King Arthur (12A)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner26/07/2004

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 120 mins

Jerry Bruckheimer-produced blockbuster “with extra added historical authenticity” – occasionally it’s amusingly bad, but mostly it’s just dull, with a couple of good bits.

Given King Arthur’s dismal performance at the U.S. box office, the publicity machine has gone into overdrive in order to assure its potential audience that this is “the real King Arthur”, like a multi-million dollar history lesson.

Unfortunately, the knock-on effect is to strip the film of everything that makes the Arthurian legend special and the end result is a clumsy mixture of Braveheart and a sub-standard Dirty Dozen-style ‘One Last Mission’ movie.

Arthur As Reluctant Roman

Clive Owen plays Arthur, a Roman (yes, Roman – keep up at the back there) warrior and reluctant leader in 5th Century England. He wants nothing more than to return to the peace and stability of dear old Rome. However, a wily Roman priest forces him to undertake One Last Mission, to rescue a Roman nobleman from deep within enemy territory, ahead of the advancing forces of Evil Saxon Bastards headed by Stellan Skarsgard.

So Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table – Lancelot (Ioan Gruffud), Bors (Ray Winstone), Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen) and the rest – embark on their mission as audiences struggle to forget the coconut shell clip-clop noises from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Once they reach their goal, they rescue feisty Pict Princess Guinevere (Keira Knightley: Woad Warrior) and she gradually makes Arthur see that what England REALLY needs right now is some sort of King…

The plot is completely stripped of any dramatic tension. It feels like large chunks of the film have been hacked out: there are several scenes where Lancelot and Guinevere exchange lusty, lingering looks and yet this is never developed. It doesn’t help that the script and dialogue are so abysmal, although the script does at least contain the classic line: “A round table? What kind of evil is this?”

Generally Bad All Round

In terms of performances, only Ray Winstone appears to be enjoying himself, giving good comic relief as Bors. Owen looks the part, but his dull, flat delivery never really convinces and Keira’s Home Counties accent seems ridiculously out of place, though she does get a few decent one-liners and her minimalist leather bikini fighting costume really has to be (almost) seen to be believed.

Sadly, the love scenes don’t really work, though there is a hilariously misguided “romantic” bit where Guinevere comes onto Arthur immediately after he has re-set all her broken fingers by snapping them back into place.

The only real stand-out set-piece is a battle staged on cracking ice, but even that is badly handled towards the end of the scene. The climactic battle is decent enough, but the fact remains that King Arthur has had its thunder comprehensively stolen in that department by Troy. There’s even a similar Great Balls Of Fire type scene that, again, pales in comparison.

In short, King Arthur is a royal disappointment, enlivened only by the occasional unintentionally amusing bit. In other words, historical accuracy is all very well and good, but sometimes you just want to see a woman’s hand coming out of a lake with a sword in it.

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Content updated: 17/10/2017 13:56

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