Whenever Hollywood filmmakers tackle a subject even remotely historical, they're quick to pawn their version off as the "accurate" version or the "more accurate" version or the "version you haven't heard" or whatever. In truth, "accuracy" means about as much to Hollywood filmmakers as "sobriety" does to Glen Campbell.
This version of "King Arthur" is supposedly based on some kind of new research. After watching the movie, I'm convinced that this so-called research was conducted by a group of barnyard animals on a bender. The fact is, historians aren't quite sure about the real King Arthur, so when Hollywood types set their sights on the subject, there's little to stop them from laying waste to everything in their path, not unlike the Saxons in this movie.
The elements that made the legend of King Arthur interesting in other films -- such as the story of Arthur's sword and explorations of other characters such as Merlin the magician -- have been removed from this film and replaced by endless conversations between Arthur (Clive Owen) and his knights about gaining their freedom and getting off the dank, boring island that is Britain. Unfortunately, a Roman magistrate shows up and gives them one more mission: Rescue a family up north from the encroaching Saxon hordes.
Merlin is portrayed as some kind of tree-hugging face painter living in the forest with his group of dirty woods people. When Arthur goes to rescue the Roman family, he meets Guinevere (Keira Knightley), another dirty woods person (they're kind of like unwashed elves) and damn good with a bow to boot. After more interminable conversations, Arthur and his knights try to figure out a good way to deal with the Saxons, who are led by Cerdic (Stellan Skarsgard). Fortunately for Arthur, the Saxons beat on a drum wherever they go, which I can say with great historical accuracy has proven to be a poor strategy for planning military attacks.
Director Antoine ("Training Day") Fuqua is entirely out of his element. For whatever reason, the film begins with a short prologue focused on Lancelot, a sequence that turns out to be utterly pointless as the film then shifts to Arthur and stays there. Like most of his contemporaries, Fuqua can't film an effective action sequence, and though he conceives of an interesting confrontation between Arthur and the Saxons on some unstable ice, he eventually succumbs to typical L.A. stupidity when it comes to any environment where it actually gets cold once in a while.
Frankly, given this film's flimsy attitude toward history and producer Jerry Bruckheimer's name on the credits, I was waiting for the scene where a couple of horses run over a cliff and explode on the way down. Sadly, no such luck.
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