King Arthur

One of the most enduring legends of Western civilization is that of King Arthur and his kingdom of Camelot. Countless films, plays, musical, and books have been devoted to the heroic deeds of Arthur but historians have debated for centuries if Arthur was more fantasy then flesh.

While the debate will no doubt continue for ages, the new film “King Arthur” claims to be the most accurate telling of the origins of Arthur ever committed to film. The film opens with a proclamation that the film is based on recent archeological evidence but does not share what that information is.

Set in the 5th century, the film tells us that the origins of Arthur are 1000 years prior to what was originally predicted. Arthur (Clive Owen) is the leader of a group of horseman pressed into service for fifteen years by the Roman Empire. It seems that Arthur’s ancestors made a deal with the Romans decades earlier to serve in return for their lives and as such, all male descendants of the line must serve when called upon.

Arthur and his men are returning to their base in anticipation of their freedom, which is due to be granted upon their arrival. Arthur who has taken to the Roman ways and accepted Christianity plans to return to Rome and lead his life in civilization.

The majority of his men including Lancelot (Iaon Gruffudd), plan to return to their families or settle in England. Things do not go as planned as the Saxon army is invading destroying everything in their path. Rome has decided to pull out from England as between the Saxons and the local Woads, they have decided to cut their losses and sure up the empire.

A young man who is in favor of the Pope is in harms way, and Arthur and his men are dispatched to move the family from their estate before the Saxons arrive. Things do not go as planned and Arthur soon finds himself leading his man and the estate’s populace back with the Saxon forces in close Pursuit.

Arthur comes into the company of a Woad named Guinevere (Keira Knightly), who captivates Arthur and forces him to reexamine his priorities and his destiny.

While not a great film, the movie does have some entertaining moments. Anthony Fuqua keeps the story moving at a nice pace and the characters are likeable if generally bland. Owen is a charismatic figure but at times looks as if he is sleeping through his part.

Knightly avoids the damsel in distress roles that are all too common in parts of this nature and plays easily the most complex Guinevere in recent memory as she combines beauty and grace with battlefield ferocity.

The biggest surprise for me was the subdued violence of the film as there was surprisingly little blood in the film and action scenes that were rather routine especially for a Jerry Bruckheimer production, keeps this film from really soaring as it never truly seems to achieve what it sets out to do and that is establish the true origins of Arthur

3 stars out of 5