King Arthur (2004)

(In theaters, July 2004) While I’m partial to the concept of presenting “the real story” behind the myths, that kind of stuff isn’t in itself sufficient to sustain my interest in a film. The first half of King Arthur passes in a drowsy daze, as director Antoine Fuqua seems content in simply showing how much mud existed at the time. Fortunately, things pick up (from a pacing standpoint) as soon as Guenevere (Kiera Knightly, an average casting choice at best) is rescued from a damp dungeon. While “realistic”, the film doesn’t do much to acknowledge real science given how hand injuries are easily forgotten, unlikely arrow shots find their targets a mile away and heroism takes precedence over simple physics. Oh well; at least it’s easy to warm to the title character (a fantastic Clive Owen) and his merry band of knights. Some low-level flirtation, along with a gruff Merlin and a shot of a round table, and we’ve got the making of myth. But it’s the action scenes that work better than anything else, from a great little frozen-lake sequence to a rather good final clash between two (or three) armies. Nifty, but they can’t excuse the tepid storytelling nor the bombastic details. It’s a mixed bag, really; better than expected from the lifeless trailers, but still not quite up to the level of quality offered from other recent historical epics.

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