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I did not hate this film. It was fairly entertaining, with well-staged
battle scenes and high production values. The acting, though often
either overblown or slightly wooden, was passable, and Ioan Gruffydd
was actually quite good.
What bothered me is that the text at the opening of King Arthur promised a portrayal of the "historical" Arthur, and then manifestly failed to deliver. For the record, there is no "historical" Arthur. There are scattered references in the works of Gildas and Bede to an Arthur, or an Aurelius Ambrosianus upon whom the legend of Arthur is based. There is a fairly detailed story of a King Arthur in Geoffrey of Monmouth's History, though most of this seems drawn from Welsh and Cornish folktales of the type later collected in the Mabinogion. There is, however, very hard evidence that there ever was a King Arthur, or battles of Baddon Hill and Celidon forest.
There was, however, an invasion and colonization of Britain by the Saxons and other Germanic tribes during the fifth and sixth centuries, following the Roman military withdrawal. And it is pretty clear that the native Celtic and Romano-Celtic population put up one hell of a fight, slowing but not stopping the Saxon invasions. My own opinion is that there is enough smoke to suggest that the Arthur of medieval romance probably had some kind of historical prototype (most legends of this type usually do: a "Dux Bellorum" (war leader) as named in Gildas, possibly this shadowy Aurelius Ambrosianus.
So, I had high hopes for the movie King Arthur. After all, the film had the time period right, and the context looked convincing enough. Unfortunately, rather than using the historical material and context, the filmmakers completely ignored them. There was no consistency to this movie, and anyone with even a passing knowledge of the history of the early middle ages (the so-called dark ages) will be more than irritated by the pretended historicity of the movie. Some examples: 1. The film suggests the late-imperial Roman government and policy was directed by the Church, through the Papacy. This is absolutely false. Although the Empire was staunchly Christian at this time, it was the Emperor and his court -- at Constantinople rather than Rome -- that set and executed policy. Bishops did not order armies around. In fact, the See of Rome at the time was a relatively weak power centre at the time, especially compared to the Bishops of Constantinople and Alexandria.
2. While it is true that the Romans enlisted soldiers and units from border tribes like the Sarmatians, they were never posted at the other end of the empire. This would have made no sense, since the whole point of the foederati was to create a buffer between the empire and the northern and eastern barbarians. The Sarmatian soldiers were typically posted in Sarmatia.
3. Arthur would never have known Pelagius who, though a Briton or Irishman by birth, was in Rome from about AD 405. He was condemned by the Church, but never actually excommunicated or convicted of heresy, and probably died in Rome in AD 420, around the time the "historical" Arthur was born.
4. By the fifth century, the Roman occupied part of Britain had been quite thoroughly Romanized. The population was mostly Romanized Britons, and NOT an ethnically British population under the boot of a few foreign, ethnically Roman aristocrats. While there certainly were non-Romanized Celts like the Wodes about, most of the Britain that Arthur would have been fighting to defend would have been populated by Christian Britons who though of themselves as Romans.
5. Bishop Germanicus, or St. Germain, was not a former Roman general. He was a former Gaulish lawyer.
6. Hadrian's wall was built not to keep the Britonnic Celts and Saxons out of Roman Britain. It was built to keep the Picts and Hiberni -- who were explicitly NOT Briton and in the case of the Picts, probably not even Celts -- out of Britain. It runs/ran from Solway Firth to the River Tyne and thus is waaaaaaaaaaaaay too far north to have had much to do with the "historical" Arthur.
7. While the Church in the fifth century was certainly militant (read St. Augustine for that), the portrayal of churchmen as murderous ascetics who tortured and sacrificed pagans is absolutely ridiculous. In fact, by this time, most of the population south of Hadrian's Wall had been converted to Christianity.
What troubles me is that there is no reason why the filmmakers should have played so fast and loose with history to make this movie. I understand creative license, but the way in which they claim historicity on one hand, and then create a nonsense fabrication on the other to no end other than the fact that they just seemed to want to do it that way -- makes it very difficult for me to respect King Arthur. I can respect Excalibur; at least no one claimed that it was historical.
I have been a huge King Arthur fan ever since the night that I sat in
an empty theater, in my hometown, awestruck by John Boorman's
Since then, I have seen the legend of King Arthur mutilated in films such as First Knight and The Mists of Avalon.
My high hopes for the movie, King Arthur, were dashed before the film even opened in theaters, by critics who were panning the movie from advanced screenings.
So, I stayed away while it was in theaters and most definitely passed on special discounts on the week it was released to DVD.
After finally getting around to renting a copy, I am left with just one burning question - Why in the hell do I listen to movie critics? The movie King Arthur has it all - a tight, well written story, believable characters, gritty realism, a great musical score by Hans Zimmer, epic battles, and more blood and splatter than you probably really wanted to see.
The bottom line is that King Arthur is a very good film. No, it's not the mythical Camelot, but it does not try to be. Nor, does it trample all over the name of King Arthur by making him a shallow or less than heroic character.
This is not Braveheart or Gladiator , but it is a film worth seeing and appreciating. Now that I think about, it's worth buying a copy to add to the home video library.
And I loved it!
Not just the new take on the King Arthur legend and the able cast, but the colors, the costumes, the landscapes, the horses, and Hans Zimmer's heart-pounding score.
I'm no King Arthur scholar but I have always been enamored with the chivalric ideals. It's great to see the knights in shining armor and Merlin conjuring up the mists and casting spells, and the young Arthur pulling Excalibur out of the stone.
But I went into this movie with an open mind. I was swiftly transported to that earlier time and happy for the journey. I could see where the elements of the now oh-so-familiar Arthurian themes may have had their beginnings. I found the on-screen chemistry between Ioan Gruffod and Clive Owen to be very powerful and it provided poignant counterpoint to Lancelot's most fateful choice.
The love triangle was never my favorite part of the Arthurian legends, so the subtle treatment of it here didn't bother me at all. In fact, I found it more intriguing in this film than in any other King Arthur movie I've seen.
I loved that there was no hocus-pocus-type magic. Instead the magic was in nature itself - the landscapes, the forests, the rain, the fog, the ice and snow - all creating an other-worldly atmosphere along with Moya Brennan's haunting vocals and Hans Zimmer's stirring score.
I loved the knights. I loved the idea that they were just regular guys and, in effect, drafted into military service. Not the privileged elite who volunteered their services to a king. Yet it is apparent that the Sarmatian knights fought more out of their love and respect for Arthur than any duty to Rome. That comraderie feels very organic and the sentiments, pure. I liked that they're not all wearing the same uniform, that they might have picked up pieces here and there as spoils of war.
I was especially captivated by Mads Mikkelson's Tristan. There appeared to be Eastern influences in his tattoos, clothing, sword, and fighting style. I love the idea of Lancelot using two swords. And I learned something about battlefield strategy, too.
Whatever shortcomings this movie may have, I found heart and soul in it. It was not only entertaining, it touched all my senses, and I felt good when I walked out of the theatre.
Jerry Bruckheimer's KING ARTHUR is a shining example of that new breed
of mythology adaption. It is similar to Wolfgang Petersen's TROY, in
that it dispenses with the supernatural splendour and phantasmagorical
intrigue characteristic of traditional tales, and presents the story as
(relatively) realistic historical fiction, attempting to convey the
"magic" of the story through drama, rather than gaudy special effects.
This is a brave venture by Bruckheimer - and director Fuqua- and they are to be commended for executing it with such style and creativity as is displayed in this film. It has, however, enjoyed somewhat limited success, due to the fact that it presents such a radical interpretation of a story much closer to our hearts than that of the Illiad.
I believe, though, that if the viewer simply opens one's mind and attempts to enjoy the story purely for the sake of itself (forgetting, for the moment, Rosemary Sutcliff and Barbara Leonie Picard), KING ARTHUR will reveal itself as a truly fine piece of film-making.
More than anything else, Fuqua masterfully portrays the atmosphere of the tale, endowing it with a sense of time and place far more eloquent than the rather run-of-the-mill dialogue. The entire experience oozes the ambiance of the early common era, from windswept downs and hills to rugged coasts and snow-cloaked mountains; from the spartan order of a Roman camp to the hellish confines of a torture chamber. Exemplars of this perfectly-presented atmosphere are Arthur's knights(Ioan Gruffud, Ray Winstone, Joel Edgerton, Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy and Ray Stevenson).These are not the chivalrous, couth, pious Christian knights your mum told you about, but rather a troop of barbaric, lecherous, pagan Sarmatian mercenaries. Together (with excellent performances all round, particularly by Winstone, Gruffud and Edgerton) they epitomise the pragmatic, godless, exquisitely human atmosphere of the period. As Gawaine tells a cowering Roman friar in an early scene - "Your God doesn't live here".
The lead actors, too, are outstanding, from Stellan Skarsgaard's sociopathic Cerdic, to the delicious Keira Knightley's dark and beautiful Guinevere. Only Clive Owen disappoints as Arthur himself, lacking the emotion this characterisation requires to supplement his steely resolve.
Despite the lukewarm reception to which it was subjected, KING ARTHUR is a finely crafted and memorable item of film-making. Forget all your preconceptions about King Arthur - just float with it, and let the rich atmosphere engulf you. 9/10.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sorry, but this film is dire.
Primarily it suffers from a BAD case of Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves Geography... Saxons invading from the North of Hadrians Wall? With nice round shields and pretty hair? Surely Mr Bruckheimer is thinking of the Vikings? Only a few centuries early eh Jerry!
And Stone Henge on Tintagel?
Maybe if you're not familiar with the layout of England and if you don't have even a rudimentary grasp of British history, you could enjoy this film as a mindless bit of action fluff. But if you do posses either of the two above attributes, you will find this film to be another frustrating example of Hollywood not letting silly details like facts or Geography get in the way of a fast buck (a la Braveheart, U571, The Patriot etc.. etc..)
So for any non Brits reading this who like a bit of Arthurian action, allow me to give you a few tips...
Stonehenge not near sea. Tintagel near sea but no stones. Hadrians wall at top of country... Stone Henge, King Arthur, Avalon, Tintagel and Saxons at bottom of country!
See! It's easy when you know how!
Oh! And for any Robin Hood fans, white cliffs not near Sherwood Forest. Sorry.
Anyway. Poo film. Even without the Arthur stuff, it's just plain wrong in so many ways. Giant frozen lakes in England? Where?
Even without the stupidity, it's a bad film.
These actors should have known better.
In recent movies coming out of Hollywood there seems to be a trend
towards attempting to unveil the true character behind some of
history's most mysterious individuals. With most of us having been
brought up on tales of a medieval King Arthur and the magic of Camelot,
it was a risk for those who initiated this movie to attempt to expose
the man behind the myth, so to speak. In my opinion, through a
combination of realistic battle scenes, stunning cinematography and
well rounded characters this movie is successful.
This tale takes us on a journey with King Arthur's knights as they embark on a final quest for Rome. The issue of religious persecution is raised on numerous occasions in the duration of this movie and relates to contemporary circumstances where religious belief can be used as a form of power and means of superiority. Themes such as this raise the film above the average Bruckheimer production. However, the dialogue is still cliché in places, and mid-battle jokes can fall flat on audiences that have grown weary of them in films such as LORD OF THE RINGS and PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN. Fortunately, the battle scenes are realistic and don't bombard us with Jackie Chan like maneuvers that the knights have suddenly and inexplicably learned.
The movie is beautifully shot with a variety of landscapes ranging from Hadrian's Wall to icy snow-covered hills and peasant villages. This ensures that the audience always has something new to look at, but also paints a realistic picture of the poverty and harsh environment of the time.
My only complaint about this film would have to be that some of the acting and characterisation was a little disappointing. Clive Owen's 'Arthur' was a little internalised and predictable. While other characters, such as Lancelot (Ioan Gruffud), are fabulously flawed, Arthur is always thinking of others and making the right decisions. His humanity never falters. Owen delivers his lines woodenly and without the passion one wishes to see from such a great warrior and humanitarian. Whilst the writers have dared to put a different spin on the characters of Lancelot and Guinevere (Keira Knightly), they seem to have stuck with the Arthur of legend. Knightly's performance was certainly nothing special. Her role in the movie was unclear as she seemed to only be there to run around in skimpy outfits, although I'm sure the intention was to create a strong female character. I thought her survival in battle was unrealistic as she was much smaller and weaker than the thousands of large trained warriors she was fighting, particularly since she had apparently nearly starved to death after being walled up in a tomb for her Pagan beliefs. Although Knightly is beautiful, her performances in movies thus far have yet to convince me of her acting abilities.
Overall, I thought this movie was unique in that it depicted a time not often portrayed in modern cinema. It had strong themes with a good mix of humour, romance and action. Although the film had its flaws, I would definitely recommend it as I believe it would appeal to a wide audience.
King Arthur is ( according to Hollywood ) a Roman? This film belongs in
the same bin as U-571 when it comes to historical accuracy.
The Britons appear as blue painted pixies along the lines of the elves in Lord of the Rings.
It appears that the knights of the round table are all dressed in armour from all corners of the globe. Arthur is fully Roman, Lancelot looks like a Persian warrior and the others are dressed like Ghengis Khan.
The fight scenes resemble Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Kiera Knightly twirling around Thai-style dealing roundhouse kicks to burly Saxons.
Another fine example of the Americans trying to rewrite the rest of the worlds history.
King Arthur is a deep seated British legend and it is insulting that the story should be twisted in this way. If this was done to a minority group there'd be uproar.
I'm looking forward when I can fund the making of the true story of George Washington, the one where he was an Iranian cross-dressing child molester.
Here are the facts about the "Age of Arthur." The Roman legions pulled
out in 410 (over 50 years before this film's period). The Saxons were
INVITED by King Vortigern in 449 as mercenaries against invading Irish,
Scots and Picts (note: they were NOT called "Woads.") Saxons were NOT
mono-syllabic troglodytes, but actually warrior-farmers with a
sophisticated culture. After a few generations, the Angles and Saxons -
led by Cerdic of Wessex - came into conflict with the Romano-Celts, led
by Ambrosius Aurelianus. Artorius (Arthur) was apparently one of
Ambrosius' generals. He fought ten battles against the Germanic tribes,
culminating in the Battle of Badon sometime between 500 and 510 (40-50
years AFTER this film's period).
NONE of this information came out in this film. I am somewhat familiar with the "Sarmatian" legend, but there is little evidence for it (in fact, Roman legionaries in Britain came from all over the Empire).
As "history," this film gets an "F". As entertainment...? The characters were shallow, the acting was amateurish, and the dialogue was plodding and trite. As a "found comedy," it works rather well - I found myself laughing through most of it. As a serious film and an attempt to portray "history," however, it is seriously flawed. Skip this one and read "Crystal Cave" or "Mists of Avalon" instead.
They could also act better and write a decent script. Nothing in this film
- the "britons" who live in Scotland and dress like their predecessors of 4 centuries
- Pretty much everything about the armour and weapons (far too much to mention in under 1000 words).
- In fact everything that tries to pass for history in this mess
- The ability of everyone to understand 3 or more languages
- Britons fighting Saxons in the Borders under a Roman flag
- Clive Owen thinking he can act
- Anyone thinking that script wouldn't make people laugh till it hurts
- Roman conscription lasting 15 years and ending with a return to Rome
- Low infant mortality rate and model-like mother of 11 healthy brats(particularly made me laugh)
- Leaving a well defended fort to fight superior forces in the open
- Magical Mystery Fort Doors that close their many-tonned-selves automatically
- The phrase "Historians agree"
- The world's lightest heavy cavalry and most accurate archers
- 100s of arrows from 8 bows
- The cruddy ripoff of Aleksandr Nevsky
- The many many cruddy ripoffs of Braveheart (a film which despite being historically laughable is excellent entertainment unlike this one)
And on and on and on and on.....
It's not just that it's poor history it's bad storytelling and makes the film painful to watch even if the script did engender any interest from the audience or the numerous dreadful performances didn't remove any prospect of caring for or about the characters.
1/10 and that's only because of the bit-part guy that put on a funny Somerset accent at one point. He, at least, clearly knew a little bit about the legends and history this farce pretends to represent.
As a final thought - I don't know why Miss Knightley is drawn to bloody awful adaptations of English legends but I wish she'd stop it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
A roman King Arthur with knights that still have their 'Morte d'Arthur'
names even though they come from Iran do some very small scale heroics
in the middle of a field somewhere in england. The three people who saw
what happened obviously carried the story to us a thousand years later.
Small scale, low budget, badly acted, anachronistic and totally unconvincing in everything it tried to show.
Arthur was woeful. He simply couldn't decide whether he was in 'Excalibur' or 'Gladiator' so we had this strange roman general who kept coming out with hilarious monologues that bore no relation to the rest of the film's script at all. The last speech on the hill had me in stitches.
Merlin was some sort of degenerate mystic who looked meaningfully into the sky and didn't do a hell of a lot else. His band too vaguely resembled some sort of shambling Neanderthals instead of normal Saxon guerilla fighters.
One of the worst films I have ever seen.
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