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King Arthur /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Clive Owen, Stephen Dillane, Keira Knightley, Hugh Dancy, Ioan Gruffudd

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Produced by: Jerry Bruckheimer
Written by: David H. Franzoni


Clive Owen as Arthur in Touchstone's King Arthur

Keira Knightley as Guinevere in Touchstone Pictures' King Arthur
Ioan Gruffudd , Keira Knightley and Clive Owen in Touchstone Pictures' King Arthur

     In all honesty, my knowledge of King Arthur is very limited; I have only seen a few movies that have chronicled parts of his life. This telling of the rather famous tale didn’t broaden my horizons of the topic much more, either. It would be hard for any historian to be definite about the existence of Arthur, and how exactly he led the battles he partook in. One can only hope they were half as exciting as those in Antoine Fuqua’s King Arthur, a breezy and sugar-coated motion picture that doesn’t need to take time engaging audiences in facts. Viewers will be able to accept its bent on history, and simply enjoy the wonderful action, and the sophisticatedly cheesy talk of the characters. This latest epic in the world of Hollywood, which serves as another mega-blockbuster addition to dreaded producer Jerry Bruckheimer’s resume, is ferocious and fast-paced, unlike its eye-roller of a competitor, Troy. Who really wants a boring and bland lesson on ancient times when they can have an energizer-bunny of a Keira Knightley instead?

     As it moves, the storyline of King Arthur is a bit hard to follow, but come time for the final battle, everything is in place, and makes perfect sense. Transformations amongst characters occur quickly and insightfully, instead of being strung-out and overly important. This movie will introduce moviegoers to a new concept: an epic that isn’t an endurance test or deliberately annoying. After experiencing King Arthur, one has felt triumph, but it has been more quickly brought about than in your average legend. Unless their material can boast a truly ambitious and spectacular awe, no director should be making a film that is nearly three hours long. Fuqua knows that his product is simply a silly extravaganza, and has cut it to a crowd-pleasing two-hour and ten-minute length. This way, no cast-member has overstayed their welcome, but all issues have been resolved. Hopes of glory are fulfilled, leaving almost no room for complaint amongst audience members. I, really, cannot think of a more inviting type of film than this one, in a summer of letdowns.

     The plot follows the loosening Roman grasp over its English colony, as the Saxons to the north try to take it over. At the same time, Arthur (Clive Owen) and his men are sent on one final mission before being released from the Roman forces. In this, they are to find a Roman official and his family, and guide them away from the Saxons. But, of course, complications ensue, and they ultimately find themselves fighting alongside the local, raggedy English folk in defense against their opposition. Among these native Woads are Guinevere (Knightley, who plays the role with the utmost conviction), and her crew of fellow body-painted warriors. And then there’s Merlin (Stephen Dillane), the leader of the group, who maintains a magical presence, even though his typical powers are nowhere to be found in the contents of King Arthur. The adventurous ideas in it, alone, are mythical enough to drive the surreal concept for the film’s duration.

     The beautiful thing about the performances in King Arthur is that they have the right intentions. The leads, Clive Owen and Keira Knightley, aren’t trying to be entirely serious. This isn’t the movie for that. Rather, they simply manage to be exciting to watch, allowing the audience to experience their joy. The events that occur in King Arthur are rather barbaric in nature, but they’re played in such a way that the grittiness becomes enthralling. This is not so much because we would like to partake in the endeavors featured, but because it gets our adrenaline pumping. There is a true feeling of euphoria when the movie reaches its high-point, which I have rarely experienced when viewing a picture, as of late. It made me want to never get up out of my seat and leave the auditorium when it was over, as if my shorts had been super-glued to the chair.

     Viewing King Arthur makes me feel the need to raise a question. Why does camp have to be bad? The truth is, it absolutely does not, but is simply seldom done right. What happened to the good old days when audiences could laugh at the farfetchedness of historical fiction, but still appreciate what emotional resonance it may hold? Why can’t Knightley play Guinevere and scream and rant and rave? There’s nothing to say that any of this makes a mediocre picture. In the hands of any experienced director, there’s no reason a film shouldn’t work.. Even though his efforts may be somewhat flawed in terms of focal points, Fuqua handles King Arthur with passion. What is so terrific about being serious when you can make an equally good movie being dorky? There are only two major action sequences in this flick (my favorite takes place on thin and wearing ice), but every frame of it shares the same exuberance that’s seen in battle, no matter how deep and dark the tone of them may be. All filmgoers should be able to enjoy King Arthur if they are able to embrace its vision. This may be harder for some more than others, but either way, I, myself, couldn’t be happier with it.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews (7.7.2004)

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