King Arthur (12A)
Time Out saysOn paper, the story of King Arthur is a gift to film-makers eager to mine the mystery, heroism and bloodlust of the distant past, while also avoiding attack from historical purists. The Arthurian legend, which has been retold countless times, from Thomas Mallory’s fifteenth-century epic poem ‘Morte D’Arthur’ to Disney’s 1963 animated movie ‘The Sword in the Stone’, has no basis in historical fact whatsoever. The character of Arthur, however, is now a ready-made, all-conquering medieval folk hero.
Surprisingly, producer Jerry Bruckheimer (‘Black Hawk Down’, ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’) and dir-ector Antoine Fuqua (‘Training Day’) have ditched much of the familiar legend in favour of fresh historical claims for their Arthur (Clive Owen), who is the product – we are told during the opening credits – of spanking new, but unrevealed, archaeological evidence. The film discards the usual Arthurian mood of courtly romance and instead celebrates the nitty-gritty of the Dark Ages: a time when the Roman army was withdrawing from Britain and Saxon warriors, led by a cowboy-like Stellan Skarsgård, were on the attack. Arthur himself is Romano-British and, as such, is experiencing a crisis of identity while leading his knights in defence of his homeland and wallowing in the inherited values of Rome (‘freedom’ being his familiar catchword).
All this back story is a confusing, over-long preamble to a series of quite exciting battles. Ultimately, though, Owen fails to muster enough charisma to carry the film, and an impish Keira Knightley as Guinevere is a little red-
undant, despite the unfulfilled, longing glances she exchanges repeatedly with Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd). A simpler story would have suited the bombastic Bruckheimer style.