Film Reviews


By • Jul 7th, 2004 •

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Touchstone Pictures / Jerry Bruckheimer Films
MPAA rating PG-13 / Running time — 126 minutes

QUOTE: Who cares about the toying of a sacred legend? This film works on it’s own merits.

It’s the name recognition that pulls us in, but screenwriter David Franzoni has created persuasive masculine heroes, and director Antoine Fuqua provides a dazzling, cold and fierce medieval landscape for these men to exploit the beginning of the King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table legend.

The only misstep is Guinevere (Keira Knightley). Here she is a battle-hungry nymph in a costume straight out of Milla Jovovich’s THE FIFTH ELEMENT closet. This sweet 19 year old is the best archer and ruthless fighter in Arthur’s band of hell-raisers. She swings a heavy sword and spits out war cries.

I liked the story: It begins in 452 A.D. and the Roman Empire’s outposts are under constant attack. A small group of six Samaritan warriors are under the command of a half-British/half-Roman officer Lucius Artorius Castus (Clive Owen). Arthur, as he was known in Britain, was forced to join the Roman army at a young age for 15 years.

His knights, well known to us, are Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), Bors (a very unSEXY BEAST Ray Winstone), Galahad (Hugh Dancy), Dagonet (Ray Stevenson), Gawain (Joel Edgerton) and Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen).

On the day they are to be given their letter of freedom from warrior servitude, Arthur is assigned one more task: On the direct orders from the Pope, he and his men are to rescue a Roman nobleman and his family, which includes the Pope’s favorite godson. Arthur and his men must journey to Hadrian’s Wall where they meet up with tattooed fighters known as Woads under the leadership of the magician Merlin (Stephen Dillane). Merlin joins forces with Arthur against the pursuing barbarian Saxons led by Cerdic (Stellan Skarsgard) and his son Cynric (Til Schweiger). The ferocious Saxons are ready to seize Britain as the Romans retreat, killing everyone in their wake.

In the Roman nobleman’s dungeon, Arthur finds a chained Guinevere. She’s an expert killer masquerading as a peasant girl. As Lancelot keeps eying her beauty, she falls in love with Arthur.

While Owen and Gruffudd are engrossing, strong characters tethered to testosterone, it is Skarsgard who is original and electrifying in his tribal ruthlessness as the sadistic leader of the Saxons. In one great scene, the Saxon leader revels in finally meeting Arthur on the battlefield. The subliminal conflict between Cerdic and his son Cynric and the dominant idea of religion creating wars, elevates this script into the vein of GLADIATOR.

This is not the King Arthur of legend. He and his men are battle weary and dispassionate killers. Fugua is the right director for bringing a hardened backdrop to the harsh ways of pre-medieval life. The battle scenes are authentically brutal and there is a wonderful scene on ice that is thrilling and the highlight of the film.

Arthur: Clive Owen
Lancelot: Ioan Gruffudd
Tristan: Mads Mikkelsen
Gawain: Joel Edgerton
Galahad: Hugh Dancy
Bors: Ray Winstone
Dagonet: Ray Stevenson
Guinevere: Keira Knightley
Merlin: Stephen Dillane
Cerdic: Stellan Skarsgard
Cynric: Til Schweiger

Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: David Franzoni
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Executive producers: Mike Stenson, Chad Oman, Ned Dowd
Director of photography: Slawomir Idziak
Production designer: Dan Weil
Music: Hans Zimmer
Costume designer: Penny Rose
Editors: Conrad Buff, Jamie Pearson

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