about here.
The scenery and atmosphere was wonderful. It's dark, drab, and very dreary.. as it should be. The 6th century was one frought with uncertainty and a rather bleak outlook. This area was full of horrible weather and war. It should be dark. Good job on that score. Excellent even.
Now to the bashing.....
My main fear in this was if Kiera Knightly would be able to pull off the role of Guinevere. I mean I wasn't real thrilled with her in Pirates of the Carribean, her being a bit stiff and all. Well, Lo and behold she was actually quite good. I was pleasantly surprised. Guin was written as an intense warrior Woad in this and Knightly, I must say, actually pulled it off and made me believe her.
The problem then is the one I had not been worried about at all.. Clive Owen as Arthur. Gads. What a horrible casting decision this was. It's not that I don't like Owen in general. I actually do. He was amazing in both Croupier and Greenfingers. As Arthur he blew it soooo bad. I mean so bad it pained me. Now, it wasn't the acting so much as the look. Am I nitpicking and being petty? Perhaps.. but come on... you've spent all this money to make an epic, you've got a wonderful cast of very talented unknowns, a fantastic story line, excellent atmosphere.. then you leave your main Medieval character with a 21st Century hair cut? I'm sorry. It was distracting and really kept me from becoming wholly absorbed in this tale. Would it have hurt Owens to put on a damn wig? Grrrrrrrrrrrrr
The other thing that irked was keeping track of who exactly was suppose to be who. You've got the bleedin' Romans and we know who they are, and then you've got Arthur leading what remains of the Saaricens? Sarducis? I'm having one of those blonde moments when I cannot recall what they were.. but at any rate they are serving a 15 year term for the Romans under Arthur. Then you have the Woads who are really Saxons but look possibly like Druids lead by Merlin, and then there's the other Saxons lead by someone who's a jerk yet you never catch his name. So it's a war in Saxon territory against two factions of Saxons lead by a third Saxon (Arthur). You lost yet? I mean ya knew who was in which army but it's just confusing why everyone was fighting everyone else.. I know historically what was really going on at that time, but the movie never makes sense of why Saxons are attacking other Saxons.
Ok time for another good point. There is a character called Bors played by Ray Winstone (Cold Mountain, Ripleys Game) that I just adored. Bors is an abrasive yet lovable scamp. One of Arthur's brave men who tosses in a bit of levity to the whole thing. This guy is a crack up! He's fathered 11 kids but not married the gal yet, nor named his kids. He prefers number 3 because he's such a little spit fire. There's quite a few jokes played off this and they work wonderfully well mainly because Winstone is amazing and a master at dry line delivery. Winston is one of the key reasons this movie is getting 4 stars. He's just that good.
Another thing I liked a great deal was the ending. See now for some reason everyone wants to make Arthur this God-fearing dude and attribute all the good he's done to that. This movie sort of plays to that also, until the end. The wedding between Arthur and Guin is a pagan rite held inside Stonehenge. Good on ya!
King Arthur runs 130 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences, a scene of sensuality and some language. Any age in my eye, but I do doubt kids under say 10-ish will remain interested in it at all.
So, as I said, there is much wrong with this movie (I didn't even go into an Appaloosa being able to handle all that armor..) and yet in the end the entertainment value wins out and I must give it 4 stars in spite of itself. Do see it in the theater while you can as the big screen does much for the battle scenes.
Dr. Dev's Definitive King Arthur List
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