|King Arthur (2004)
Starring: Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Keira Knightley, Stellan Skarsgard, Ray Winstone, Mads Mikkelsen, Joel Edgerton, Hugh Dancy, Ray Stevenson
Big-time movie producer Jerry Bruckheimer is a multi-millionaire because he feeds moviegoers the same, recycled films every summer. The slightest changes are made -- a few new actors in a different time period -- but the mission is always the same: blow up as many things as you can in a certain amount of time. But after finally releasing a film last year (“Pirates of the Caribbean”) that actually offered audiences a fresh script, Bruckheimer has returned with the historians’ latest take on the mythology of King Arthur. Certainly one of the better Arthur adaptations in film history, director Antoine Fuqua’s vision is the darker side of a common tale with breathtaking cinematography and fantastic battle sequences.
A man of many tales, this film’s Arthur (Clive Owen) is a Roman officer leading a group of selfless, Sarmatian warriors who have come to be known as the Knights of the Roundtable. Only boys when the Roman Empire first recruited them from their small, British villages, just six men from the original group of brave knights remain after 15 years of dutiful service to a cause they have no interest in. When their day of freedom finally arrives, the Romans request one final mission of the men: to save an important family of the church from an aggressive Saxon attack raining down from the North. Commanded by the savage Cedric (Stellan Skarsgard), the Saxons force the Romans to retreat with only the six knights left to defend the great wall that divides the warring country. After saving the life of a beautiful warrior rebel, Guinevere (Keira Knightley), Arthur joins forces with his former enemies, a British rebellion led by the black magician, Merlin (Stephen Dillane), to stop the evil Saxons from claiming Britain as their own.
“King Arthur” has a few plot problems that will annoy historians and Arthurian-buffs, but the film does a great job of retelling a well-known story in a completely new light. Fuqua overlaps a filthy and crude Britain with a mesmerizing, poetic snowfall that cleanses the audience’s eyes in between the bloodshed. The story never lacks bumps in the road, but the actors bring refreshing life to the script’s two-dimensional characters. Owen has been on the verge of becoming a star for some time now, and he portrays Arthur masterfully, but it’s the presence of the six other knights – Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen), Gawain (Joel Edgerton), Galahad (Hugh Dancy), Dagonet (Ray Stevenson) and Bors (Ray Winstone) – that saves the day. All six men, virtual unknowns in the states with the exception of Winstone (“Sexy Beast”), provide a sense of humor and ingenuity that wouldn’t be present without each and every one.
Dashing and stimulating at its very best, “King Arthur” won’t satisfy the years of hard work put into the historic calculations of the legendary knight’s mythical life, but it will offer intelligent, summer entertainment that doesn’t insult its viewers while providing the exceptional action audiences are looking for.