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The idea behind King Arthur was to demystify the legend, try to tell the real story that inspired one of histories greatest tales. Of course then you realize that this is yet another Jerry Bruckheimer produced masterpiece and any hope for believability goes straight out the window.
The story is set about a thousand years before the legend you all know. It stars Clive Owen as Arthurius (Arthur), a Roman general who leads a noble band of pagans in defense of the realm of Britain. Rome has promised said pagans a release so that they may return home, but on the bishops arrival they are betrayed and forced into one final mission. They must head deep into enemy territory, braving the resident Woad soldiers who are being led by an old warrior named Merlin, in order to rescue a family of nobles that have set up an estate there.
The problem is that these people are using the beliefs of the slaves against them, and are walling up their enemies to slowly die. When Arthur discovers this he liberates the Woad prisoners and escorts all of them, including the beautiful but battle hardened Guinevere, back to safety.
From this point on the film becomes a less than competent Braveheart wanabe, with Arthur realizing that the Rome he fought for no longer exists and joining the fight of Merlin''s warriors. Cliched heroic scenes abound, romance blossoms from nothing, and Arthur leads his troops with his own less than rousing variation of Mel Gibson''s famous "They''ll never take our freedom" speech.
While I never really expected anything more than this I was a little disappointed at the lack of any truly standout characters. Of the Knights of the round table only 3 stood out. Arthur was a pretty poor lead character, with no sense of authority or power coming from Clive Owen and his unfortunate hair cut. Ioan Gruffudd played Arthur''s best friend Lancelot who shared a brief and underdeveloped attraction to Guinevere but was otherwise a pretty bland and predicable character/ actor combo. Finally there was Ray Winstone who ignored his own acting talents to give a completely over the top performance as the comic relief character Bors. The other 3 knights Galahad, Tristan and Gawain were so forgettable that I can''t recall who was who. There was also these 2 ugly dudes playing unnamed evil Saxons, with only Guinevere being a remotely interesting character thanks in no small part to a passionate performance from Keira Knightly.
Even the action scenes weren''t up to the usual Bruckheimer standard. Most of the time a Bruckheimer production will have a pulse pounding soundtrack but here all you have is an uninteresting soundtrack that does nothing for the action. Action that is already pretty mundane. It''s not that they''re bad, just neither exciting or emotional. The 15 (soft R) rated directors cut I saw had a few beheadings, some pretty nasty hits to the eye and similar amounts of gritty realism, but because of the set up in these scenes they never feel as gritty or shocking as was intended and as such you just don''t care.
It''s not as if this is among the worst films of the year though. It''s all really inoffensive with some technical merit in its overall look. Costume design was fantastic, and the locations held an authenticity usually lacking from the producer of Pearl Harbor. Even the few gory effects looked real and would been really useful in a better film. So yes the film does at least have some technical merit, but still, it''s all pretty boring really.
this should be titled "King Arthur retold". It dispenses with the myth that King Arthur dragged any sort of sword out of the stone and makes the story a raw portrayal of life in those times. The backdrop to the story is: The Romans are getting near the end of their 400 year holiday in Britain and are starting to retreat back to Rome. The Britons covered in blue woed are starting to rise up against the Romans and looking for a leader. Merlin appears in it but there is no magic to spoil the reality of the situation.
The leader is in the unlikely form of Arthur or Clive Owen who leads a group of Samerian horseman or knights and fights for the Romans as auxillarys. They are a pretty tough bunch and a good mixture of British actors gives you a good feel about the crew that are about to embark upon a rescue mission of a Roman boy who lives byond the wall(Hadrians wall) Faces of actors you know will keep popping up and all have very believable parts.
The rescue somewhat complete they are then followed by an Saxon Army that has decided to take over Britain as the Romans leave (true to life at least) The chase and subsequant battle give some very good battle and individual combat scenes. The settings are real and give a good feel about the movie and not all survive. A good solid Roman era movie that keeps things very real and some good acting - Ray Winstone plays a thug - well nothing unsual there and if you like Ray Like I do then you know this is the best role for him.
FILM ONLY REVIEW
Arthur is a young boy when he gets called upon to serve in the Roman army. He works well and gets a reputation for being un-killable in battle. He and his men are sent to Britain to help the Roman leave and it is here that they come to the end of their 15 years service and will become free men. The day before the papers arrive for their freedom Arthur gets asked to take on one last task.
Arthur is asked to take his army over the wall into Scotland and rescue a religious family and the son as he is set to become a powerful Priest in Rome when he gets old enough. As Arthur and his men are already counting the hours down until they are free he s reluctant to take on the job but he has no choice. He reluctantly agree and he sets about telling his army about the job.
The army, lead by Arthur leave to take on Scotland and the Saxon in order to rescue the family but they first have to encounter Merlin's men in the woods.
Will Arthur and his army be able to complete their final task and become free men and just what will become of them if they do?
I was looking forward to seeing this film as the trailer made it look really good and full of action. I have to say the whole film thoroughly impressed both me and hubby. The storyline was good and although there were parts which I did not understand I found it to be very interesting and at times gripping. If you are expecting the story to be the same as the old King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table story then you will be disappointed as there are a lot of things which happen differently and the times for character seems all wrong. Because of the differences I did loose track of the story at times but I was soon able to pick it up again. The old story had character appearing at different times and them living a long and good life but in this film there were several character which died who should not have and people who should not have been around at the start of the story were already being shown and had known Arthur for years and this was also something which I found hard to grasp at the start of the film. I did find that trying to forget about the story I already knew made this one easier to follow.
The acting was excellent, the lead role of Arthur was played by Clive Owen. He had a very good strong on screen presence but he was not hard and strong the whole of the time, he did allow emotions and feelings to be bought into his character and I loved this as it showed he was just a normal man and not a hardened fighter. He worked well with all of the horses and weapons he was given and I loved watching him fight. He looked great in his costumes and he had a rouged look which suited the role completely. There were a lot of other good character and I found the role of Lancelot was another strong one, he was played by Ioan Gruffudd and he was Arthur's best friend. There was a strong chemistry and connection between both men and this showed well on screen.
We had a load of other really good actors and some included, Hugh Dancy, Ray Winstone, Keira Knightley and Stephen Dillane. They were all excellent in their roles and all very different. I did love the role which Ray Winstone played and he did actually bring some very good one liners to the film.
The special effects used throughout the film were all very good and well made. There were a lot of battle scenes and they were all very authentic and at times some of the deaths did make me feel sick and I did have to look away, they looked amazing thought and really very quite graphic at times. The costumes and props were also very good and in keeping with the year the film was set in. The animals and horses were all well trained and I thought that all of the actors looked very comfortable riding them.
The music was excellent and I really did enjoy it all, Hans Zimmer was responsible for the soundtrack and thought it was emotional and strong and very dramatic right from the start of the film. It really did help with the setting and drama for the scenes in which it was used.
As this is a film only review there are no bonus features to speak about. The running time of the film is 126 minutes and I found this was a super length with the story moving at a good steady pace from start to finish. The rate is a 12A and I do think this is appropriate as there are some very gruesome and violent scenes.
I have to give this film the full 5 stars as it is full of action and excellent acting. The story may not be accurate and the ending was so far from what I knew of the story but putting this to one side the film is excellent how it is and the good looking men are just another bonus to watching it!
I bought this film a while back and hadnt yet watched it so last week when I had an evening to myself I decided to give it a try.
The film is about King Arthur (obviously) and the Knights of the round table and shows how they used to fight together. I was expecting it to be mystical and have Merlin doing magic etc but it didnt have any of that in it. It was a much more serious view of what was supposed to be going on back in those days. Merlin was in the film but he was portrayed as a leader not as a wizard as we all expect him to be.
The film starts in 400 AD when the Romans came to Britain and people were told that they their sons had to go to fight with the Romans. Arthur was seen as a young boy leaving his parents and family to ride with the other boys, then the film cuts to when they are grown up.
When they have finished doing their bit for the Romans they are told they will earn their freedom.
Clive Owen plays Arthur and he is really good at it, comes out as a leader to the other men and knows what he wants to do and will do it with or without their help.
The Knights were
Lancelot - Ioan Gruffud
Gawain - Joel Edgerton
Galahad - Hugh Dancy
Bors - Ray Winstone
Tristan - Mads Mikkelson
Dagonet - Ray Stevenson
Guinnevere was played by Kiera Knightly.
I liked Ray Winstone in the film, he brought a hint of comedy to what would have been a bloody film otherwise.
The story line was a bit hard to follow at times but I thought it was well worth watching.
The film was directed by Antione Fuqua and it is rated a 12 in the Uk. It came out in 2004.
After all the different stories and theories that have been expressed throughout time about Arthur and Merlin, this film throws everything back in the air. An epic film which has amazing battle scenes, incorporates a love triangle and shows the loss each and every knight of the round table had to endure. To have fought for fifteen years and then to be told it was not over when they were promised, can only mean trouble and fear amongst those in power.
The backgrounds and sets that were used to get the viewer to feel enthralled to urge each one on and want to encourage them to fight for the good.
I felt that the story line moved quite well throughout the film but almost felt a bit confused at times. This is a film where you do need to concentrate but you won't have to work to do it. You became captured right from the beginning.
Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffurd and Keira Knightley make up the love triangle but the invading Saxons closing in on them, you don't have any lovey dovey stuff but a true action film with a basic love feel in the background which, I think, makes the film all the more better. A fantastic film you will love.
Arthur is the reinvention, reimagining and recreation of a well-known and much told legend. But if one thing is for certain, I am betting you have never seen it told like this before.....
Clive Owen stars in the title role of what is purported to be the most historically accurate version of events according to director, Antoine Fuqua. (No sniggering at the back there!). Arthur here is portrayed as being a British-born Roman Legionaire leading an elite group of Sumatran Knights, forced into the servitude of the Roman Empire for fifteen years, against the enemies of the Empire which include The Saxons and the pagan tribes known as The Woad. The film begins on the last day of servitude for Arthur's Knights Of The Realm escorting a Bishop to the safety of a Roman Garrison. But once there, the Bishop greets them with troubling news. Before he will sign their papers of release which ensure their freedom and will allow The Knights to return to their native country, they must first escort an important family to safety who currently inhabit an area on the other side of Hadrian's Wall in Enemy territory. The Romans are abandoning Britain to it's own devices and withdrawing all troops and this family are important people whose presence will be required back in Rome. Realising they have no choice, The Knights, who include Ray Winstone and Ray Stevenson who would later star in the HBO series Rome aired on the BBC, reluctantly set off to complete their final mission which will ensure they return as free men. But there is more to the over-zealous family they have been assigned to escort than meets the eye and it is here that Arthur first meets his one true love, Guinevere. and forms an uneasy truce with The Woad and their leader, a sorcerer named Merlin.
All the basic components of any Arturian legend are here; his Knights remain Lancelot, Gwain and Galahad respectively and his sword is still called Excalibur. This sword also still comes to Arthur when he pulls it out of a stone though in this instance the stone is his father's burial mound and the instance that provokes his drawing of Excalibur is the murder of his mother by Merlin's forces. Even the Round table is present though Camelot has ben replaced by the Roman Garrison which is The Knight's base camp and as close to home as any of them can ever get. Over the space of two hours, the main brunt of the movie is taken up by Artur's defence of Britain against the mighty Saxon forces in the wake of the Roman abandonment of the isle and the end result is an impressive and mighty battle that sees every last man fighting for himself!
And yet, for some reason the whole film never quite pulls together; maybe it is Clive Owen in part, who has never been one of my favourite actors, or maybe it is because every man and his dog is familiar with the Arturian legend and to mess with established myth is a dangerous and risky path to take. Or maybe it's just a combination of both these factors added to the fact that actually the movie just isn't all that its cracked up to me.
Certainly I found myself beginning to bore around the half-way point and only a battle against the Saxons on a lake of frozen ice caught my interest again- which sadly slowly started to wane again as soon as The Knights and their foes tucked away their swords. I really wanted to like this- not least because Kiera Knightley plays Guinevere though she looks more like the opera singer from The Fifth Element in her scenes where she is dyed blue (don't ask!)- but unfortunately Owen just didn't convince me of his divine ancestry one little bit and Winstone and Stevenson (the two Rays) stole every scene they shared with him.
The end result is a bit of a mess in a film that tries valiantly but doesn't really succeed! It's an okay watch if theres nothing else on and you have not seen it before but don't go expecting some epic tale as this is not what you will get. Instead we get a slightly lacklustre attempt at a re-telling of a legend with some great battle scenes but very little else to reccommend it....
The 2004 film King Arthur is director Antoine Fuqua's chance to put his spin on Arthurian legend. Previous tales of the Arthur and his Knights of his Camelot, and his Queen Guinevere have tended to be made into fairytale stories, in keeping with an easy to watch theme. This version provides a more believable atmosphere, and although the characters are all there, they are not there in exactly the same format as legend would have you believe...
In 400 AD, King Arthur and his knights are set one last quest by the Roman Empire before earning their freedom. They must rescue an important family from invading Saxons, and transport them to safety through the treacherous countryside, withstandings attacks from the Woads, British rebels against the Roman Empire. We meet Guinevere, a Woadish princess who falls in love with Arthur, and we see the emotional game played here by Lancelot, who in turns falls for Guinevere. Torn between their mission, their freedom and their desire to defend the Woads against the Saxons, Arthur and his Knights face one final battle to determine their freedom forever.
The Cast and Performances
This is a dark tale, and the acting fits it perfectly. Clive Owen is moody as the powerful King Arthur, and Ioan Gruffudd plays a Lancelot who seems more of a poet and an emotional wreck than a soldier. Keira Knightley smolders as Guinevere, and there is a great supporting cast, including wonderful turns from Ken Stott and the ever-menacing Ray Winstone. The group of Knights provide a great display of camaradery and companionship thorugh the film, and this touched me as a viewer. It made me hungry for some battle scenes so I could see them in action as a team, and the film does disappoint in that respect. There is no weak acting in this film.
This is a very dark version of Arthurian events. It is not the tale of the King protecting his land, nor is it the tale of a wife stolen by the best friend. It is the humble and believable tale of a man and his men employed in the service of an Empire, seeking their freedom, and this is what makes it believable.
Yet it is depressing, too. Rarely is there a glimmer of light, and even the daytimes seem shadowed whether it be dawn, dusk or the middle of the day. I did enjoy the film, but it is proibably not one I will get excited about watching again. I was disappointed after the hype, but not disappointed with what is a quality fiolm in artistic terms, but lacks that 'oomph' of enjoyment which is so important.
The DVD extras do provide some interest. An alternative ending is on offer, as well as behind the scenes making of style documentary where a lot of the reasons behind making the film as it is are explained. Then there are trailers and a photo gallery - nothing spectacular.
The DVD is currently available from amazon.co.uk for £4.98 for the Director's Cut, which merely has more gore than the cinematic version.
Thanks for reading.
King Arthur is a film made in 2004 based on the historical character who lived in around 500AD. It is around 135 minutes long, so prepare to watch a long film!
The main character of Arthur is played by Clive Owen, with Ioan Gruffudd playing Lancelot, Joel Edgerton playing Gawain and Hugh Dancy playing Galahad. Although I found Clive Owen a convincing choice for this role, I thought that the two strongest performances in the film were from Ray Stevenson as Dagonet and Keira Knightley who played Guinevere.
I found the film entertaining, the first hour of the film especially held my interest. The second half of the film has a very long battle sequence, which for me personally did drag on for quite a while. There was only so much stabbing with swords that I can take, but it would be unfair to complain about the effort put into these battle sequences, they do look superb.
I personally found that film was well produced, and as I've mentioned in other reviews, I don't normally like long films, but this didn't seem to drag and was well worth expending the effort to watch it.
I was very pleased to see that the film didn't spend too much time with the romance between King Arthur and Guinevere. There are a only a few scenes where this is featured, and I personally thought this made the film better as it would have been too easy to pad out the film with long and possibly quite dull scenes where their relationship developed.
If I had to find fault, I did have a problem with the geographical backdrop that has been used in the film, where King Arthur is trying to defend the area near Hadrian's Wall from the invading Saxons. It appears not just that the historical groups, such as the Sarmatians, the Celts and Saxons are all historically in the wrong place for the time this film was made, but that King Arthur is much more associated with more southern locations.
There also seems to be an exaggeration of the religious power which the Church held at that time within the Roman Empire. So although I know that this film is covering a subject who is almost mythical, it does seem to reduce the whole genuineness of the film.
One advantage of the film for me though was that I found it interested enough to want to go and find out a little more about Arthur. It's nice to feel involved in a film in this way and then want to learn more, and it was only because the film was well made that evoked such an interest in me in finding out more about Old England.
On the DVD I watched, there were a few bonus features, but no commentary. There was a "making of King Arthur", an alternate ending and producer's photo gallery. The alternate ending does have a commentary, but the main film doesn't.
Whilst researching this review, I did find however that the US version of the film does have an audio commentary, so the omission of a commentary on the UK edition seems bizarre. I personally like commentaries, as they add something extra to the film and I find it interesting to hear how the film was made or ways those close to the film feel looking back on how it could have been improved.
At the time of writing the DVD can be obtained for the price of 6 pounds from Amazon, which is good value for a film certainly in my opinion worth a look.
King Arthur, a name that brings to mind pictures of fairy castles and knights in gleaming suites of armour, mounted upon prancing white chargers doing war on the evil in the world. Images of court ladies dressed in long flowing gowns and wearing tall pointed hats. Fantasies of magic swords and magicians weaving their spells in the ultimate fight between good and evil.
This adaptation will shatter all those illusions or at least change the way you view the Arthurian myth.
I found the film to be more of a cross between Gladiator and The Three Musketeers, with a bit of Robin Hood thrown in for good measure.
What do I mean by that? I found this to be a swashbuckling adventure/ action film rather than the mystical Arthurian legend I had been expecting. The action of Gladiator is mixed with the gung ho, against overwhelming odds of the Three Musketeers with the virtuous heroic qualities of Robin Hood.
The film is set around Hadrians Wall in the final days of the Roman occupation of Britain.
Our hero, Arthur, or should I say Arturius as this Arthur is a half-Roman, half-Briton commander of a troop of elite cavalry in the Roman army. The troop consists of Salmation conscripts from the Russian steppes and is the best of the best.
This troop makes up the Knights of the Round Table and includes all the famous Arthurian names such as Lancelot, Gawain and Galahad.
Guinivere is portrayed as a feisty warrior woman in league with Merlin who is the leader of the Woads (the face painted warriors of the North.)
The setting is one of Roman estates and rough peasant housing in the shadow of Hadrians wall, all under a heavy winter sky that gives the whole thing a slightly dark atmosphere. The sweeping views of Hadrians wall and a Britain of sweeping grassland and dark forest are impressive and do add a touch of the epic.
The knights are about to be discharged from the Roman army; having served the 15 years that a peace treaty of their ancestors had forced them into. However the Bishop who is in charge of their release has one last mission for our heroes. This mission, to save a trapped Roman family on the wrong side of Hadrians wall is incredibly dangerous; its a mission that will bring about profound changes in the thinking of Arthur. Whilst on this mission Guinivere is rescued by the knights and so the link is formed. The eternal triangle between Arthur, Guinivere and Lancelot is touched on at various points but never grows into the love triangle of the earlier stories. Arthur is a devout Christian and this mission will shake his beliefs to the very core, dramatically changing the direction of his life.
The Romans start off fighting the Woads but the introduction of an invading Saxon army changes the positions of the protagonists somewhat.
The whole film is the story of how Arthurs beliefs that shape his life are altered by unfolding events, eventually leading to his destiny.
One thing that I did find quite odd was the fact that the first part of the film dealt with the youth of Lancelot rather than Arthur whose youth is only very briefly touched upon. I suppose this was used as a vehicle to introduce the history of the knights and how they came to be in the Roman army. I did think that maybe more explanation of how and why Arthur was given the charge of this troop would have been helpful.
Who is in it?
Arthur- Clive Owen, put on a good rugged hero type performance.
Lancelot- Ioan Gruffordd, did seem to be vying with Clive Owen for who was actually playing the lead.
Guinivere- Kiera Knightly, Good as the leading lady, well virtually the only lady. Her costume at the end is strange to say the least.
Cerdic- Stellan Skarsgard, not an actor I had heard of but a fair performance as the ruthless leader of the Saxon army.
Merlin- Stephen Dillane. Merlins part was not huge but was well portrayed as a sort of cross between a warrior king and a witch-doctor.
Bors- Ray Winstone, anyone remember him as Will Scarlett in the Robin of Sherwood series? Well its that sort of rough and ready character, one that adds a touch of humour as well.
Galahad- Hugh Dancy, not the most macho knight but then I suppose all knights were not muscle-bound giants.
Tristan- Mads Mikkelsen, the one with the hawk which seemed to have a bigger part than Mads.
Dagonet- Ray Stevenson, The gentle giant bringing a touch of compassion to the proceedings.
Gawain- Joel Edgerton, Did seem to be there to make up the numbers but not a bad portrayal of the character.
The performances overall were not bad and helped the story to flow. I would not say that any of them will be up for Oscars for their performances but I found them perfectly watchable.
The other bits and pieces.
Jerry Bruckheimer who has brought us many memorable films produced the film. - Armmageddon, Pearl Harbour and Gone in sixty seconds well as the fantastic Pirates of the Caribbean to name but a few of his successes.
The director was Antoine Fuqua who was responsible for training day.
The music in the film was a soundtrack that sort of faded into the film. It was there but not at the forefront, which to my mind is how film music should be.
The film is a 12 Certificate (contains moderate battle violence and mild sex.)
There are two different versions of this film, this one and the directors cut. I have seen both and must say that to my mind the directors cut is a better film. Why? Well the violence is dramatically pared down in the theatrical version. Allowing for a 12 certificate whereas the directors cut is a 15 certificate. I possibly watched them in the wrong order; the directors cut first, as the theatrical version did not have the same impact after seeing the more violent version.
I am going to go against the critics and most people I know who have seen it by saying that I thought it was a good film, not what I was expecting but after a swift readjustment to my thinking I really enjoyed it. I think it is a clever attempt to put a different slant on a story that has been so overused over the years. They do say that it is based on fact, could be it is quite plausible after seeing the film. I think that is up to the individual viewer though. It is certainly more possible than the Arthur of legend, the Arthur of Excalibur and Avalon but whether it is a good thing to change the myth of one of this countries greatest heroes, I dont know.
King Arthur is available at most DVD and video stockists, Amazon price £3.97, making it a real bargain couple of hours viewing in my book.
This film was one that I fancied being into history etc but wasn't sure that my partner would like it. This changed when he realised that Kiera Knightly was in it.
Jerry Bruckheimer's KING ARTHUR is a quality example of that new breed of mythology adaption.
This is a brave venture by Bruckheimer - and director Fuqua- and they are to be applauded for executing it with such style and creativity as is displayed in this film. It has, however, enjoyed somewhat limited success.
I believe, though, that if the viewer simply opens their mind and attempts to enjoy the story purely for the sake of itself, KING ARTHUR will reveal itself as a truly fine piece of film-making.
More than anything else, Fuqua masterfully portrays the atmosphere of the tale, filling it with a sense of time and place far more brilliant than the run-of-the-mill dialogue.
The entire experience oozes the ambiance of the early common era.
Exemplars of this perfectly-presented atmosphere are Arthur's knights.These are not the chivalrous, couth, pious Christian knights your mum told you about, but rather a troop of barbaric, lecherous, pagan Sarmatian mercenaries. Together they epitomise the pragmatic, godless, exquisitely human atmosphere of the period. As Gawaine tells a cowering Roman friar in an early scene - "Your God doesn't live here".
The lead actors, too, are outstanding, from Stellan Skarsgaard's sociopathic Cerdic, to the delicious Keira Knightley's dark and beautiful Guinevere. Only Clive Owen disappoints as Arthur himself, lacking the emotion this characterisation requires to supplement his steely resolve.
Despite the lukewarm reception to which it was subjected, KING ARTHUR is a finely crafted and memorable item of film-making.
The Cast are:
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
A great film just started showing on Sky movies or can be bought from most reputable retailer & ebay with prices starting at £1.50
Give it a go you might even enjoy it.
King Arthur (2004)
Running time: 126 minutes
Director: Anthony Fuqua
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Clive Owen Arthur
Ioan Gruffudd Lancelot
Ray Winstone Bors
Mads Mikkelsen Tristan
Hugh Dancy Galahad
Keira Knightley Guinevere
Stephen Dillane Merlin
Ken Stott Marcus Honorius
I wanted to like this film, I really did. I have enjoyed reading the Arthurian legends in their many different forms, so when I heard that not only was there a new film out about King Arthur, but that it was based on a new archaeological theory, I just had to see it. The signs looked good - Jerry Bruckheimer (CSI, Law & Order, Pirates of the Caribbean) was involved; there was an element of historical accuracy about it (I heard tales of sword designs being rejected for not being technologically possible in the era portrayed), and the cast look potentially promising, even given the surprise of the lead being handed to the permanently on-the-edge-of-stardom Clive Owen. So, after ignoring all the reviews warning me to run the other way, I saw it for myself.
King Arthur is set in Northumbria in the early 400s AD. For those of you unfamiliar with the Arthur myth, there are basically two strains of it the medieval Arthur with all the accompanying chivalry and Holy Grail stories that I suspect a lot of you will be most familiar with, and the earlier 5th/6th century AD version that usually features Arthur fighting against Saxon invaders to Britain. It is generally agreed by historians that the chivalrous Arthur is a later embellishment on the earlier stories, and the thinking is that any real Arthur was likely to have been some kind of warlord (as portrayed in Bernard Cornwells excellent Arthurian trilogy, for example). This film goes for the earlier (and arguably more historically correct) Arthur, which again I found to be encouraging. However, rather than featuring a usually West Country or Welsh Arthur fighting Saxon invaders along the southern and eastern coasts, this film has a foreign, Romanised Arthur living near Hadrians Wall as the Romans are withdrawing from Britain.
The source of this version of the Arthur story comes back to that new archaeological theory I mentioned previously. The theory itself is based on a recently published book called Arthur the Dragon King by Howard Reid, who suggests that Arthur was never British at all, but rather from a band of nomadic tribesmen (Sarmatians) who lived in Southern Russia. Reid has pointed out a number of potential links between the legends of the people of this region (now called Ossetia) and the mythical Arthur: there were skilled horsemen and knights in the stories who practised sword worship; there are stories of magical swords and a chalice of truth, and there is abundant dragon imagery (Arthurs surname is often given as being Pendragon). That in itself is pretty slim evidence, but the Romans did conquer this region and absorb some of its horsemen into the Roman cavalry and one group of these soldiers were led by a Roman General named Lucius Artorius Castus (Artorius possible being a Latinised form of Arthur). Such foreign auxiliary soldiers are also known to have been mobilised to the Wall to protect Romes northern frontier in the later days of the Empire. Having not yet read the book (I have been trying to get a copy through my library for some months now) I wouldnt like to say how well founded such points are, but they are certainly enough for Hollywood to grab hold of them and use them as an excuse for a swords and sandals film, at any rate.
So here we have a Russian/Roman Arthur (Arthurski?) brooding his way around Northumbria with his attendant band of Sarmatian knights (Lancelot, Bors, Galahad, etc), wiling away the time left on their commissions in the Roman army before they can return home. As the rest of the Roman world prepares to pull out of the region, Arthur is given one of those famous movie one last missions in this case, to rescue an isolated Roman family before the savage woads (native Brits) see them as unguarded oppressors and kill them all. This also sets up another movie stalwart, the Race Against Time. All well and good. However, things soon start to unravel and we find the thus far careful historical detailing doesnt extend as far as major plot points.
You see, as well as the Race Against Time with the woads, Arthur also has an impending Saxon invasion to contend with, as you may have come to expect from an Arthurian story. However, I find this a little strange given the geographical setting of the film. The Saxons were Germanic people, so naturally when the time came to invade Britain (which was incidentally after the Romans had gone, not as they were leaving), they invaded the bit closest to them, occupying the south and east of England. Yet, in this film, there is a small army of them coming from the north. Hmmm. Now, if you were a Saxon warlord, would you go on a long trip to Scotland to invade an England that was still teeming with Roman soldiers, or would you wait a little while and go for a shorter crossing to a virtually undefended country? Yes, finds of Germanic origin have been found in the Hadrians Wall area but these were from Germanic auxiliary soldiers serving in the Roman army. Yes, there were attacks on the Wall from the north around this time in history but they were from Picts, Scoti and Irish soldiers, not Saxons. The other oddity is that the high class Roman family Arthur is to save is living north of the Wall. Imagine it, the entire Roman Empire to live in, and some guy thinks it would be a good idea to set up home in a highly dangerous stretch of barbarian territory. And wears a toga. I ask you, wearing a cotton dress in the middle of a Scottish winter!
Still, this little adventure allows Arthur to not only save the day, but also to meet up with a beautiful and scantily clad woad warrior by the name of Guinevere, and to have some dramatic battles with the geographically misplaced Saxons. But what is this? Some of the Saxons appear to be fighting with advanced trigger crossbows! Perhaps someone should have pointed out to Mr Bruckheimer that archery played only a very small role in the Saxon battle plan, and that trigger crossbows were a medieval invention (putting the weapons the soldiers were using say 500 years or so in the future). Saxons fought with swords, spears and axes in fact, their very name comes from their weapon of choice, the seax (they were originally seax-ons).
But of course these historical slip-ups are not the only aspect of this film that I should be discussing. In accordance with the old saying that if you cant say something nice then you shouldnt say anything at all, I will start by finding something nice to say. The costumes appeared rather good; the boys got to be terribly manly and wear flashy armour (Ioan looked particularly hot, I have to say), while Keira got some pretty dresses and rather kinky battlewear that Im sure a lot of male viewers greatly appreciated. Oh, and the landscape (Irish, incidentally, not Northumbrian) was put to good use as a suitably stark and stunning background to the story. Right, thats it, Ive run out of nice things to say. The scripting was clumsy and rather painful to listen to in places as an example, Arthur at one point exclaims to his future subjects you, all of you, were free from your first breath!, rather overlooking the fact that all of his band of knights had been pressed into 15 years of servitude to the Roman cause, and he was the one who insisted they finish their tour of duty. The acting was also rather ropey. Clive Owen was completely out of his depth. The usually reliable Ray Winstone looked embarrassed to be playing a one-dimensional character in such a bad film (although we all suspected he would have been a far superior Arthur). The rest of knights were so wooden that you began to wonder if any of them had any previous acting experience. To the line last night was a mistake in Troy we can now add to our collection of unlikely historical statements, as Arthur and six others prepare to do battle with thousands of Saxons on an improbably frozen lake, Lancelots line to Guinevere: there are a lot of lonely men over there.
Overall, although not quite as silly as Troy, King Arthur appears to be one of those films that the phrase unintentional comedy was invented for. I would have like to have seen greater depth (any depth?) in the characterisation, as well as a nod to the tried and tested elements that makes the Arthurian myths so compelling and enduring. Where was the evil force of Mordred? Where were the traitorous actions of Lancelot and Guinevere? Why was Merlin reduced to a bit part with barely two lines of dialogue? The whole underpinning of the myth is that Arthur was a good man doomed to be betrayed by those closest to him, but this film misses that point entirely. Although I do accept that Arthurian legend is open to be interpreted and reinterpreted into cycles of varying stories, cutting out such a key element as this leaves you with just another film about men wielding swords, winning the war and getting the girl at the end. At no point did I feel convinced by the actors or absorbed by the story, and I was unable to suspend my disbelief sufficiently to enjoy this film as a piece of drama. This is just a second rate Braveheart.
Official film website: http://kingarthur.movies.go.com/main.html
This film was never at the top of my list of things to watch when it came out in the cinema. I must admit that I was slightly curious about it but was put off it by the mixed reviews it was receiving. When I received it as a Christmas present my curiosity was reignited so rather than take it back and change it for something else I decided to watch it. Could it be as bad as some of the reviews had implied? Surely not.
** Background **
King Arthur is based on the legendary man himself and his role in the rule of the Romans prior to him taking power himself. The film attempts to combine historical fact and Hollywood style and glamour to produce a stylish and accurate production. The film is directed by Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and is produced by Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean).
** Storyline **
As the Roman Empire expands, more people are being conquered and face a new life under Roman rule. To support this ever-expanding empire the Romans need to be recruiting new soldiers to supplement and replenish their armies. After capturing a village after a particularly fierce battle the Romans take the young boys into fifteen years military service. At the end of their service they will be free to leave the army and return to their families.
Fast forward fifteen years and the boys taken from the small village are now a fearsome group of knights nearing the end of their service. Each of them have their own ideas of how their lives will be when they are free of this obligation and all are counting down to the day they are free to choose again. As these knights have grown up together and experienced some horrific things together there is now a very strong bond between them.
The group of knights are lead by Arthur who has ambitions of returning to Rome when his military service is at an end. His idealistic views of the world mean that he believes he will be able to make a big difference from there and influence things.
With their fifteen years service at an end and their final mission a success the knights return expecting to be granted their freedom. Things in Britain have changed though and the Romans have decided to withdraw their presence from the country. Before freeing Arthur and his knights the Romans instruct them to complete one final mission. Arthur is sent to retrieve a Roman Priest and his son from the clutches of the invading Saxons. This final mission looks more like a suicide mission because of the numbers of Saxons approaching and the presence of the Woads, but the knights are forced to do it to ensure their freedom. All are very good warriors but the odds are stacked against them.
Arthur and his knights must move quickly to rescue the priest and his family before they become surrounded and then negotiate many perils if he is to get them back to safety. Things become more complicated when Arthur becomes interested in Guinevere and the plight of her people. Arthur will find himself torn between his loyalty to Rome and the plight of the Woads.
** Characters **
Arthur played by Clive Owen (Closer) is the leader of a band of knights coming towards the end of their service to the Roman Empire. Arthur is a good loyal man who has earned the respect of the men who follow him. He is a born leader who always tries to do the right thing and make the world a better place.
Lancelot played by Ioan Gruffudd (Black Hawk Down) is Arthurs right-hand man. He is dedicated and loyal to Arthur although he doesnt share Arthurs idealistic view of the world. Lancelot is more arrogant than Arthur and more grounded in terms of how the world really works.
Guinevere played by Keira Knightly (Love Actually) is an important woman for the Woads who has recognised the importance of using the Romans to defeat the Saxons. She realises that Arthur is a good man and hopes that he will be able to help lead her people.
Merlin played by Stephen Dillane (The Hours) is the leader of the Woads. He is a mysterious man who favours guerrilla warfare. He is convinced that Arthur is the man to lead and inspire his people to fight for their homeland.
Cerdic played by Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting, Ronin) is the leader of the Saxons. He is a ruthless man who will do just about anything to achieve his objectives. He is an evil man who is a fearless warrior as well as being very intelligent.
** DVD Extras **
The DVD comes with the following extra features:
* Alternate ending
* A making of documentary
The DVD is also available in a special edition version which may/may not have different extras available.
** My Opinion **
Given the subject of this film I think there are two ways you can approach it. Firstly you can look at it from a historical point of view and compare it to the facts and decide how accurate it is. Secondly you can approach it as a work of Hollywood and expect it to be entertaining. While I like the idea of the Knights of the Round Table and things like that it is not something that I have a lot of knowledge about, so when I saw this film I went in expecting to be entertained first and foremost although the factual element was in the back of my mind. With this is mind I am not going to try and tell you how accurate the film was as a work of history, more what I thought it was like as a piece of entertainment.
In broad terms I thought this film was pretty poor. After the success and popularity of films like Braveheart there will always be comparisons made when this sort of film is released. With these comparisons come additional expectations and invariably disappointment. Not wanting to be disappointed and after reading some fairly mixed reviews of this film I actually watched it with fairly low expectations. Sadly, I was still disappointed with what I saw.
It is difficult to criticise a storyline that is based on fact but as I was viewing this film as a work of Hollywood rather than a history lesson I was quite disappointed with it. If I am paying good money to watch a film I generally expect to be entertained and if I am not going to be entertained then dont make it into a film, make it into a BBC 2 documentary. For me, the storyline wasnt particularly gripping and never really managed to get me engrossed. It all seemed a little flat and had an air of inevitability about it. There was very little suspense or mystery generated or sustained at any point in the film and it all followed a very predictable path.
There are quite a few major characters portrayed in the film, supporting the main role of Arthur. I am not sure if the criticism of these characters should be levelled at the actors themselves or the writers, but most of these characters were poor. I think that in part they suffered from the number of important characters portrayed in the film. It is difficult to develop that many characters to the point where the audience feel some sort of attachment to them. Generally I thought that the characters were poorly written and that the actors could have done a lot better in bringing the characters to life.
The good news for anyone considering watching this film is that it is not all bad, so in the interests of balance here are what I thought were the highlights. Some of the battle scenes were pretty fantastic. Well shot and gruesome they give quite a realistic feel to the scenes. These scenes were the highlight of the film as far as I was concerned.
After criticising the cast in general earlier I would now like to back-track slightly and highlight two performances that stood out. Far from giving sparkling performances in this film they were the best of a bad bunch. The two performers are Clive Owen and Stellan Skarsgard. Taking centre stage, Clive Owen brings a bit of life to Arthur and does quite well at portraying the divided nature of the character. Stellan Skarsgard does well at portraying the ruthless Cerdic. This is a role that is different those I have seen him in previously but I thought he adapted very well.
All in all I was very disappointed with this film. I thought the story was poor and the cast under-performed. Someone more familiar with the historical facts surrounding the rise of Arthur may have got more out of this film than I did but I still wouldnt recommend it. To me it felt more suited to being shown as a BBC drama than a feature length film.
** More Information **
If you are undeterred by what you have read here and want some more information about the film, check out the film website at the following URL: http://kingarthur.movies.go.com/main.html
** Availability **
King Arthur is now available to buy and rent on DVD and VHS. It can be purchased from all good (or bad depending on your opinion of the film) retailers for around £14 (play.com).
** Overall **
This is not a film I would recommend, nor one I am likely to watch again. If you are intent on watching it then rent it rather than buy it and dont expect too much. If you are going to buy it and would like to buy my copy off me then look out for an auction coming to a website near you soon.
Thanks for reading
For a while now Ive been meaning to watch King Arthur. Once or twice whilst it was on at the cinema I almost took a trip to see it. In the end Ive ended up getting myself it on DVD as I was still quite keen to see it. The main point that stopped me from visiting the cinema was that it seemed to be another case of Hollywood re creating ancient British tales. This version of King Arthur is no different as Jerry Bruckheimer gives it the Hollywood treatment.
The film opens with a story of how Arthur and his Knights of the round table came to be. Young kids collected from villages the knights fought against the Roman armies in their native Salamatia. They are posted along with their leader Arthur to a Roman outpost on Hadrians Wall. After 15 years of service Arthur and his knights are due to be released from serving the Romans as they prepare to pull out of Britain and retreat back to mainland Europe. They must however undertake one last mission, which could see some of them never return.
He must lead his small patrol of Knights north of the wall into southern Scotland to rescue an important Roman family from the advancing Saxon Army. With Merlin and his band of Britons patrolling these areas, Arthur and his team must be careful. He makes it to the Villa in time but only just as the advancing Saxon army arent far behind them. Arthur and his Knights of The Round Table fight for the freedom of themselves and others and now they must face a Saxon Hoard. Can they make it back to the Wall and to Safety? Well there is only one way to find out.
The idea of the movie was a good one. I thought the tale of Arthur and the Knights Of The Round Table would make for a decent film. The biggest problem this version suffers from is an over Hollywoodisation of the story. Rather than follow a gripping story that keeps the audience interested it instead relies on a formula thats been done over and over again. Its not even that its an awful film, there is certainly plenty of appeal from it. You just end up with a well that was unmemorable kind of feeling afterwards.
The film had the potential to make something with a little difference that pushed the historic genre forward a touch. Instead director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) stuck to a safe formula that would make the film appeal to many but ultimately disappoint. Its not even the direction that really causes it. The special effects look fantastic and on the whole the camera work is pretty good. It losses track of whats going on during the fight scenes but on the whole it flows along nicely. The fight scenes despite the rotating and confusing cameras all look great as well with amazing choreography. There are a number of rather gruesome deaths, which all look incredible and this made up for certain aspects of the poorer overall story.
For all the films plus points there are also an equal number of negatives. The story itself is as I already mentioned following a rather safe route. It doesnt really capture your imagination like a film of this sort really should. That also ruins the character development as you end up with an ah well kind of feeling whenever something happens to one of the main characters. This again doesnt really captivate you and the film suffers because of it. The film boasts a pretty good cast but unfortunately the director hasnt made the most of them, which is odd based on how well he used the stars in Training Day.
Ive not really seen Clive Owen in much and as Arthur he really didnt impress me. It was mainly down to a rather wooden character and where he should have stolen the show he left me incredibly unimpressed. As tip for the next Bond it was also worrying to see the lack of chemistry between Owen and Kiera Knightly. I felt this was again down to the way the characters and story was written. Kiera does her job relatively well, although how she went from deaths door to being totally stunning in three days was beyond me. She seemed to be a pretty good choice as Guinevere, it was just a shame she didnt get that much screen time.
The rest of the cast seemed to follow in a similar vein. With only one real exception, I felt that Ray Winstone really made the part his own and put in a great performance as Bors. He seemed to be everything you could want from a Knight and even contributed a bit of humour. The rest of the cast were pretty average and although you can see potential in a number of them I thought a lot of them were miscast. For instance although Ioan Gruffudd was ok as Lancelot I dont think the part really suited him.
What should have been a great film left me feeling totally under whelmed but not really that bothered. An interesting story that could have been a lot better than it was. If Hollywood persist in taking stories like this, perhaps they could at least try something a little bit different. There are parts of this film that appeal to me having watched it but in equal measure there was enough to put me off watching it again. If you do want to see it then my final recommendation would certainly be rental, its not worth buying.
It's got a round table, some knights, and a noble warrior who rises to become King Arthur, but everything else about this revisionist legend is pure Hollywood. That's not such a bad thing if you enjoyed Rob Roy, Braveheart, Gladiator and Troy, and there's some intriguing potential in presenting the "real" Arthur (played by Clive Owen) as a 5th-century soldier of Rome, assigned to defend Roman-imperial England against a hoard of invading Saxons (led by Stellan Skarsgard in hairy villain mode). As revamped history and "archaeological findings" would have us believe, Guinevere (Keira Knightley) is a warrior babe in face-paint and Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd) is a nonentity who fades into the woodwork. Never mind. Best to enjoy the harsh, gloomy atmosphere of Irish locations, the ruggedness of Owen and his hearty supporting cast, and the entertaining nonsense of a Jerry Bruckheimer production that strips battle-ready Guinevere down to leather-strap S&M gear while all the men sport full-body armor. Hail to the queen, indeed! --Jeff Shannon