King Arthur

Swords swing, people fall, music swells, and when all is said done, the legend of “King Arthur” becomes dethroned by its aggravating revisionist take. Finally, a “King Arthur” for people who believe the Spice Girls weren’t the downfall of girl groups in Britain.

So much has been written, discussed, and filmed about the Arthur legend that reinventing it one more time shouldn’t be a crime, but what writer David Franzoni (Gladiator) and director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) have done to it comes close. “King Arthur” is more “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” than “Excalibur,” but without the intentional laughs.

This “King Arthur” is gritty and boneheaded, eschewing the nobility depicted in Thomas Malory’s 1470 novel Le Morte d’Arthur. Characters and alliances have been altered or done away with, leaving the audience to muddle through what is essentially an hour and a half of foreplay before the big climax. I’m not sure who the target audience is, but young men prefer action over forethought, women want an emotional payoff, and anyone coming to see a recreation of the legend will have a tough time pulling that sword out of this stone.

After serving fifteen years of servitude defending Rome’s interests in England, Arthur (Clive Owen) and his soldiers are ready to head home. Like in “Saving Private Ryan,” that won’t happen until Arthur agrees to head up a rescue mission that will lead them into territory occupied by Saxons, and Pagans, and Bears, oh my. Of course the journey is filled with numerous close calls and revelations, the biggest being that feisty Guinevere (Keira Knightley) is no longer a love interest but a Barbarian butt-kicking babe.

By setting the events of “King Arthur” in 467 AD, Franzoni is able to incorporate ideas that fit his vision but don’t necessarily help the film. So much seems convenient, almost to the point of being annoying. Characters are routinely set up only to take a fall, while life as the character’s know it comes to a screeching halt whenever someone has something important to say.

Franzoni works overtime to pull together a plausible time line, and wisely take his time introducing the characters and the new set-up. The big battle between the Saxons (led by a sincerely menacing Stellan Skarsgard) is larger-than-life, staged with hundreds of extras in detailed costumes, but is edited so poorly (the results of cutting the film from an “R” to a “PG- 13”) all that emerges is a confusing clash of bodies and weapons.


Arthur Legend gets MTV Make-Over


Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Keira Knightley, Hugh Dancy, Ray Winstone, Stephen Dillane, Stellan Skarasgard, Joel Edgerton. Directed by Antoine Fuqua. Rated PG-13. 127 Minutes.


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