2004 - PG-13 - 130 Mins.
|Director: Antoine Fuqua
|Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
|Written By: David Franzoni
|Starring: Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Hugh Dancy, Ray Winstone, Stephen Dillaine
|Review by: Joe Rickey
Antoine Fuqua of ‘Training Day’ fame aims to show a grittier side to the legend of King Arthur in the aptly titled, ‘King Arthur’ with omnipresent Jerry Bruckheimer as producer. Disney seems determined to duplicate 'Pirates of the Caribbean's success by mimicking the ad campaign and even the release date. They even have Keira Knightley in a starring role as Guinevere. Knightley's star-making role in the aforementioned pirate film made her a new sex symbol with the teen male set.
No matter the time period, making love is always the same.
The film’s plot concerns Arthur and his band of fellow warriors, including Lancelot, Tristan, Gawain, Galahad, Dagonet and Bors during a period of ongoing war in Britain. Each has his reasons for wanting the fighting to end; each wants a chance for normal lives; and each man wants to go home. They are right in the middle of a celebration of what they believe will be their chance to do just that when orders are sent to Arthur to rescue a Roman family who, if left to be, will surely be killed by the invading Saxons. To accomplish their mission, they’ll have to contend with guerilla warriors, warlords, and rebels. During the course of the film, Arthur has a romantic fling with warrior, Guinevere.
As written by David Franzoni, best known as the writer of ‘Gladiator’, and helmed by Antoine Fuqua, ‘King Arthur’ is not the homerun Disney may have hoped for but it is definitely better than expected -- especially given the advanced bad buzz from various test screenings and trade publications.
What the film does right is the various battle sequences which are entertaining, despite obvious editing for PG-13. They have a frenetic feel to them and bring to mind similar scenes in Mel Gibson’s ‘Braveheart.’ Still, there is no doubt that they could have had a smoother feel to them had the film been rated R. It's never in a film’s favor to be cut to achieve a lower rating as a way of aiding box office. The eventual director’s cut on DVD will hopefully restore chopped battle scenes and also a Knightley/Owen love scene that appears blatantly edited.
The film does feature strong performances from the entire cast, with Owen bringing the appropriate amount of resonance to Arthur, and Knightley shining as Guinevere. But what 'King Arthur' lacks is enough of an interesting plot to engage the viewer continuously. The first hour of ‘King Arthur’ is heavy on exposition and light on action; and much of that exposition is needless when one considers what transpires later. Knightley’s Guinevere doesn’t even enter the film until halfway through the film; no doubt disappointing those expecting to see more of her.
Fuqua lacks the skills needed to turn the mundane into the exciting when it comes to developing a plot; something masters like Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino have refined down to an art. What the viewer is left with is a middling epic. It's a film that periodically arouses excitement from well-composed action sequences and solid performances only to be brought to a screeching halt when everyone stops fighting and starts babbling on and on ad nauseum.