This ‘King Arthur’ tale is far from epicThe one thing that lingers in the mind after watching “King Arthur”: Keira Knightley sure is gorgeous. The rest of the movie ― a lavish production by none other then Jerry Bruckheimer ― is forgettable.
That’s not a word often associated with director Antoine Fuqua. If you have heard his name before, it has probably been linked to music videos for hip-hop artists such as Coolio, Arrested Development, Pras and Usher.
Mr. Fuqua’s breakaway feature film was “Training Day,” for which Denzel Washington won a best-actor Oscar in 2001. But without Mr. Washington’s intensity, or Ethan Hawke’s wide-eyed journey into darkness, “Training Day” was at best gritty.
The same is true of “King Arthur.” The colors are deliberately cold, the images are gritty, the emotions are superficial, and the plot has gaping holes. But with rapid-fire screen cuts, decent casting, carnage and men debating the grand purposes of life, Mr. Fuqua manages, just barely, to move the movie along quickly enough so that it is not completely boring.
With “King Arthur,” he attempts to get to the the story you’ve never heard, the “untold true story that inspired the legend.” Sadly, the “true” story, as Mr. Fuqua sees it, falls very short of inspiring.
One is left wondering how this fifth-century ragtag team of warriors led by Artorius (Clive Owen), a Roman commander of partial British descent, could ever give birth to the epic tales of magic, loyalty, Camelot, the Holy Grail and and the famous love triangle that we have today.
At the beginning of “King Arthur,” the Romans are expanding their empire. The Sarmatians are conquered, but allowed to live as long as their sons, and their sons’ sons, serve the Roman cause. These transplanted Sarmatians become the Knights of the Round Table, fighting the Highland Picts, better known as the Woads, and the Saxons in Briton.
The indentureship of the knights is almost up, when they are called upon for one last mission, “far more dangerous then any other they have undertaken.”
The Romans are pulling out of the isle of Briton in the face of a massive Saxon onslaught. One important family lies in the path of the Saxons, where they will be behind enemy lines, and the Sarmatians must help them escape.
To make things worse, if the knights don’t accept their last mission, they won’t receive their papers of freedom. So off they go, a team of seven, to do battle against hordes.
Meanwhile, Artorius struggles with religion (adheres to Christianity, but his religious leaders are hypocrites while his loyal knights are all pagans) and identity (being half British) in what is apparently some kind of social commentary.
While there’s no denying that religion plays an important role in history, the movie fails to pin a strong emotion on anything. It tries to play up conflicting beliefs, but the movie never claimed to be a religious one, rather, a search for that untold story.
The movie could have been about love and loyalty. Instead, Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd) gives Guinevere (Ms. Knightley) a smoldering look or two. Or it could have been about courage. There’s a battle scene on ice that’s pretty intense, and another inside the castle gates.
Instead, with its weak presence and missed opportunities, “King Arthur” lacks that stuff that legends are made of.
Action, Adventure / English
by Joe Yong-hee