Toon Talk: King Arthur
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Disney Film & Video Reviews by Kirby C. Holt
Round Table Redux
Rivaling the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Tarzan, the legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table have endured cinematic interpretations ranging from the good (Excalibur) to the bad (Quest for Camelot), including such diversions musical (Camelot), comedic (Monty Python and the Holy Grail) and family friendly (Disney's own animated The Sword in the Stone). One would think that the well had been drained long ago for any fresh take on the tales, yet along comes King Arthur, whose gimmick is that it is based on the historical figures who supposedly inspired such legends in the first place.
Pushing the story back from Medieval times to the Dark Ages, this film (directed by Antoine Fuqua with an stultifying solemnity similar to his over-rated-B-movie-hiding-behind-an-A-list-star, Training Day) strips away the more fantastical and romantic aspects of the legend, such as Merlin's magic and the Arthur-Guinevere-Lancelot love triangle; yet, while it still retains such iconic images as the Round Table and Excalibur, what remains is rather bleak, with muddied extras and gloomy landscapes reminiscent of the two films it obviously is aspiring very hard to be, Braveheart and Gladiator, and frenetic battle sequences that ape the style of Saving Private Ryan yet still pale in comparison to the epic sweep of those found in the recent Lord of the Rings trilogy.
On the eve of the end of Roman rule over Britain, the elite fighting squad of knights, under the leadership of Arthur (Clive Owen, who, if the rumors are correct, at least proves here that he's got the action chops to take on the role of one Bond, James Bond), finds themselves at a crossroads: whether to return to their lives that they left before their indentured service, or to continue to fight together against the impending threat of the Saxons, (lead by an almost unrecognizable Stellan Skarsgard, of Good Will Hunting fame, enouncing his lines in a basso profundo voice that is almost as laughable as his fierce ponytails) a brutal warrior race bloodthirsty for conquest. And although they are a ragtag lot (including 102 Dalmatians' Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot, Ella Enchanted's Hugh Dancy as Galahad, Star Wars-Episode II's Joel Edgerton as Gawain and that Sexy Beast himself, Ray Winstone as the big lug Bors), there's still enough chivalry amongst them to band together for the common good, even though the odds are against them.