Running Time: 126 minutes
Starring: Clive Owen, Hugh Dancy, Ioan Gruffudd, Mads Mikkelsen, Joel Edgerton, Ray Winstone, Ray Stevenson, Keira Knightley, Stephen Dillane, Stellan Skarsgard
Directed By: Antoine Fuqua
Rating: 6.5 out of 10
This is a tale of the origins of King Arthur and his knights of the round table.
When one thinks of the legendary King Arthur and his knights, one conjures up the image of impossibly bright armor and heroic deeds. One thinks of rescuing maidens and of fancy castles. One thinks of Excalibur, and depending on your age coconuts being smashed together. In this movie it is almost the exact opposite of what you would expect and that is why this film worked for me. King Arthur is the story of the legendary king and his knights of the round table. They are tasked to save a young Roman boy from northern Britain to earn their freedom.
I have seen and read many takes on the King Arthur story so I was expecting another unoriginal version. What unfolded was surprisingly fresh if not entirely great. The film starts off and we are introduced to the knights as children as they are whisked off to train and to become the protectors of Britain. They are servants of Rome even if they are revered and honored. Fast forward many years and the knights only have a few days left in their servitude. They are tasked with one final task and their most important mission to date. They must travel to the north and save an important Roman child as it is the will of the Pope. The problem is the north is filled with wild men intent on killing anyone affiliated with Rome. That coupled with a huge invading Saxon army and you know King Arthur and his knights have little hope of success. The film has plenty of action and it ranges from great to poor in its execution. At times it is up close and realistic as body parts gets chopped off or an arc of blood shoots across the screen. At other times it glaringly bad with shaky camera work and poor editing. This flip flopping of the bloodshed quality shows what a poor decision it was to make this film PG-13. There is also something about the hue or tint of the scenery in this film that makes it look off. The trees and landscapes seem almost cartoonish in coloring making the film lose its epic vibe. Without the realism going for it this film was never going to be mentioned with the likes of Braveheart and Gladiator.
The cast and characters is what makes this film work. The knights are flawed men with normal vices (except Arthur.) They drink, they womanize, and they gamble. They don’t seem like the type of men to rescue damsels in distress. But what they have above all else is trust and honor amongst themselves. It is hard to capture noble camaraderie in a bunch of guys who look like mercenaries for hire but that is what happens in this film. King Arthur is played by Clive Owen and while he struggles to deliver quality speeches and dialogue he somehow makes up for it with his charisma. The rest of the cast is made up of familiar names such as Ioan Gruffudd, Ray Winstone, Mads Mikkelsen, and others. They give the knights such varied personalities that there is going to be one you will like. Will you want to follow the pragmatic knight Lancelot? Or follow the sword master knight Tristan? Maybe the brute knight Bors? Or you may enjoy them all it is up to you. I liked all 7 knights in this both individually and together thus making up for the strange camerawork.
As the film carries on and you get to know the group of knights better the film is easier and easier to watch and get into. This ragtag group of knights is in a hostile environment and horribly outnumbered. They must fight their way through dark and misty forests and across frozen and windswept lakes. The invading Saxons are menacing to behold and a perfect enemy for the knights to carve to pieces. Also to be noted is the films other unorthodox characters. Merlin is a wildling chieftain in this? Guinevere is a feral fighting woman? It seems strange but it works somehow. You will bleed with this group of knights as they cut, slash, shoot, and hack its way back to Hadrian’s Wall and you will be pulling for them to make it the whole time. The ending action sequence is solid if not remarkable and lets you enjoy some up close sword play as huge bonfires roar in the background. How far would you go to win your freedom? Watch this film to find out. So overall the characters, the camaraderie, story, and fight scenes are good, but the camerawork and editing leave a lot to be desired.
Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Tears of the Sun) puts down the guns and picks up some swords. He takes a unique script (Franzoni) and is able to deliver a decent Arthurian tale. His choice of camera work is really what holds this film back from being great though. The story is decent and action packed as we follow the knights across Britain. They fight from horseback and on foot and terrorize the enemies with brutal precision. He keeps you interested through the knight’s noble cause and wins you over by making them less than perfect men. This could have been a great finished product if not for its PG-13 rating.
I give this movie a recommendation especially anyone looking for a different take on the story of King Arthur.
T Factor + If you like tales of the medieval then this could score higher on the rating scale.
T Factor – If you do not like epic styled films then this could score lower on the rating scale.
If you liked this film reel recommendations: Kingdom of Heaven, Gladiator.