King Arthur-On the Rocks
Many script decisions are puzzling. King Arthur is one of those movies. I just don’t understand why this film was made. What was the point? Supposedly it was a “historically accurate” retailing of the Arthur legend that most readers probably already know-mythical British king, Knights of Round Table, and so forth. These types of movies are just plain uncool. There is nothing great about having a monarchy. If you study history you are very hard pressed to find monarchs that came into power by being nice guys. Its sort of like hundreds of years from now filmmakers making movies about how noble and wonderful various rich tycoons were in the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st century.
Essentially, the story follows Arthur and other characters from the Arthurian lore as they strive to kick the evil Romans out of what is now the UK. I find this, in general to be pretty funny stuff, why you might ask? Well from a historical perspective the irony is that the British, ultimately, turned around and formed an empire that the Romans could have only dreamed about while stoned at one of their orgies. An empire than came close to controlling the entire planet, and they weren’t too nice about it either. Arthur, to some extent, does glorify, the creation of the concept of building an empire. Well, at least they didn’t have them smoking cigarettes, nor did they sneak in any product placement.
Screenwriter David Franzoni (Gladiator) and director Antoine Fuqua (The Replacement Killers) don’t address that empires in general are bad, nor the historical fact that most kings are made by killing lots and lots of people. Historically, kings are created via an initial land or resource grab that grows and grows and grows. Anything can be disputed or argued but this is a tough one to debate and Franzoni and Fuqua simply don’t bother to acknowledge what blood-thirsty, ravenous money and power grabs most, if not all, empires have historically been. This would have been nice to see illuminated in a much better way. I am not just ranting, here is my point. Its just too funny that the entire film centers around kicking out an big, mean, evil empire to give birth to a county that will only go on to create its own even bigger and arguably meaner empire-The British Empire. So why am I so focused on this point. The filmmakers were selling this film as a historically accurate telling of the Arthurian legend-at least sort of, but it wasn’t and couldn’t be.
Certainly the film has some good action sequences. One in particular involving an ice field is pretty original and fun. In many ways the reason this puzzling script was made was simple. The success of Gladiator had to be in Frazoni’s mind as did the success of Lord of the Rings. Many numerous sword and arrow epics have followed, with some of the “old school” directors and producers trying to take the intellectual high rode and make historically accurate or “sword and arrow movies” such as Troy, or the incredibly painful and off target Alexander.
Clive Owen does a fine job as Arthur and much of the film is beauty, well shot and has some excellent costume design. No doubt a lot of work went into the film and we have seen that Franzoni can craft a great script, as he did with Gladiator and that Fuqua is a solid director, case in point Training Day, which is a film worth watching if you haven’t yet seen it. But both miss the mark here. The script just isn’t that captivating or interesting. King Arthur is built upon a rocky foundation both as a film and as a concept for a film.
Enjoyability Grade C-
Home Theater/HD Factor B
Overall Grade C-