Main cast: Clive Owen (Artorius), Ioan Gruffudd (Lancelot), Mads Mikkelsen (Tristan), Joel Edgerton (Gawain), Hugh Dancy (Galahad), Ray Winstone (Bors), Ray Stevenson (Dagonet), Keira Knightley (Guinevere), Stephen Dillane (Merlin), Stellan Skarsgård (Cerdic), Til Schweiger (Cynric), and Ivano Marescotti (Bishop Germanius)
Director: Antoine Fuqua
On the bright side, unlike the “Pretty Boys in Togs” DOA movie Troy, the men in King Arthur are reassuringly male in the sense that they aren’t the metrosexuals like Brad Pitt’s Achilles. The men in King Arthur have facial hair, they sweat, they get dirty, and they are all so hot. Clive Owen is channeling Nicolas Cage a little too much for me in this movie, but he is hot. The only thing that ruins the scenery is the sight of a flat-chested Keira Knightley who apparently hasn’t had enough of starring in a Jerry Bruckheimer summer blockbuster. Someone please take mercy on Knightley and feed her for me.
Like Troy, King Arthur strips away all the fancy-schmancy tales around the King Arthur myth – no Holy Grails here, people – to present a more down-to-earth story of Artorius, a half-Brit Roman general, and his rise to power as the king of sixth-century Britannia. Unfortunately, the result is a spectacularly incoherent mess of a movie. Sort of The Dirty Dozen with horses and swords, Artorius leads Lancelot, Tristan, Gawain, Galahad, Dagonet, and Bors under the banner of the Samartians, knights plucked from territories of what is now Russia to serve under the Roman Empire. The Sarmatians are undefeatable, et cetera, and now they are about to be released from their bond. Alas, the Bishop Germanius insists that they embark on one last mission before the Sarmatians are released, and this mission is a suicidal one: they must single-handedly save a Roman family trapped in the path of a Saxon army intent on conquering the Brits.
Artorius is noble and selfless, and while an upright and righteous hero has its charms, this man becomes a hypocritical turd later in the movie when his need to martyr himself forces his men to commit the same sacrifices that he castigates the Roman Empire for demanding of its men. The Sarmatians have no personality apart from Lancelot’s incessant whining about God and duty (and his unrequited love for Artorius, no doubt) and Bors, the only fun character that loves his eleven “little bastard” kids. I have no idea why they introduce Guinevere into this movie as the Pict warrior lady whom Artorius rescues from overzealous Christian inquisitors, but she has zero chemistry with Artorius and their “romance” is as sizzling as a broken-down heater in the coldest day of winter. Where this movie could have done better in fleshing out the relationship between Lancelot and Artorius, it instead wastes time in dull cow-lidded exchange of glances between Artorius and Guinevere.
And then it expects me to care when someone important in this movie dies, when it doesn’t even bother to flesh out that character. Besides, this person’s death is telegraphed so clearly early on in the movie that only a very careless viewer can’t see that one coming. Another gem is Merlin, the leader of the Picts who tells Artorius that so what if he led his men to slaughter Artorius’s family before Artorius’s eyes when Artorius was a kid – he allowed Artorius to live so that Artorius can return and lead the Brits, so Artorius should let go of the hatred and feel the love. I am not making this up! And Artorius, the dimwit, agrees with that. As for Stellan Skarsgård, he growls and acts menacing as the leader of the Saxon invaders but he’s totally wasted in his limited screentime as what is in essence a cartoon bad guy character.
Artorius keeps hammering into everyone’s head that we are all born free and equal, but nowhere in this movie am I told why a warrior of his time would come to believe in such a radical philosophy. Come to think of it, I don’t know who he is at all. He just shows up in this movie and then goes about acting like a radical liberal fresh out of an overly-enthusiastic college newspaper. There is no backstory to make these characters come to life.
Because the movie zig-zags into incoherent battle scenes and I really don’t care about the cardboard characters to try and make sense of the movie, King Arthur becomes too tedious and utterly boring after its one-hour mark. They should’ve brought back the magic stuff because it will require some powerful magic to breathe life into this limp and dull tale.