King Arthur (2004)

King-Arthur-2004I’m a fantasy nut. You couldn’t really tell but I am a real fantasy nut and am especially fond of the King Arthur legend. Whether or not King Arthur did or did not exist, it’s obvious that the fantasy of his legend never happened, but it is a lot of fun to think so and it’s a lot of fun to study and learn about the Excalibur, the lady in the lake, or the sword in the stone (which ever happened first), and the wizard Merlin cast spells to aid his king in battle or whatnot. Director Antoine Fuqua score yet again with an entertaining and beautiful looking epic that will basically entertain audiences with a riveting action adventure. The film, which is mostly appealing for its production values, really does manage to make for an engrossing two hours that will really involve the audience in what it has to offer. Fuqua creates a very grim and stylish mood that fits what the concept is attempting to accomplish very well.

Fuqua is a very good director managing to achieve the properly excellent feel for the film’s atmosphere, and creates the hills of Briton with much power aided by excellent dreamy cinematography from Slawomir Idziak who paints a serene but chaotic film that almost resembles a moving painting. It sure is entertaining, and it sure does the trick entertainment-wise with much texture and depth with its range of characters. The writer David Franzoni provides us with a fascinating glimpse in to the journeys of Arthur and his knights and doesn’t completely do away with the elements of the legend, but does include them with more realistic boundaries. This attempts to be separated from the rest and really tries to follow along its own vein, but it makes the brutal mistake. While trying to be original, it takes away all the fantasy and legend, and grounds the entire King Arthur myth down to reality, which, while I appreciated it for being an original approach, really ends up spelling doom for what the movie tries to do. The round table is still there where the knights converse, Arthur does have Excalibur and did pull it out from a stone to help save his family, and Merlin is the leader of rebels and not a wizard.

Meanwhile, each knight really presents their own interesting personality trait more as exhausted soldiers tired with battle and blood just desperate to quit, yet their beliefs and the strong violent hold of the church over them takes them for granted and keeps them under lock and key. Fans of the Arthurian legend will either kind of like or utterly despise this film for its attempts, but the approach becomes the immense downfall in the end. As much as I love the Arthurian legend, I just didn’t care for this film, because what the writers and producers failed to notice is that, when you strip away the magic and fantasy, this is just another epic sword and sandal film that audiences and I have grown so exhausted with. The fantasy is gone and so is the life. As for this, it adds on to the list of films about King Arthur that just aren’t any good and my wait continues for an excellent King Arthur film. While it attempts to paint a realistic picture of the Arthur lore it is mostly just murky and grimy and comes off more like a rip-off of “Gladiator” while the story is heavily derivative of “Tears of the Sun.”

The film does manage to spotlight how religion and its beliefs can be empty and take advantage of men with good intentions as are the characters here. The script is composed very well creating fascinating glimpses in to what they may have found along their journeys being horribly outnumbered against the armies of Saxons. With a plot of “Tears of the Sun” mixed with “300 Spartans”, “King Arthur” is a pretty fun action film safe enough for younger man to enjoy. The film’s cast boasts of amazing talents, from Ioan Gruffud who is really good as Lancelot, to Guinevere who is a vicious Amazonian-esque warrior, to Ray Winstone who is powerful as Ors, the brutish warrior who protects Arthur like father, while one of today’s best actors and really understated bad-asses Clive Owen is scene stealing as young King Arthur, the determined and conflicted leader of the knights of the round table. Owen handles the less than superior script with a lot of grace and really manages to take command as the role of Arthur who doesn’t know where to put his allegiance. In the end, while no masterpiece, this really does end up being a really good fantasy action film worth the time.