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Movie Info


PG-13 for intense battle sequences, a scene of sensuality and some language (see note at bottom of the review)


July 7, 2004


2 hrs., 10 min.


Action/Adventure and Drama


Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Stephen Dillane, Hugh Dancy, Ioan Gruffudd


Antoine Fuqua


Jerry Bruckheimer




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King Arthur

By Phil Boatwright
The Movie Reporter - In 1967, Jack Warner brought "Camelot" to the screen, refusing to pay those who created the roles on Broadway (Richard Burton, Julie Andrews and Robert Goulet) their asking price. The film was considered by many as botched with unconvincing performances by the lead replacements (Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero).

In 1995, Sean Connery, Julia Ormond and Richard Gere, each decked out in matching shades of blue, brought the legend of King Arthur and the Round Table back to the screen with far more success in "First Knight." This majestic adventure was equal amounts epic action and romantic love story. But the insight, romance and tragedy found in the classic novel "The Once and Future King" has never been fully realized on the motion picture screen.

The newest incarnation of Arthur and his men of the Round Table doesn't even try. Set in a new time zone (the story is now set a century or two before the traditional versions), it's less Camelot than Conan the Barbarian. But if one can put aside the missing love triangle that tragically led to the destruction of a dream of equality and might for right, then this film can be enjoyed for what it is - a superb actioneer.

Ironically, Clive Owen, who plays Arthur, is reminiscent of a passionate Richard Burton in his prime. Good looking, with a broodish stare from piercing eyes, Mr. Owen gives a commanding performance, masterfully handling dialogue that ranges from silly to substantial.

Each actor gives a solid performance, the script is peppered with speeches about freedom and nobility, and there is a definite dynamic between Owen's Arthur and Keira Knightley's Guinevere (an engaging and beautiful actress). What's more, the story includes an intelligent debate concerning faith and belief in God. Arthur, a man of prayer, petitions the Almighty for the safety of his men, while the unbelieving Lancelot, takes a more humanistic view of life. But "King Arthur" is really a summer action fest, falling in line with other action/adventures already in theaters.

Set in a more brutal time, the film focuses on grungy soldiers (there's a lot of dirty fingernails in this one), battling it out with those defending a corrupted church in Rome (I feel sorry for members of Catholic clergy. Do these poor souls ever get a complimentary treatment from Tinseltown?).

There is one element I found down right ridiculous. In the climatic combat, the ladies join in. Guinevere dons revealing animal skins, paints her face like an Indian chief and wields a heavy sword, chopping the foe to bits with the same zeal as her male counterparts. Now, besides the less than realistic view of a woman her size lifting a sword that would have weighed nearly as much as she, and being able to do battle against Saxon warriors of the opposite sex, what's truly hysterical is the sight of all the males -and horses - decked out with intimidating armor, yet the womenfolk have stripped down to tight, midriff-revealing leathers. Like I said, it's more Conan than King Arthur.

An entertaining popcorn-muncher, "King Arthur" has several well-choreographed battle scenes and enough action to satisfy the 14-year-old in every man. For those more inclined to the romance of the tragic love tryst, allow me to suggest "First Knight."

Note: There are a few expletives, but I caught no harsh or profane language; there are several crude sexual comments mainly from one of the Knights, mostly in the beginning of the film, but these warriors ultimately prove themselves to be men of substance, willing to lay down their lives for a cause and for others; there is some brief sexuality as we see Arthur and Guinevere consummate their passion; this scene is brief and contains partial nudity; one scene has a bad guy attempting to rape a woman, but he is stopped by his superior; it is not graphic and there is no nudity; there is some Christian bashing, but there are also some positive statements concerning faith, given by the main character; mainly the film receives its rating for the violence; there are several battle scenes, people are killed by sword, arrow and other weapons of the time.

Phil Boatwright is the editor of The Movie Reporter. For more information, visit Review used by permission.

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