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King Arthur (2004)
Director: Antoine Fuqua

review by Shiraz Rahim

I admit, I went into the theatre to see King Arthur with high expectations, so my account of it may seem slightly undeserving, but having seen many films of this type before, I feel my dislike for the film is well founded. King Arthur, although well meaning, is a film I found lacking in substance and originality and seemed merely to be an attempt at competing with the special effects epic battles of previous Hollywood hits.

The movie begins with historical background to the story, similar to how Gladiator begins, in which Roman invaders of Britain force every village to give up its young male residents to be trained as Roman legionnaires and serve in the Roman army for several years. One of these boys ends up growing into Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), one of King Arthur's knights. The actually story commences rather quickly, and, very soon after Lancelot has grown into a man and the background story is over, all of King Arthur's knights are celebrating their last day as legionnaires for the Romans - by this time, their service to the empire is over, and the knights tell stories of what they intend to do after returning home.

Shortly afterward, a messenger from the Romans appears bearing bad news: the legions must depart on one final journey into Northern Britain (which is being invaded by the Saxons), where they must face bands of natives, led by Merlin (who is played by Stephen Dillane), and save a boy sacred to the Roman Catholic Church while managing to outrun the advancing Saxons. The movie ends with a fight against the invading Saxons as they attack Arthur's (Clive Owen) poorly defended fort.

Although a brave attempt by Antoine Fuqua, the director, at creating an action thriller, the movie turned out to be merely a string of clichés and nonsensical fighting which, after The Lord Of The Rings, Gladiator, and Troy, seems mundane and unoriginal. I'll admit that a battle on a frozen lake seemed slightly interesting and original at first, but Fuqua managed to let me down by shortening the action to merely several of Arthur's men shooting arrows and driving away a battalion of Saxons without any real action that is present in the film's other fight sequences.

The plot itself has nothing to do with the 'original' tale of King Arthur, and the only resemblance this film shows to the actual myths is that of the characters' names. Many people in the film seemed merely to exist for the sake of existing, and most of the characters, namely Guinevere (Keira Knightly), play a very small part in the story. (Guinevere's only role in the film is fighting in the battle sequences and marrying Arthur at the end, and I was sad to see that Fuqua refused to use such a great actress more often.) In addition, much of the plot seems forced and extremely overdone and unconvincing. At the end, Arthur decides to allow his knights to return home as the Saxons are standing outside Roman walls, and, as expected, the knights decide to return and fight alongside their king. Guinevere and Arthur's love affair starts from Arthur mending Guinevere's broken hand, and Fuqua neglects building any sort of relationship between the two before their climatic love scene and eventual marriage. Plot twists such as these manage to fill King Arthur's 130-minute running time but fail to advance the story, interest the audience, or elicit the same response as either previous similar movies (i.e. Troy or Gladiator) or Fuqua's previous works, like Training Day.

So, although the film has a very captivating trailer (it was actually what made me want to watch it), the film lacks the excitement of the two-minute TV preview. If you're looking for something to fill time and are willing to sit through almost two hours of boring plot to get to the ten-minute fight scene at the end, King Arthur wouldn't be a bad way to spend your time, but if you want quality, this isn't the way to go.
King Arthur - heroes

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