Plot Details: This opinion reveals major details about the movie's plot.
The tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable is a story that every kid learns in grade school. Its a story that has captured our collective imaginations, and ranks up there with many other literary classics. The question of whether there was a real Camelot has been debated by historians, and many think that the story have been inspired by a real life warrior who lived in the final years of the Roman empires existence. The film King Arthur attempts to tell a story of what such a person may have done.
Clive Owen - Arthur
Ioan Gruffudd - Lancelot
Mads Mikkelsen - Tristan
Joel Edgerton - Gawain
Hugh Dancy - Galahad
Ray Winstone - Bors
Ray Stevenson - Dagonet
Keira Knightley - Guinevere
Stephen Dillane - Merlin
Stellan Skarsgård - Cerdic
Til Schweiger - Cynric
Sean Gilder - Jols
Pat Kinevane - Horton
Ivano Marescotti - Bishop Germanius
Ken Stott - Marius Honorius
Lorenzo De Angelis - Alecto
Producer: Antoine Fuqua
Arthur is the leader of a group of elite knights who are charged with providing protection in various areas in Roman controlled Britian. The knights were taken from their homes as boys, drafted into service of the empire for a certain number of years. Arthur is the son of a Roman nobleman, and is their leader. Their term of service is nearing its end, but before they are granted their freedom, they are given one last assignment.
Rome will be pulling out of Britain, leaving it to the native barbarian tribes. There is one Roman estate far in the north of Britain that is home to a nobleman. His son is a favorite of the Pope, and it is Arthurs duty to secure his rescue before the barbarian hordes overrun their lands. Needless to say, Arthurs men are not happy in the slightest. The mission is pretty much suicide. Arthur persuades them to go on one last mission.
When they get to the estate, Arthur is appalled to find how the nobleman punishes his serfs who are disobedient. Furthermore, he finds, to his disgust, that the nobleman has locked up a number of barbarians in a dungeon, with the intention of torturing, then letting them starve to death. The rationale? They are heathens, and it is their Christian duty to put them to death. Arthur rescues them, and orders the rest of the people living on the estate to move out. As it turns out, one of them turns out to be a warrior maiden named Guinevere.
As they move south, they are pursued by an army of Saxons that just want to kill everyone not Saxon. The Saxons almost catch up to the convoy, but Arthur and his crew, joined by Guinevere, make a stand on a frozen river. Its a battle of impossible odds, but they use a little trickery, collapsing the ice, to route the enemy, allowing the convoy to complete their journey to safety in Roman controlled territories.
Once back to Roman territory, the knights are granted their freedom. They all make plans to head back to their homes. However, it comes to light that the Saxons will not be content until everyone on the island is wiped out, and they control it all. With the help of Guinevere, Arthur is introduced to Merlin, who persuades him to stay in England and lead the Woads to defend themselves against the Saxons. Arthur has recently discovered that a mentor of his, a political and social reformer in Rome was excommunicated and killed by the authorities. This disillusionment with Rome seals the deal and Arthur makes the decision to stay behind and help fight. The movie ends in an epic battle with numerous characters being killed (I wont say which ones), and good triumphing over evil (as it should!).
It was very interesting to see a new take on the whole King Arthur/Camelot story. In fact, there was little in this story that jived with the conventional mythology. For starters, there was no Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot love triangle. Often times, the story is often portrayed with chaste and spiritually pure Lancelot falling for Guinevere, and despite their best efforts, engage in an affair, betraying King Arthur. Not so in this movie. Lancelot and the rest of the knights are rather loose women-chasing party boys (when theyre not out slaying savages). Guinevere is not the dainty princess of indescribable beauty, but rather she is a woad warrior-vixen, superbly skilled in the fine art of the sword and bow, as her butt-kicking fight scenes demonstrate. Merlin was not some sagely advisor/sorceror for the king, but instead was a sort of tribal chieftain, who is equally opposed to the Romans and the Saxons. Also, Arthur and his knights are often portrayed as exemplars of Christianity, faithful and devout. In this story, as Romans, they pay only superficial respect to the established state religion, when in reality, they embrace their native pagan religious beliefs. At the end of the movie, when Arthur and Guinevere marry, it is a pagan ceremony and not a Christian one.
The action scenes are excellent, and seemed pretty realistic. There are a lot of battle sequences that allow the actors to display their skills with the sword. The goal was obvious to paint Arthur and his comrades as elite soldiers, and for the most part it worked. Of course, it may have been a little much when the six or seven of them decided to make a stand against an entire army. In any event, these scenes are mixed throughout the movie to give it a good balance with the plot, and kept the pace moving at a steady pace.
I got the sense that the movie could have done a little philosophizing, but purposely showed some restraint. Sure, there were themes about loyalties to home, family, comrades, and country, and duty to government, and the conflicts that may arise. All that Arthurs knights wanted was to fulfill their obligation to the Roman government so they could return home to live as free men, but their loyalty to one another kept them going. Even Arthur, after coming to realize that the Rome he held in his heart didnt exist, he sought to hold fast to his vision and create his own kingdom based on those cherished principles. (The beginning of Camelot?) Likewise, the Christians of the period were portrayed as corrupt and brutal, which has some genuine historical basis. I got the sense that if the director really wanted to, he could have wove in a few anti-religious messages. Sometimes though, not saying something can be just as powerful, if not more so, than actually saying it.
Of the supporting cast, there are mixed reviews. Of the knights, only Bors seemed to have any personality. The others, including Lancelot, tended to be rather interchangeable. I had a hard time keeping them straight. Bors, though, was a very colorful character, and hearty, earthy fellow with real fire in the belly. The Saxons were portrayed as barbarians out to pillage, rape, kill, and burn everything they say. Initially, it was hard to keep them separate from the Woads, as both groups were fighting the Romans, and both were rather uncivilized. Guinevere was interesting, if only for the contrast from the original legend. Knightly was an excellent choice of casting, thats for sure.
King Arthur is a fairly decent movie that provides some real entertainment for movie night. Those who are looking for another telling of the same old story of Camelot will be disappointed. This film is a fresh twist on a classic tale, creating a film that has more in common with a Braveheart than it does with First Knight. The level of violence in the film probably doesnt make it suitable for young kids, but its not like the film is that gory. Three and three-quarter stars
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Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Suitable for Children Age 13 and Older