Review by Diana, VagBoy
Screenplay: David Franzoni
Starring: Clive Owen, Kiera Knightly, Ioan Gruffudd
Rating: TIE flies well, but no shields
The acting was decent, the costuming was attentive within the confines of the story. One person liked that the armor the knights wore were likely booty from kills they'd made, so that no one matched. The knights of the Roundtable in this film are conscripted soldiers, obligated from generation-to-generation to send their sons to serve Rome they are not wealthy noblemen volunteering service to a beloved king. There seems to be a finite number of them, with many empty seats at the Roundtable, signifying their losses over the years. This is not the tale of a man fated to be king; it's more a story about a man and his identity and obligations to his nation, whatever that nation is. The tale takes place as Rome is pulling out of the edges of its Empire; soon the knights will be free of their in-perpetuity contract to Rome, as delivered by a religious politico with a thick accent and dark manner.
Some people really liked this film a lot, citing properties like "gritty" or "real." There was no wizardry, no shining Crusades-era armor (but quasi-romanish looking armor that'd seen a lot of batter, sure), no sexy flowing capes (but flowing tresses). These people must like the quasi-academic appeal of the opening screen: text which explains that "recent archeological findings" have revealed the truth about the King Arthur legend. (They also say that if you go in with an open mind, it's a good movie, whatever one has to be "open-minded" about; I think that means "with your brain turned off.")
They're right ... it is a good drama adventure with some history-type context, but be forewarned that this isn't King Arthur as people know and love that story. The creators should have called the movie "Prince Chuck" or something else, to remove the desire to equate it to the magical legends; some people might have not hated it, then.
The historical context is about 400 A.D., at the end of the Roman Empire's hold over the known earth. By then, the Empire was the Holy Roman Empire and this movie portrays England a far-flung edge of the Empire as still overrun with pagans who required conversion. Churchmen and devout Italian nobles are sent with their families to rule over lands granted to them by a pope, perhaps, and they have the firm confidence that if they would fall under attack, "then Rome would send an army to help!" As if that wasn't arrogant enough, the SOBs also imprison and torture those who will not convert to Christianity in a "let's make the church look like cliché'd jerks" subplot. Roman garrisons contain "centurion" style soldiers wearing uniforms we associate with Sparta or Troy (naked thighs in the nice British winter).
Despite the "authenticity" cloak that attempts to envelope this movie, they screwed this one up a lot. From what I remember of pre-Dark Ages history, Britain was largely Christian by that time ... and the seat of power was not Rome, but Constantinople? The producers should not have pretended to know anything about the "historical Arthur" who, by the way, probably never existed, at least not as one man, nor even at one time. Viewers who said they liked this film seemed to cite the "realness" of the depiction, but truly, this story is as big a fantasy as any magical hocus-pocus take on knights in shining armor. Herein lies the danger of such films people sometimes think this stuff is real. No wonder the world thinks Americans are numbskulls (since Hollywood is located in the United States, alas).
As for historical context, this effort makes Troy seem like the most scholarly of works. I'm sure Guinevere could have been an arrow-shooting Woad amazon, and I'm sure in that period of history leatherworking could have been so good that one could craft a "blouse" like the one she wears to battle and it doesn't slip or chafe. I'm sure Lancelot could have been the 4th or 5th century's equivalent of Anakin Skywalker with his two-sword attack.
I'm sure somewhere, that pigs could fly. At will. Really!
But you know, it was in fact a decent movie. The cinematography was excellent, the battle scenes were fun, albeit a bit Braveheart-ish (the cameraman apparently wore a crash helmet and riot gear as he filmed in the midst of battling actors to get the "in your face" shots), and Kiera Knightly (formerly Sabé, the decoy Queen of the Naboo!) has grown up to be a hot piece of ass. She's a pagan sort of princess here, and of couse is flirting with a Celtish looking Lancelot (not French) while coming on to Arthur. Clive Owen plays a brooding, moody Arturius, and he doesn't seem to like Guinevere in their love scenes. He seems downright uncomfortable and wishing he were somewhere else, even when he was getting married; of course, Knightly was all of 18 at the time, maybe that explains it ... I guess it keeps the movie from becoming too much of a chickflick, dude!
So, yes ... go in with an open / empty mind and don't assume anything will be what you have seen or heard or read before. If you wait till the DVD is on sale, you'll enjoy this movie more, most likely. It's one of those films you should just see "as a movie," meaning it's just light entertainment with no significance. And that's too bad, but not bad all the time.
Images from www.imdb.com
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