Published Jul 01, 2004Producer Jerry Bruckheimer (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl) is celebrated for his big-budget action-fantasies and director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) is known for gritty dramas. King Arthur attempts to combine these styles with a historically accurate account of "a leader both Briton and Roman."
Set in 467 A.D., around the collapse of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Dark Ages, a man named Artorius (or Arthur) is the commander of a small band of knights posted at Hadrian's Wall where they fight Merlin's vaguely Celtic barbarians and an angry gang of pillaging Saxons.
Although scholars have been arguing for centuries on the validity of Arthur's existence, because he is almost exclusively a literary phenomenon, this film touts itself as the real story backed up by supposed archaeological evidence. Armchair historians will surely make sport of disputing timelines, costume details, linguistics and other inconsistencies.
Ultimately none of that would matter were this a rousing action/drama filled with intrigue, romance and nail-biting fight scenes. In this case though you'd be better off renting the movies it pinches: Braveheart, The Lord of the Rings and most notably, Gladiator. (Screenwriter David Franzoni could sue himself for copyright infringement.)
The cast of British C-listers, led by Clive Owen (Gosford Park) as Arthur, and Ioan Gruffudd (A&E's Horatio Hornblower), as Lancelot, does the best it can with the clichéd and sloppy script. Keira Knightly just barely overcomes Guinevere's pointlessness by shooting arrows in battle and wearing a leather bikini that's more lederhosen than Princess Leia.
Somewhere along the way (test audiences were rumoured to be less than enthusiastic), the creative team managed to take out every interesting part of the Arthurian legend. When Arthur gets to his token pre-battle "we are all free men" speech, his tiny army looks as apathetic as the viewer feels. (Touchstone/Buena Vista)