Gadzooks! Another period-piece epic
film? Say it isn't so!
If you love the legend of King Arthur,
then you've probably read The Once and Future King by T. H.
White. Ha! Who is the Masked Reviewer kidding? Nobody
reads books these days. Books is for suckers. And you can
quote the Masked Reviewer on that.
But, you've probably seen
Excalibur if you like King Arthur. Or, maybe you prefer
the Richard Harris musical version, Camelot. Robert Goulet
makes for a darned fetching Lancelot! If you like cartoons, maybe
your favorite version of Arthurian legend is Disney's The Sword in
Unfortunately, King Arthur isn't nearly as colorful (or as
animated) as the latter.
First and foremost, this is an epic. Have you had enough epics
to last you an epoch? Well, here's another one. The pitch
meeting probably went a little something like this:
"Okay, we need to cash in on a franchise that hasn't been used in a
while. How about King Arthur and the knights of the round table?
And let's fill it with battle scenes! But, you know, we should mix
it up a bit...knights versus knights is SO late 80's. Let's have
knights and wild barbarians, like in Bravehart, and they should
fight roman legionnaires, like in Gladiator, and then we should
have some big stuff like in Lord of the Rings. We'll be
Yes, King Arthur features a strange mish-mosh of influences.
For whatever reason, the filmmakers decided to set it in 452 A.D. and
Arthur and company are conscripts to Rome (they call him Arturious,
even). He's got to fight a number of different evil groups,
creating an interesting (yet anachronistic) knights meet legionnaires
meet barbarians look. Historians will not enjoy this movie.
One of the groups that Arthur must contend with are from the northern
part of England. They're called "Woads". Oooh.
Fearsome. Guinevere, in fact, is a Woad warrior (not to be
confused with Elmer Fudd's favorite film in the Mad Max trilogy.)
The film is filled with a number of actors, very few of whom you're
likely to recognize. Clive Owen is Arthur. Keira Knightley (Pirates
of the Caribbean) is Guinevere. Ioan Gruffudd is Lancelot.
Ioan Gruffudd? Any relation to Elmer J. Fudd? Never heard of
him, but because he helped lead the Masked Reviewer to a second Elmer
Fudd reference in one review, he can't be all bad.
The acting is okay. There isn't much of it, really. There
were a couple of somewhat familiar faces: Gawain was played by Joel
Edgerton (he played Owen Lars in Star Wars: Episode II --
Attack of the Clones.) Ray Winstone gave the most memorable
performance as the tough-yet-loveable Bors...was he a knight of
the round table?
To say that this is a major departure from the traditional Arthurian
mythology is an understatement. There is a Merlin, but he's not a
magician. Guinevere is a fighter. No plate mail, no fancy
castles. There's a round table and there's a sword named
Excalibur...that's about it.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is (much) more adherent to the
story. Here's the big one: there's no love triangle between
Guinevere, Arthur, and Lancelot. Huh? The major plot point
of that legend is one of betrayal and of lust. No lust. No
betrayal. They slightly hinted at a Lancelot/Guinevere attraction,
but just barely.
Another thing that's missing is any sense of romance. While it's
nice to see a sword-swinging death fest that isn't bogged down by
romantic interludes, this is an odd movie to go that route.
There's one tepid love scene, no nudity, that's just kind of there
because it has to be. That's a problem that the rest of the movie
suffers from as well.
The fight scenes aren't great. They probably wouldn't have been
bad 10 years ago, but now that there are epic battle movies being
released every couple of months, something has to stand out in order
to...uh...stand out. There's nothing new in it. And beyond
not being good, it's kind of bad. The editing is downright bad on
occasion. They even re-use some shots (more than a few times!)
One can't help but expect that things will get more interesting or
exciting, but that never happens.
The character of Arthur is reasonably well defined, but
one-dimensional. The other characters don't even have that going
for them. Guinevere, in particular, is nothing. She's
extremely beautiful, but nothing happens with her.
It's not as good as Excalibur or
Camelot. The battle stuff pales in comparison to Lord
of the Rings or Bravehart or Gladiator or Troy
(or The Last Samurai -- if they'd thrown in a few samurai sword
fighters, ninja, and Civil War cavalry, maybe it would've been better.)
Holy Grail is better than King Arthur. King Ralph
is better than King Arthur. Okay, maybe not that last one,
but really...unless you're a huge fan of Clive Owen or Keira Knightley
(who isn't seen nearly enough, and not at all for the first hour),
you're going to find precious little to like about this movie.
Director Antoine Fuqua (which is French for something the Masked
Reviewer can't print here) has done an absolutely lackluster job with
horrible material. Nothing new, nothing inspired, badly edited,
and evocative of only one phrase..."who cares?"
Expectation from the Title: The long awaited third part of the
Dudley Moore trilogy; first he was rich and drunk, then he was poor and
drunk, now...he's king (and drunk). All the while, Liza Minelli
stays by his side (until he has her beheaded.)
Mother's Rule (Always Say Something Good About Everything):
Those knights always seemed to stick together, even without Robert
The Pros: Keira Knightley is beautiful. Some of the
shots on the battlefield are okay. The character of Bors is the
The Cons: Bad writing. No humor to speak of.
Action not exciting. No love triangle. Uninteresting
characters. Story not compelling. No nudity.