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King Arthur - US reaction



Compiled by: Jack Foley

JERRY Bruckheimer may have been able to impress critics with his re-imagining of a theme park ride, for last year’s Pirates of the Caribbean, but his attempt to re-write one of English history’s most enduring and popular characters, looks to have fallen short with the expectations of US critics.

King Arthur claims to tell the ‘true story’ behind the Arthurian legend, and casts Clive Owen as the historical leader, who unites his Romano-English people in a bloody battle against the invading Saxons, during the final days of Roman occupation.

The film co-stars Ioan Gruffudd, as Lancelot, and Keira Knightley, as Guinevere, and substitutes blood and guts battle sequences for the romanticism which has traditionally surrounded films on the subject.

But it drew a host of negative reviews when it opened in the States on Wednesday, July 7, 2004 - a couple of weeks prior to its UK debut, on July 30.

The Los Angeles Times lamented that ‘it's the Arthurian legends, a PlayStation Passion play and a Jerry Bruckheimer lollapalooza rolled into one’.

While Planet-Sickboy wrote that it ‘ran two hours, felt like three, could have easily been one, and features no less of a videogame-type plot than mothersucking Van Helsing’.

The Chicago Tribune advised that ‘devotees of chivalry and Camelot should look elsewhere’.

While Newsday lamented that ‘as a primer in the thuggish territorial land grabs of the Dark Ages, it gets the adrenaline flowing and makes us want to learn more. But the sheer density of the historical material is often at odds with the cut-and-dried requirements of the action genre’.

Efilmcritic.com stated that ‘if you're going to intentionally suck all the good parts out of a great tale, you'd best replace them with something besides dry political intrigue and predictable gimmickry’.

Slightly more positive, however, were the likes of Variety, which found it ‘impressively made and well acted’, while the Hollywood Reporter referred to it as ‘a smart action movie’.

The Houston Chronicle, meanwhile, went so far as to say that ‘one of the reasons this film works is that we don't feel as if we're watching these people through the scrim of history and legend - they feel immediate, even contemporary’.

But Reelviews felt that ‘the term 'unintentional comedy' was coined for a movie such as this’.

And Atlanta Journal-Constitution declared that ‘King Arthur won't charm you, hardly ever will thrill you, and certainly will have you laughing less with it than at it’.

The New York Times, meanwhile, decided that ‘Antoine Fuqua's version of the King Arthur legend includes an element of broad, brawny camp that prevents the movie from being a complete drag’.

But the final word goes to About.com, which declared it to be ‘the worst Jerry Bruckheimer film since Dangerous Minds’.

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