There’s no Holy Grail and no love-triangle. The sword in the stone gets entirely (and somewhat cleverly) reimagined, while the script xenas Guinevere into a Celtic archer-woman protected by the well-established principle of bulletproof nudity.

What ees eet? Well, it isn’t a conventional Arthur. But is it worth watching?

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Director: Antoine Fuqua
Writer: David Franzoni
Director of Photography: Slawomir Idziak
Chief armorer: John McKenna

Arthur…..Clive Owen
Lancelot…..Ioan Gruffudd
Tristan…..Mads Mikkelsen
Bors…..Ray Winstone
Gawain…..Joel Edgerton
Guinevere…..Keira Knightley
Merlin….Stephen Dillane
Cerdic…..Stellan Skarsgard
Cynric…..Til Schweiger
Bishop Germanius…..Ivano Marescotti
Marcus Honorius…..Ken Stott

Premise:

Arthur must lead his knights on one last, dangerous mission to in order to gain their freedom from the Roman Empire. Along the way he meets Guinevere, befriends Merlin, and stops a Saxon invasion.

High Points:

The film has been beautifully shot. While the sets may be low-budget and historically problematic, everything has been framed nicely.

Ray Winstone’s biker-like characterization of Bors, half paternal empathy, half testosterone-driven machismo. He’s terribly entertaining during the first half of the film. During the confusing second half, his character has been sombered by the death of a friend, and pushed into the background by plot demands.

Low Points:

The opening text informs us that “historians agree” that Arthur is a legend, based on some actual British hero from just before the Dark Ages. Historians agree on nothing here, save that such an inspiration for Arthur could theoretically have existed. While the ostensible purpose of the introductory bit is to let us know we’re not going to see a traditional version of the Arthurian legend, it comes very close to suggesting we’re seeing the True StoryTM. We’re not, and that’s not the point. King Arthur plays as heroic adventure, wherein idealized warriors, who always seem to be in just the right, mood-setting light and mise en scene, win against overwelming odds using implausible tactics. They wield powerful weapons, wear armour of uncertain origin, form heroic bonds, and ride non-defecating horses. Don’t pretend this is history.

Our heroes win one too many battles against overwelming odds using implausible tactics.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 While they’ve certainly presented an original take on King Arthur, the film itself amounts to another action movie/sword ‘n’ sandal epic.

Effects: 4/6.

Story: 4/6: The second half becomes somewhat confusing, and motives, while established, are never terribly thoughtful.

Acting: 4/6: This film proves to be more about moments than overall performances. The actors do fairly well. They haven’t been given the opportunity to do much development of their characters.

Production: 5/6.

Emotional Response: 4/6 .

Overall: 4/6.

In total, King Arthur receives 28/42.

Final Comments

It’s no masterpiece, but it works better than summer ’04’s bigger-budget heroic epic, Troy (which received a +1 higher score in my review because of superior production and effects).

Just don’t expect the traditional Arthur, a Holy Grail, or taunting by a French Knight.