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For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.

(Photo by Jonathan Hession. Touchstone Pictures and Jerry Bruckheimer, Inc. All rights reserved.)

photo caption:
THE GALLANT KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE OFF ON A QUEST: Arthur (Clive Owen, right) is joined in his journey by Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd, left foreground) and his other Knights of the Round Table.
end caption.

Hollywood Takes Fresh Liberties With the Legend of "King Arthur"

Review by Kam William

King Arthur has been immortalized as the chivalrous savior of sixth century Britain, even though he was never mentioned by name in any of the historical records or documents of the era. Nonetheless, centuries later, his alleged exploits, along with those of his famed Knights of the Round Table have remained the subject of mythmaking spun from the imagination of countless poets, troubadours, novelists, playwrights, and filmmakers. The fable has continued to tease the imagination of young and old alike, generation after generation.

In addition to honoring King Arthur, these tales of hope, courage, and honor typically feature Lady Guinevere, the magician Merlin, and noble knights such as Lancelot, Galahad, and Gawain. The legend has endured, despite the fact that leading scholars never agree on whether or not any of these characters ever actually existed.

Hollywood, which has already served up at least a dozen versions of the King Arthur story over the years, bills its latest version as "The untold true story which inspired the legend." However, the film fails to reveal the source of this newly discovered lore, other than from the imagination of sceenwriter David Franzoni who has "worked out a new approach to the subject matter." Note that in 2001, the same Mr. Franzoni was nominated for an Oscar for his original script for Gladiator, a work of pure fiction.

The 2004 edition of King Arthur was made by Antoine Fuqua, who directed MTV Award-winning rap videos before his very successful transition to feature films.

Fuqua's King Arthur, however, has inexplicably earned a PG-13 rating despite its savagery and sensuality. It stars Clive Owen in the title role, Ioan Gruffudd as Lancelot, Hugh Dancy as Galahad, Joel Edgerton as Gawain, and Stephen Dillane as Merlin, all of whom are overshadowed by Lady Guinevere played by Keira Knightley.

Those who may remember the chaste renditions of Guinevere delivered by Julie Andrews on Broadway and Vanessa Redgrave in the screen adaptation of Camelot, will be shocked by this edition. Forget the flowing, feminine silk dresses of yesteryear.

Ms. Knightley eschews them in favor of a tight-fitting leather bodice. This overhauled "Lady" is a sexy, sword wielding, arrow shooting warrior fearlessly defending the realm. She slays as many adversaries as any man in Arthur's army.

The best acting in this film is by Stellan Skarsgard, who is convincing as Cedric, the villainous lord of the Saxons. The worst is by Ray Winstone as Bors, a clown who is rolled out for a bit of comic relief every 15 minutes or so.

In many ways this movie tells us far more about the values and age in which we are living, than the one it pretends to be returning us to. Arthur is a reluctant warrior who yearns for peace. He agrees to wage a final war against the godless Saxons in order to ensure that Britain be forever Christian.

Good (2 stars). Rated PG-13 for intense battle scenes, sensuality, and profanity.

end of review.

For more movie summaries, see Kam's Kapsules.


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