Clive Owen as Arthur
Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot
Mads Mikkelsen as Tristan
Joel Edgerton as Gawain
Hugh Dancy as Galahad
Ray Winstone as Bors
Ray Stevenson as Dagonet
Keira Knightley as Guinevere
Stephen Dillane as Merlin
Stellan Skarsgård as Cerdic
Til Schweiger as Cynric
Sean Gilder as Jols
Pat Kinevane as Horton
Ivano Marescotti as Bishop Germanius
Ken Stott as Marcus Honorius
The legend of King Arthur is one of the best known stories of the English language. Director Antoine Fuqua’s retelling of the tale takes all of the magic out of the story and claims to be more historically accurate. Unfortunately, it appears the producers did not hire a historian to tell them what would be historically accurate.
The time frame for this telling of the tale is the Roman withdrawal from Britain in about 411 AD. Arthur is Artorius (Clive Owen), a Roman commander of Sarmatian troops relocated from the Russian steppes. This is where the movie stops being historically accurate. It is understandable that if you tell the tale of King Arthur you will want to include Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), but for historical accuracy Lancelot should be dropped since he is an entirely made up character. Add to that, crossbows being used by Saxons 600 years before they are known in Europe and Merlin using trebuchets 800 years before their appearance and you have lost all credibility for the historical route. Keira Knightley makes a beautiful Guinevere, but she has been turned into a Pict warrior maiden and put into a leather bondage harness.
With the flawed history and the de-mystification of the legend, the movie just turns into a hack and slash. Sadly, since the producers wanted a PG-13 rating, most of the hack and slash was severely edited making the fight scenes very choppy and not very realistic looking.
On a positive note, the camaraderie between Arthur and his knights is terrific. You get a feel that these men have spent years together and that they trust their lives to each other. Ray Winstone as Sir Bors adds greatly to the film, cementing the bond of friendship between the knights. Merlin is portrayed as a Pict chief and comes across as a strong leader, but his screen time is very limited.
The music by Hans Zimmer is top notch. It pulls you into the movie but never overpowers it. The special effects, although many of them anachronisms, are done very well. Slawomir Idziak’s cinematography is breathtaking, putting you right into 4th century England.
Who should see this movie? If you are looking for a summer action flick, then this movie might be for you. There is a romantic interest between Guinevere and Arthur, but it does not start until the second half of the movie and it is far secondary to the action. If you are looking for the romanticized Arthur legend, you will not find it here. Also, if you are expecting historical accuracy, you will be disappointed. The men look rugged and handsome and Keira Knightley looks gorgeous, so there is plenty of eye candy if you are looking for that. Overall, King Arthur is disappointing because it could not stay true to either the history or to the legend. Furthermore, the somewhat enjoyable fight scenes were edited down to frenetic clips of sword swings. An unrated or R rated director’s cut could be a much more enjoyable film to watch, but still not accurate or fanciful. However, you will have to wait until the DVD release to see it.