King Arthur



Starring: Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Ioad Gruffudd, Ray Winstone, Stellan Skarsgard, Til Schweiger, Ray Stevenson


Following in the footsteps of such battle epics as Lord of the Rings and Troy comes a retelling of the life of King Arthur, that most famous of monarchs and legends. Seeing the posters on the run up to the film's release, you would be forgiven for thinking that the new historical drama was going to equally revolve around Lancelot as it does Arthur and majorly figure the love triangle between the two and Guinevere. You would be very wrong.


To start with a brief synopsis, Arthur (Clive Owen) is a Roman general in charge of keeping the part of Britain behind the Wall safe from attacks by the 'woads'. His knights are actually conscripted army men from Sarmatia, a place identified by a briefly shown map as somewhere near Poland! After this revelation, there is still the shock that Merlin is more like Arthur's enemy than his advisor, as the charismatic leader of the woad tribes. Guinevere (Keira Knightley) is rescued by Arthur from a dungeon and takes on the task of uniting the defences of Britain against the invading Saxons, led by the terrifying Cerdic (Stellan Skarsgard) and his son Cynric (Til Schweiger).


As this summary might identify for you, the film does not actually bear any resemblance to Arthurian myth at all. Being an avid reader of all Arthurian fiction, I was enthralled by the prospect of a big screen production of the ilk of Troy. Sadly disappointed, I believe this film could more aptly have gained box office votes by being called 'King Gordon'. As a film about some random battles between some cavalry and some infantry warriors, it is satisfactory; however, as a movie claiming any links at all to Arthur, it is inadequate in the extreme. There is no sword in the stone, no high kingship, no quest for any sort of ancient relic, or in fact any damsel in distress. There is not even an attempt at a revival of the Celtic history of our beloved Arthur. With knights enlisted to fight for a country they do not even call their own, the power of the stories of the round table is lost.


What is suggested as a 'true' account of the 'real' King Arthur is actually a completely made up story about some accidentally selected named fighters given the stamp of 'Arthur' to make it attractive to the masses. Firstly, since when did the Saxons attack Scotland? Were Arthur's battles against the Saxons not fought on the south coast? Although I admire the portrayals of Cerdic and Cynric (neither are named in the film, I have had to research to discover names from the myth were actually employed) as leaders of the barbaric Saxon tribes, little else of this section of the story is worth even a second glance. The battle scenes are woefully lacking in comparison to those recently recreated for other, much better films. There is no consistency with swords hacking and the way blood spurts or limbs fall, and the editing of the action is so poor that it is only at the end when the bodies are collected that you can tell who has actually been fighting and who has got the short straw.


The best thing about this whole film, I have to say, is its official website, located at . It is only from perusing this nicely designed and functional site that I have actually discovered what the writers and producers intended the film to be about. Reading the knights' character descriptions after seeing the film is quite enlightening, seeing as nothing about their personalities is gleaned from the pathetic dialogue contained within the film itself. This is with the exception of Bors (Ray Winstone) and Dagonet (Ray Stevenson), who are nicely portrayed and relatively well built and likeable characters. It is a particular shame we did not get to see any further investigations of Tristan's character other than the fact that he has a hawk. For anyone confused by the use of Dagonet as one of the 8 knights seen in the film, I can confirm that he was indeed mentioned in very few original sources of Arthurian myth, however, in complete contrast to in the film, he was actually the court jester among the knights, the butt of all jokes and the one who could not actually fight at all. The knights chosen for mention in the movie I imagine were drawn out of a hat, seeing as there is no other explanation for the selection.


Overall the story displayed is anachronistic drivel, purporting to be relating to an important part of Britain's heritage, when in actual fact it is a poor script with poor production which makes an attempt to be saved by calling on a well-known name. The folly is lessened none by Keira Knightley, as a half-starved savage living in the woods, used to communicating in a native language other than English, opening her mouth as soon as Arthur appears and immediately spouting perfectly eloquent Queen's English.


Enough said. 'Two thumbs up'? Only if they are indicating a mark out of 10.




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