On July 7th, 2004, the adventure film King Arthur was released into theaters. Rather than showing a traditional portrayal of the fabled king of legend, Arthur (Clive Owen) is shown here as a Roman officer in the waning years of the Roman Empire, with his “knights” of the Round Table (Bors, Gawain, Lancelot, Tristan, Galahad and Dagonet) being fellow officers under his command.
For the last fifteen years, Arthur and his fellow soldiers have been guarding Hadrian’s Wall and preventing the Woads from crossing into Roman territory. However, now that Rome is officially abandoning Britain, they all expect to receive their freedom (as their length of service to Rome is set to expire the very next day). However, at the last possible moment, Bishop Germanus arrives and insists that Arthur and his knights travel past the wall to rescue a wealthy Roman family, as their son is the favorite godson of the Pope. The mission is nearly suicidal in nature, but they won’t receive their freedom unless they go.
At the same time as Arthur and a company set out to rescue the Roman family, the Saxons, led by Cedric and his son Cynric, are seen landing on another coast, set to plunder and destroy as they go. In the course of the mission, Arthur rescues a Woad woman named Guinevere (Keira Knightley rocks in this role), who has been trapped alive inside a wall. Her father is a Woad chieftain named Merlin, and he desires to join forces with Arthur’s so that they can fight the coming Saxon incursion.
A lot of this film revolves around Arthur accepting who and what he really is: that he’s not really a Roman (his mother was Celtic) and that the Rome he dreams of doesn’t really exist. In the end, the Saxons are defeated and Arthur and Guinevere marry, with Arthur being proclaimed king by Merlin.
At the time this film came out, I was deeply obsessed with the legend of King Arthur and Merlin and anything remotely connected to them, so I naturally took this movie in like a sponge. I recognize now that the story is deeply flawed, but if you forget about historical accuracy (and the blatant lack thereof that exists in this film), you can spend an enjoyable two hours watching this film.
One positive the film does have is a great score composed by Hans Zimmer, who once again proved why he is a master of writing scores for action and adventure films. The music for the Woads is particularly well-done, fitting their mysterious nature.
Sadly, the film wasn’t very well-received (it’s currently rated “Rotten” at Rotten Tomatoes), which is a shame, because there are some great moments in this film, and the score as I said is another Hans Zimmer gem.If you haven’t seen this film, I recommend borrowing a copy and checking it out.
*film poster is the property of Buena Vista Pictures
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