Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES (DIRECTOR'S CUT): Alternate ending.
'Blood on the Land: Forging King Arthur' - making of. National
Treasure sneak peak.
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES (THEATRICAL): Alternate ending;
'Blood on the Land: Forging King Arthur' - making of; National
Treasure sneak peak.
THE legend of King Arthur is given the ‘Jerry Bruckheimer’
treatment for this expensive, but deeply unsatisfying take on
the ‘true’ story behind one of Britain’s most
captivating historical figures.
The romanticism surrounding Arthur and his Knights of the Round
Table is completely stripped away for an altogether darker, and
more violent interpretation of the events surrounding the fabled
king, thereby removing the magic of Merlin and ignoring completely
any mention of Camelot.
As directed by Antoine Fuqua, of Training Day fame, it also reduces
one of the most rousing passages in English history to an uninspired,
and frankly insulting, mess, incapable of delivering any of the
passion or emotion that has traditionally surrounded the legend.
According to writer, David Franzoni, ‘this is King Arthur
as The Wild Bunch’, which is ‘the definitive’
story of the leader and warrior who emerged to lead the Britons
against the Saxons some 500 years before the first romantic tales
of his adventures were written down.
It is set in the Dark Ages, as opposed to the Middle Ages, and
takes place during the final days of the Roman Empire, as its
diminishing legions pull out of Britain, thereby leaving the Romano-British
people to the threat posed by the Saxons, not to mention the Savage
Picts and fierce Scots, north of Hadrian’s Wall.
The ensuing film is the tale of the man who would become king,
a historical figure known as Artorius Castus, who is descended
from the original Sarmatian legionnaires that were stationed around
Castus, according to the film’s
researchers, is the only significant commander of this name written
in history, and his legend was born out of the Battle of Badon
Hill, a battle which changed the face of Britain, and which devastated
the invading Saxon army so utterly, that they were rendered powerless
for almost 40 years.
Fuqua’s film focuses on the events leading up to this battle
and Arthur’s struggle to accept his destiny as the new leader
of the Romano-British, as opposed to fulfilling his desire to
return to Rome with his freedom intact.
Yet, Clive Owen, in the title role, singularly fails to do justice
to the character, coming across as a bland and hopelessly brooding
figure, who seems more at ease sulking his way through proceedings,
than providing any sort of inspiration.
He is not the only actor to appear miscast. Keira Knightley looks
far too young to provide any believable love-interest, and far
too slender to cut a credible action figure, while Ray Winstone,
as Arthur’s Knight, Bors, seems unsure as to whether he
is the comedy element, or the out-and-out blood and guts man.
Only Ioan Gruffudd emerges with any real credit from the principals,
injecting his Lancelot with some much-needed charisma, but his
feelings for Guinevere are only suggested, and the love triangle
which has become such a striking feature of the Arthur legend
is never really touched upon.
Indeed, Fuqua seems unable to handle the emotional requirements
of the story, stripping proceedings of any characterisation, and
taking away any ability for the film to wrestle with viewers’
A love scene between Arthur and Guinevere is awkwardly handled,
while the banter between Arthur and his Knights feels a little
Fuqua only really finds his stride during the film’s battle
sequences, which hark back to the same sort of gung-ho, men-against-the-odds
heroics displayed in his equally derogatory war movie, Tears
of the Sun, not to mention better epics, such as Braveheart,
The Last Samurai, The Magnificent
Seven and Excalibur (that other dark take on the Arthur legend).
In the end, audiences are left to lament the complete deconstruction
of the Arthur legend by an American crew, using British actors,
that threatens to tarnish the memory of one of history’s
most charismatic figures.