|The legend of King Arthur is a tale whose various filmmakers over the past century have twisted and turned the tale into any number of directions from introducing time-travel into the story (in the form of a Connecticut Yankee) to magical elements (through any number of movies featuring Merlin the magician). Director Antoine Fuqua has interpreted the mythical tale of King Arthur with an emphasis on reality rather than fantasy and through gritty depictions of early British life, brings to the screen a beautiful film with strong elements in all areas of the film.|
Regarding the acting, the casting of the film was handled very well, with Clive Owen giving a passionate and burning performances in the title role as King Arthur, playing the man in a complex and rugged light. The film's writer, David Franzoni (he also penned the like themed Gladiator and is currently involved in the in-development Hannibal project), looks to have been intent on creating a film whose characters lived, breathed, and underwent great struggles just to stay alive. But rather than drag the film into a depression, the powerful cast makes the characters' struggles a story worth seeing to its conclusion.
Walking hand in hand with the idea of reality that blankets the film, the costuming of the film is both an intricate and an earthy depiction of early British "fashion." The costuming of each of the characters becomes a virtual extension their temperaments by costume designer Penny Rose. Of course, it's questionable how historically accurate star Keira Knightly's belly-baring, skimpy leather ensemble is (she plays a Guinevere who is rather handy with a bow and arrow) and in traditional fashion the costumes are created with an emphasis on showing off the female bodies and bulking up the male physique.
But this traditional angle on costuming far from damns the film. The costumes are, without exception, beautiful creations and it probably only helps the cause that the casting was accomplished with the same strength and beauty as the costuming. In addition to Clive Owen's wieldy performance as Arthur, joining him at the round table is a significant amount of acting weight. Ioan Gruffudd, playing the conflicted Lancelot, plays the character with the benefit of more back-story than the characters in various Arthur films have been able to rely on for their performances.
One of the most interesting angles this film undertakes is the way the story has been constructed with historical accuracy trumping the traditional element of magic. The film begins not on the field of battle with Arthur or with the magic of Merlin influencing the future king, but in a distant Eastern European village from where the Knights of the Round Table were collected during youth for service in the Roman Empire. The audience is treated to a part of British history that's never been discussed on film before, and which has probably never been included in a film about King Arthur.
Beyond the sturdy historically based script, the film is always an affecting story because of the well-written dialogue and the performers who use the writer's words. Although there is a serious lack of comedy in the movie (sometimes this can benefit even the most solemn story), this film is usually able to overcome that weakness by keeping its story a swiftly moving one both in terms of drama and plot. The filmmakers have ventured into the story of Arthur and his knights with an idea of presenting the fable as, "you've never seen it before" (an oft used tag-line in films that are remakes or popular topics).
The film is a success in all the risks that it takes and is complimented by excellence not only in its performances and story, but in elements such as cinematography and score as well. As befits an historical epic, cinematographer Slawomir Idziak takes great advantage of the vistas afforded by rural Ireland and Wales (the filming locations). Also complimenting the film well is the musical score that comes out of Hans Zimmer's factory of composers, his team's efforts giving the film the strong and substantial musical component the film needs and viewers expect of a film that has many battle sequences and a larger-than-life hero.
King Arthur is an exciting and well-made film whose creators should feel proud of the fact that they've taken a tale that's been told in so many ways in the past century and turned it into a consistently attention-grabbing film. Calling the film, "solid," would be an accurate description, but it leaps beyond the potential mediocrity of a film that simply hits the mark. Boasting a talented cast and strong direction, Antoine Fuqua's King Arthur is a provoking and gripping experience on the big screen, well worth seeing in the theater.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.