Home Arts-Entertainment Movies Fight's on, Romance Is Gone in This 'King Arthur'

Fight's on, Romance Is Gone in This 'King Arthur'


July 19, 2004 – It looks like "King Arthur" might just be the big "summer movie," not a category sought after by art film houses or the Sundance Festival. However, the category holds water for the box office coffers and those of us who don't like a lot of thought to interrupt our popcorn of a warm summer evening.
And there's nothing wrong with that. Well, maybe a little. The reviewers are united that this rendition of the oft' told tale shoots the Arthurian legend right out of the saddle. Ty Burr in the Boston Globe says the movie "departs so radically from what most of us accept as the basics … that the movie qualifies as a whole new myth."
He continues: "In other words, 'King Arthur' does to this legend what 'Troy' did to Homer with one important difference: It's a better movie."
Well, we certainly are not left to wonder what the King is doing tonight. He is not pacing nervously awaiting his wedding to the beloved Guinevere. No, Toto, this doesn't look like Camelot to me.
For one thing, David Franzoni, who wrote the script, claims historic credibility — no romance, no nonsense. Michael Wilmington in the Chicago Tribune says: "According to Franzoni, there's supposed to be a historical rationale for all this. The seemingly mythical Arthur here becomes a real-life figure: Lucius Artorius Castorus, a Roman-British general for the Roman forces occupying Britain."
Anyhow, the fight's on and the romance is gone. Wilmington says: "Producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Antoine Fuqua hand us a gritty pre-King Arthur (Clive Owen) and a down-and-dirty Round Table, along with a deadly Guinevere (Keira Knightley), a forest rebel Merlin (Stephen Dillane), a bitter killing-machine Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd)."
Now, before we throw up our hands, the good news is the actors are lauded by most critics, some even calling their performances "juicy," a proper accolade for a summer blockbuster. What's really bothersome, however, is to read critics invoking Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai." They compare it to this Arthur with only six knights left to help Arthur and the Briton villagers against the Roman hordes. "Seven Samurai" is possibly one of the best movies ever made, in all respects (in this previewer's opinion).
Wilmington says, "Even to recall Kurosawa is to recognize what this movie lacks: a sense of compassionate humanism to soften its grimness and violence."
Thinking it over, Monty Python's "The Holy Grail" seems like a much better idea. These folks would never buy a bunch of knights galloping up to a castle and terrifying the enemy by clacking two coconuts together to emulate oncoming horses' hooves.
Burr says the last half of the film "gallops downhill to an epic climactic battle between Arthur and the enemy, the Woads, to claim the mantle of king of Britain." He adds, "By this point, history has been hogtied and left in the trunk of Bruckheimer's Porsche."
"King Arthur" is 2:10 of blockbuster, rated PG-13 for intense battle sequences and "a scene with sensuality and some language." Now, that should probably not be overlooked.
It starts Thursday at Market Square East.

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