It is still a miserable day outside and I’m starting to feel rather miserable myself as I can feel a migraine starting to come on. So I am going to try and get through today’s movie pretty quickly. Today presents somewhat of an interesting situation as far as DVD’s go. See, I never saw this movie in theaters and when I bought it on DVD, I bought the extended, unrated, director’s cut. So obviously their will be some differences from my review and plot outline than the theatrical version. So I am going to watch my copy of King Arthur, and we will see what the differences are.
The plot: At the height of the Roman Empire, the Roman armies defeat the Sarmatian armies but, impressed by their bravery, spare the Sarmatian calvary and allow them to join the Roman army. As part of the deal, the Sarmatian calvary must also recruit their sons and future sons into the army. At the Roman post in Britain, a young Arthur watches as a new legion of knights, including Lancelot, arrive at the post and Arthur is given instruction by a departing priest about how he should treat the knights when he leads them. 15 years later, Arthur and his remaining knights(Lancelot, Bors, Tristan, Gawain, Galahad, and Dagonet) are waiting for the arrival of a Bishop’s carriage, which would mean the end of their 15 years of service, when the carriage comes under attack by the Woads, a group of native Britons that are rebelling against the Roman’s rule and led by a mysterious man named Merlin. Arthur and his knights help the Roman escort defeat the Woads, then escort Bishop Germanus to the fort of Hadrians Wall. However, instead of receiving their freedom, Germanus orders Arthur and his men to travel north and rescue an important Roman family, particularly the son, Alecto, who is the pope’s godson and destined to be pope one day, from an approaching Saxon army. Arthur is upset about Germanus giving this mission on the day they should be free and swears that if they return, and his men are not given their discharge papers, then nothing will protect the bishop from Arthur. When Arthur tells the knights about the mission, they are all notably upset about this, but agree to follow Arthur, as they trust him more than they trust the Romans in giving them their freedom. Accompanied by the bishop’s attendee, the knight’s set out on their mission while the Saxon leaders, also learning of the Roman family, make their own plans to capture them in order to ransom them back to Rome. As the knights pass through the Woads’ territory, they come under attack and find themselves surrounded by the Woads, but suddenly, the Woads are called off, and Arthur suspects that Merlin did not want them killed. Arriving at the house of Marius Honorius, Arthur informs Marius of the approaching army and Rome’s orders for him to leave but when he refuses, Arthur informs him that he will take him back to Hadrian’s wall, even if he has to tie him up, in order to give his men their freedom. As Marius makes preparations to leave, Arthur, seeing the village elder in chains, frees him then informs the rest of the villagers about the Saxon army and tells them all to start heading for the wall where it is safer. As the drums from the approaching army are heard, Arthur discovers that Marius had been keeping pagans immured in an underground part of the estate and though most of them are now dead, he manages to free Guinevere, a female Woad, and a young boy named Lucan. With the falling snow slowing down their journey, Arthur and his knights lead the people towards safety, but when the come across evidence that the Saxons are near, they decide to camp in some nearby woods. Lancelot finds himself infatuated with Guinevere and the two talk briefly but later that night, Lancelot sees Guinevere walk off into the woods, followed by Arthur. Guinevere leads Arthur to Merlin, who happens to be her father. Arthur doesn’t trust Merlin at first, as it is revealed that Arthur’s mother was killed during a Woad attack on his home, Merlin offers a truce against the common enemy of the Saxons and wants Arthur to lead his people, as Arthur is himself a Briton, but Arthur refuses to lead them. The next morning, Marius grabs Lucan and threatens to kill him but Guinevere shoots him with an arrow and Arthur tells Marius’ men that they either help or die. As Arthur offers his condolences to Alecto, Alecto informs him that Pelagius, the man Arthur looked up to, had been excommunicated and killed for speaking about free will. Coming to a frozen lake, Arthur has the refugees spread out and walk as spaced out as possible in order to keep the ice from breaking. Then Arthur, Guinevere, and the knights stay behind and, by killing off the people on the edges to force the army to gather closer together, they attempt to cause the Ice to break underneath the Saxon army. When it appears like the ice won’t break in time, Dagonet runs out and begins chopping at the ice, causing it to break and kill many of the Saxon men, though losing his own life in the process. When they return to the wall, Germanus keeps his word and gives the knights their papers for freedom, but Arthur and his knights ignore the Roman’s words and instead focus on burying Dagonet. At the Saxon camp, Cynric, the son of the Saxon leader Cedric, offers his life to Cedric, but Cedric instead chooses to cut Cynric’s face before making another Saxon, Raewald, his second in command. When the Saxon army approaches the wall, Germanus leads the Roman army south, with Lancelot and the other knights going with him, but Arthur remains behind. Arthur meets with Cedric then they both prepare for battle and as the Saxons’ drums begin beating, the knights hear the sound and decide to turn back and help Arthur. The Saxons send an infantry unit to deal with Arthur and the knights, but unknown to them, Arthur had agreed to the alliance with the Woad and using smoke to cover their attack, they easily kill the infantry. As the main army approaches, the Woads use catapults and flaming arrows to thin out some of the enemy lines in order to make them easier to face. During the course of the battle, Guinevere faces Cynric but when he is about to kill her, Lancelot saves her and ends up getting shot with a crossbow bolt, but is able to throw his sword through Cynric’s chest. Meanwhile, Cedric defeats Tristan and, as Arthur watches, kills him with his own sword. The enraged Arthur faces off against Cedric and eventually kills him, putting an end to the battle. After the battle, the fallen knights are buried, except for Lancelot who had asked to have his body cremated, Arthur marries Guinevere and unites the Britons.
King Arthur was met with a lot of criticism from the critics, holding a 32% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The criticism seemed to be focused on the fact that the movie strayed so far from the legends, making Arthur a Roman as opposed to a Briton. Some critics did praise the work of the actors playing the knights, stating that since many of them were “raised on Shakespeare, trained for swordfights, with an idea of Arthurian legend in their heads since childhood, they don’t seem out of time and place.” The movie did make a profit, earning over $203 million off of a $120 million budget.
I love the Arthurian legends and while I did enjoy this movie, there were several things that did bug me about it. The acting was pretty good among the principal players. Clive Owen did a good job portraying Arthur and Keira Knightley, taking a break from playing Elizabeth Swann, was also good as Guinevere. I also liked the performance of the knights and Cedric, but I was disappointed about how they portrayed Merlin. The story was good, except for the main differences from the legend. I also found it funny that they only briefly hinted at the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot, but I guess they didn’t really want to touch on that subject. The action scenes were well done and, in the version I have, apparently a lot longer and bloodier. I did like how they showcased Arthur as more of a battle tactician instead of simply wading into battle and trying to win by superior numbers. An fun movie to watch, but if you want a more accurate story, you better look elsewhere.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5