Directed by Antoine Fuqua.
Written by David Franzoni.
Starring Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Ioan Gruffudd and Stellan
Release Year: 2004
Review Date: 7/9/04
Another production featuring King Arthur,
eh? Those Knights of the Round Table seem to have a movie
update every five years, and although I normally skip them, the lure
of director Antoine Fuqua ("Training
Day") and a Jerry Bruckheimer production was too much for me to
ignore this time around. And, once again, a PG-13 rating kills
another swords-and-skirts bonanza by taming the violence to an
almost unwatchable blur.
In "King Arthur", we get "the real story"
behind Arthur (Clive Owen) and his band of mates as they go around
completing quests on behalf of the kingdom, which in this film is
for the Romans, who in 467 AD use Arthur and his team to protect a
bishop and defend a castle from a bunch of crazed Saxons, led by a
Jerry Garcia/The Dude cross named Cerdic (Stellan Skarsgård).
When we meet Arthur, he's already lost about two-thirds of his
Knights, so with the help of some crazy witch doctor named Merlin
(Stephen Dillane) and his cultish followers--amongst them a
waif-like hottie named Guinevere (Keira Knightley)--he attempts to
take those nasty Saxons down.
Fuqua has had an interesting filmography:
after doing straight urban films like "The Replacement Killers" and
"Training Day" (we'll forgive him for that Jamie Foxx flick "Bait"),
it's an interesting change to see Fuqua--who grew up directing
hip-hop videos and is black--direct a medieval action film like this
one. Much like Fuqua's so-so
the Sun", "King Arthur" suffers mostly when we are asked to
suffer through some cheese as the men show us their camaraderie
throughout the film, and we have a number of male bonding moments
that always seem to make an appearance in the most average of action
flicks. It also doesn't help that Owen--a veteran of films
that normally plays quieter characters and niche parts--is a bad
selection to play Arthur. He occasionally looks like he
belongs in the part, but he just doesn't have the presence to be
believed as an effective leader of men, or for that matter, even
good enough to win a swordfight, since Owen is regularly subbed for
a double in his action scenes (or so it seemed). Scenes
requiring his passion are better suited for parts like his role in
Park", but not here, where he gives a scream-to-the-sky moment all
the emotions of a local radio traffic report.
The film bounces along well enough; the
performance by Arthur's men carries us through many moments, and the
few scenes featuring the Saxons allows us to catch Skarsgård
spouting off lines like
"Burn them. Burn them all." or
"Finally. A man worth killing!"
But, he channels The Dude so well (you know
what movie I'm talkin' about) in a couple of his scenes, you almost
half expect somebody to dunk his head in a toilet for no reason.
He won't win any awards for this, but Skarsgård looks like he's
having fun chewing on the proverbial hambone in a film that never
stretches to reach beyond mediocrity.
"King Arthur" is a good-looking production,
and I enjoyed the creativity behind the best action piece in the
movie, a set piece featuring two warring sides and a big pool of ice
in the middle. The requisite "rain of fire arrows" scenes here
add nothing to the annals of fire arrow sequences, but it was good
to watch them anyway.
The film's violence throws this film down a
full letter grade, as PG-13 continues to murder all things good
about watching a guy get a sword in the chest. Sorry, but you
shouldn't be allowed to make these films anymore with PG-13 ratings
unless you can figure out how to make gutting guys look as good as
it did in the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, and even those guys did
it well mostly because orcs, elephants and spiders got the axe, not
real people. In "King Arthur", you sometimes can't even tell
if another guy got hit with a sword blow at all, and after being
spoiled by "Braveheart" and every modern variation of this film
since 1996, you just can't make films with swords and not show us
scenes of guys getting their heads cut off!
As a result, this makes the action look
cheap, it makes the kills cheap, it makes shots of bloodied swords
silly, and it makes the requisite "open field of littered dead
bodies" shots look inane. How many times can I hear that
silly, hyped-up sound of a sword being unsheathed, swung or parried
"Hey, did the sword hit a guy that time, or
was somebody just putting it back in its sheath?"
King" had the same problem, and it really dampens the action.
Otherwise, "King Arthur" is a decent-enough time at the
movies...just don't pay full price. You can thank me later.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard