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King Arthur (DVD, 2004, Extended Unrated Version) Reviews
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King Arthur (DVD, 2004, Extended Unrated Version)

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Arthur A La King slop.

Jul 11, 2004
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Great battle scenes.

Cons:Buried under an avalanche of cliches.

The Bottom Line: If this is history, then how long until Biology class?


Okay Hollywood, the first question that needs to be asked here is: did we really need another King Arthur movie? And if we really did need another one, did we need one that can't rely solely on the Arthurian legends and has to rip-off far better sword epics such as Braveheart and Gladiator as well as modern war movies? Just asking.

I was eager to catch the new King Arthur movie as I've always had an interest of sorts in the Arthurian era and the Middle Ages in general. The film appeared to present something of a darker spin on the Arthurian legends than has been done before. Problem is, it's more of a boring spin than a darker spin and large parts of the 2-hour film are quite dull.

In a sense, I should have known better going in. After all, Jerry Bruckheimer who, despite the success of last years Pirates Of The Caribbean, is responsible for the disgrace that was Pearl Harbor produced Arthur. And Antoine Fuqua, who despite giving us Training Day, offered up last year’s war movie cliche Tears Of The Sun, handled the direction.

But I was hopeful nonetheless.

In one aspect, my hopes were answered. The battles scenes are fantastic, especially the climactic one, with the swordplay being as good as the sword action in Braveheart and Gladiator. Unfortunately, those battles scenes lead to King Arthur's three big flaws.

Flaw number one is the one that isn't even worth mentioning at this point. However, it's the film's undoing and so it must be discussed. This Arthurian script is loaded end to end with cliches. Let's prepare a checklist shall we:

Villains that always miss and heroes that never do? Check. Heroes that are on the verge of retiring and going to live with their families before they get called on for one last very important mission? Check. Heroes that become disillusioned with the fight and plan to walk away, only to come back at the last minute? Check. Battles in treacherous places (mountains, ice etc)? Check. Villains that look like members of Metallica? Check.

The story itself, while claiming to be a new take on the Arthurian legend, is also a cliche in itself. Arthur (Clive Owen), a soldier for Rome, and his knights are about to be discharged from the Roman army. Before the official discharge however, they must go on one last mission. Journey to a remote outpost and evacuate a family before an army of invading Saxons (headed by Stellan Skaarsgard) can slaughter them. Arthur and his knights (including a vain Lancelot (Ioan Gruffud) and a hulking Bors (Ray Winstone)) make the journey and rescue the family, while also meeting up with Guinevere (the truly hot Keira Knightley). Guinnie isn't a damsel in distress here, she truly kicks butt with the best of them and is a trick shot with a crossbow.

Now that story I just outlined is assembled out of bits and pieces of the Arthurian legend as well as copping elements from many other movies (the aforementioned Braveheart and Gladiator most notably). If someone had tried to sell this as a parody of the Arthurian legends or of sword action movies it might have worked. But this movie takes itself deadly seriously from the get go, which brings us to the next strike against it.

The second flaw is that the film is too gray. There's almost no joy in the film and virtually no humor. Everything has a dank, depressing, overcast feel. The acting, aside from Owen, is wooden all around.

The third and the most egregious of the movie's flaws is this: the filmmakers’ level of hubris. They start the film off with a teaser claiming that THIS movie is the one that's closest to historical record. But as James Berardinelli noted in his review: "When it comes to Arthur, there is no consensus. Many historians believe he is 100% fictional. Others point to one of several men who might have inspired the legend" The hubris is so galling that you want to whack the filmmakers over the head with your two disc DVD copy of Monty Python And The Holy Grail.

I could go on listing reasons for why you should say "On second thought, let's not go to King Arthur. It is a lousy movie". But I don't need to do that when Braveheart and Excalibur remain available on video/DVD and you can rent them both for about the combined total it would cost for a single ticket to see King Arthur, a rental that would bring infinitely more satisfying results.


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