face, it will be the last thing you see on this Earth"
On the verge of gaining their freedom after serving Rome for
fifteen years, Arthur (Owen) and his Knights are given one last mission
that would see them face their most aggressive foe yet, the invading Saxon
army. As he moves north, he discovers that the people of Britain need a
leader, someone who could save them from the marauding hordes as the Roman
Empire prepares to leave. Against the wishes of Lancelot (Gruffudd) and
the rest of his Knights, Arthur decides to stay and fight for the people
who he has sworn to protect.
As fantasy films enjoy a resurgence at the box office, revisiting
the Arthurian legend must have seemed like an excellent idea. The Sword
in the Stone, the Lady of the Lake and all the other myths and magic associated
with the tale could be brought to life brilliantly as CGI now allows filmmakers
to achieve anything. So why did they decide to forgo all of the mystical
elements of Britain's most famous royal fable?
Jerry Bruckheimer and Antoine Fugua's version of tale of
King Arthur and his Knights takes a more historically accurate approach
to the legend and this is to the determent of the film. This account sees
Arthur as the leader of a Roman garrison, stationed on Hadrian's Wall in
the 4th century A.D. Never defeated in battle Artorius, a half Roman, half
Britain, commands a group of Sarmatian Knights whose deeds are legendary
amongst the people, as tales of Arthur and his knights spread across of
the country. The Sarmatian Knights are enlisted men who gain their freedom
after fifteen years of service to Rome. So Lancelot, Gawain, Galahad and
the rest are the equivalent of the Special Forces for the Roman Empire.
Guinevere and Merlin are Woads, rebellious pagans who fight against the
Roman occupation but the real enemy is the invading Saxon army that threatens
to engulf the country as the Roman army leaves Britain. So everything you
know about the legend, whether it be from film or books, is wrong and this
is really how the story was born. This is all fair and good but the end
result just isn't as exciting as the mythological approach.
The battle sequences are nothing new and they lack the blood
and gore that you'd expect from a confrontation involving swords, arrows
and flaming catapult fire. The ice face-off and the final fight are impressive
but you have the feeling you've seen it all before. The leader giving a
rousing speech on horseback and driving the troops into battle seems to
be the stalwart of all historical dramas of late.
The script doesn't really push the acting talents of the ensemble
cast but they do quite a reasonable job. Keira Knightly sounds overly posh
as Guinevere but she does get stuck in during the battle sequences. Ioan
Gruffudd doesn't really have much to do as Lancelot, as the love triangle
involving Arthur, Guinevere and him is never really explored. Ray Winston
is his usual rowdy self as Bors and Joel Edgerton and Hugh Dancy are fine
as Gawain and Galahad. Stellan Skarsgård is seriously underused as the Saxon
leader Cerdic. The character just ends up looking like he really doesn't
want to be there.
Clive Owen performance as Arthur is the main problem however.
He just doesn't have the presence to pull of such a commanding role. This
is supposed be a man who the knights would die for and a leader they would
follow into hell itself but Owen just doesn't project this in the slightest.
Clive Owen is an excellent actor but you might have to question his ability
to be a strong leading man.
King Arthur would have been a better film if the filmmakers
had gone for a more mythical approach. The Sword in the Stone, the Lady
of the Lake, Merlin the Wizard and the power of Excalibur would have made
an amazing fantasy adventure now that the technology can do it justice.
This historical retelling is still watchable and quite entertaining but
you can't help but think you could have been watching a much better film.
Presented in 2.40:1 Anamorphic Widescreen with a choice between
a Dolby Digital 5.1 and dts soundtracks, this is a good transfer. The picture
quality is superb throughout, even during the darker forest and night scenes.
The sound quality is also first rate, especially during the climatic battle
sequence when you feel that you are been bombarded by arrows.
With an extra 17 minutes of footage, the full-blooded version of the movie
is better for it. Here we can now witness the sheer brutality of combat
in 500AD, as swords, arrows and spears rip in flesh in all their graphic
detail. The story also gets added to as we see more of the attraction between
Guinevere and Lancelot, a greater insight into the Saxons and more of Arthur's
background. This edit does improve the film but it is still not as good
as it could have so easily have been.
Blood on the Land: Forging King Arthur (17.11 mins)
Director Antoine Fuqua, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, writer David Franzoni,
production designer Dan Weil, history consultant John Matthews, stunt coordinator
Steve Dent, costume designer Penny Rose, director of photography Slawomir
Idziak, visual effects supervisor Matt Johnson, composer Hans Zimmer and
stars Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Ioan Gruffudd, Joel Edgerton, Ray Winstone,
Mads Mikkelsen and Stellan Skarsgård take you behind the scenes of King
Arthur. The featurette reveals the origins of the story and the Arthurian
legend and takes you on location in Ireland. We see how many of the main
sequences were accomplished such as the ice battle and the final confrontation,
as well as how the music, costumes and sets came together.
Alternative Ending: Badon Hill (4.14 mins)
With optional commentary by Antoine Fuqua, this is the original, darker
ending for the film that didn't test well during previews.
Producer's Photo Gallery
A collection of behind the scenes images from the Irish location shoot
A preview of National Treasure
The director's cut of the movie is better than the theatrical
version of the movie, making this an added bonus for fans of the film. The
inclusion of a dts track is also a welcome edition but other than that the
extras are quite average. With no commentary track and an average making
of… featurette, the rest of the bonus features are not as good as they could
have been. The film is still well worth a rent as this is the better version
of the movie.
Monty Python and the Holy
The Sword in the Stone
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