King Arthur is a 2004 action film directed by Antoine Fuqua (Shooter). It stars Clive Owen as the title character, and follows him as a Roman knight, who, after serving 15 years, is finally to become a free man. Before he is able to accept his dispatch papers, he is told by a bishop that the Pope has ordered him and his knights to complete one final mission. They must find a family, and bring them to safety. Reluctantly, he accepts, and the knights soon set out into what is said to be certain death.
King Arthur is said to be historically accurate, as there have supposedly been new findings in regards to the legend. Now, I’m not an expert on the legend myself, and have only barely heard of it, so I can’t refute these claims. I can however say that the film does lack excitement. I was under the impression that Arthur’s tale was one of exciting battles. A character in the film even remarks at one point that Arthur has never been defeated in battle. So, why then is there only one real battle in the entire film? I would have hoped that there would have been more excitement than we are actually given.
Instead, the film attempts to be more of a drama than anything else, with characters mostly just talking while riding on horseback. There isn’t anything wrong with that on its own, as dramas can often times be just as exciting as any action film. What does become a problem is the fact that most of the dialogue seems way too forced for its own good. Characters don’t often talk to each other, but more often have long speeches that are only vaguely directed at the person they should be talking to. These go on for far too long and happen too often to keep the attention of the audience.
While the film doesn’t lack substance, it does lack reason to really care for all of the characters. Arthur’s knights all seem to be present, and the film actually attempts to build them up from the beginning. This doesn’t really work well, as even by the end, some of them still don’t really have names, and apart from Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd) and Bors (Ray Winstone), they might as well just be extras. Speaking of Lancelot, we are told that he and Arthur are best friends, and often clash against one another. We actually never find out what purpose he has, except for occasionally questioning Arthur’s motives, and being involved in a poorly thought out love-triangle.
Said love-triangle is between Lancelot, Arthur and Guinevere (Keira Knightley). Arthur rescues Guinevere from someone mid-way through the film, and the two end up becoming close to one another. Done only through glances to one another, there is a hint of something else going on between Guinevere and Lancelot. That’s the only way it is hinted at though, and nothing actually comes of it. It ends up being nothing but a story device to make you hope that something interesting will happen, but nothing ever does.
If nothing else, the acting is pretty good on the whole. Clive Owen makes a pretty good Arthur, while Keira Knightley does a good job portraying Guinevere. It’s just too bad that you never really care about any of the characters, so the good acting usually ends up going to waste. Had there been more back-story to them, or if they actually talked like normal people, they might have been slightly relatable. As they are, they’re cardboard, nothing characters, and it would be a welcome sight to see them killed off. It would at least add some actual drama to the story. Without wanting to give anything major away, none of the death scenes really resonated, at least, not with me. They almost came off as silly, and by the end of the film, I was actually cheering for the bad guys to win, just to see the people who we’ve seen for the past 2 hours finally be defeated.
King Arthur is a film that tried hard to be something great, and ended up being just mediocre. A lot of effort went into making you care about the characters, but these efforts go to waste. The dialogue feels unnatural, and plays out more like multiple speeches used in a debate than anything else. There aren’t even many real action scenes to hold your interest throughout. There is one actual large-scale battle, and the other action scenes are just boring. It’s a shame, as the acting is on the whole fairly good. It’s just too bad that can’t save King Arthur from being too boring to be entertaining.