Eppler: ‘Arthur’ not a ‘King’ worth hailing

the-university-daily)/" class="creditline">James Eppler (The University Daily)

King Arthur” is an epic action movie that puts in just enough
effort to get audiences to sit through it, but not enough to make
us remember afterward that it exists.

 

For months the trailers have promised heavy action, a weak
story, typical battlefield pep talks about freedom, and most of
all, mediocrity.

 

The film delivers on each of these levels.

 

There are many different versions of the King Arthur legend, and
writer David Franzoni (who also penned “Gladiator”) is working with
some interesting ideas, but doesn’t care a lot for his characters
for the most part.

 

Clive Owen (“Beyond Borders”) was a nice choice to play Arthur,
the leader of a small band of Sarmatian warriors that do the
bidding of Rome in England. They’ve been forced to serve Rome for
15 years and are finally on the brink of freedom after completing a
final mission, which was to protect the travel of a bishop under
the attack of English rebels living in the woods led by Merlin, the
wizard.

 

The bishop, however, breaks Rome’s promise to free Arthur and
his men of their servitude by sending them on one more mission.
They must extract a young boy the pope has a particular interest in
(no jokes, please), along with his family from a village that will
soon be under attack from the invading Saxon army.

 

Stellan Skarsgard, who looks remarkably like Geoffrey Rush with
a bad hangover, is Cerdic, who leads the Saxon army with the help
of his punk son.

 

Reluctantly, Arthur, along with his few knights including his
best friend, Lancelot (Ioan Gruffud) journey to the village, only
to find the family is unwilling to go at Rome’s bidding.

 

They also find a set of prisoners being kept in an underground
prison for being un-Christian. One of these is Guinevere (Keira
Knightley from “Pirates of the Caribbean”), who is part of Merlin’s
rebel army.

 

To save the people of the village, Arthur locks up the infidels
in their own underground prison and takes all of the people with
him to save them from the invaders. Along the way, he falls in love
with Guinevere.

 

“King Arthur” was a mediocre movie when it was called “Tears of
the Sun.” Both films have the same director, Antoine Fuqua, and the
plot similarities are undeniable.

 

Credit “King Arthur” for at least doing something different, and
occasionally interesting, with the legend. Here there is no love
triangle between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot, although the
latter two occasionally trade longing glances.

 

Guinevere herself is not a damsel in distress. Rather, she’s a
fierce warrior donning “Braveheart” make-up and a sexy leather belt
bra in the film’s final battle.

 

By my estimation, the film is really only interested in a few of
its characters, but is content to make them only mildly deeper than
wading pool shallow. Why waste time on character development when a
rousing action sequence will do?

 

“King Arthur’s” battles are boring for the most part, but at
least Fuqua does not rely too much on CGI for effect like other
films we’ve seen (yes, you, “Troy”). But action fans may be
disappointed in that the bloodshed in the battles is kept to a
PG-13 level.

 

The film’s highlight is a battle on an iced-over body of water
with Arthur and his men, Guinevere being one, take on a sect of the
Saxon army. It’s an exciting battle, even if the scene is slightly
preposterous.

 

Knightley’s Guinevere is the only character worth caring about,
and the talented actress is continuing to prove herself as an
up-and-comer. Owen gives Arthur a macho-man hard edge, but the
script gives the actor little to work with.

 

Epic battle films appear to be all the rage this year, with
Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” still to come, and moviegoers may find
themselves becoming burned out on the genre.

 

“King Arthur” may speed up the process.

 

 

 

EPPLER’S RATING:

 

 

 

 

 

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