King Arthur (2004)

This is an interesting film.  Fuqua does not take the “Pete and Repeat” attitude like others before him have done.  He doesn’t stick completely to the most recognized and overdone Arthurian narrative, and while I commend him for taking the narrative road less traveled (because Arthurian tales DO vary), I also have to say that what Fuqua did to the essence of the Arthurian tales is an abominable.   I say this, firstly, because of the final battle scene between Arthur’s Knights and the Saxons.  As we were watching this bloody and gratuitously violent scene, D asked me who I thought would win between the Saxon King and Lancelot and I said, of course, Lancelot does not die. Neither does Gawain!

But, of course, they do die. They die ’til they are dead.  And Lancelot and Gawain are two of the most awesome knights Arthur has! 

And while Fuqua makes a sickeningly obvious attempt to show sexual tension between Guinevere and Lancelot, it doesn’t do much good considering he kills him off WAY too early to cause any problems for Arthur & Guinevere’s domestic bliss!  Ahh, the horror!  The horror!

There are three battle scenes, “thoughtfully” placed at the beginning, middle, and end. The first one goes on forever and is way too much, just like the last one. The middle one is fair-to-midling.  The endless slaughter is so…Braveheart

And, speaking of Braveheart, turns out in Fuqua’s narrative, Guinevere is of the Scottish clans AND is a top-notch marksman, especially when she is wearing the Clan’s standard bikini push-up top and is painted blue for battle.

It was a decent movie to watch, but as far as overall critical enjoyability, I at least wouldn’t rank it lower than Troy in terms of narrative inconsistencies between it and the literary tradition, but it isn’t ranked much higher. I will say that Clive Owen is more convincing  as Arthur than Brad Pitt ever was as Achilles. And another highlight was Ray Stevenson, who played the knight Dagonet (anyone remember that one from the Arthuriad???):  he played Titus Pullo in my beloved Rome…oh, bring it back HBO, bring it back!

Oh, and before I forget:  the film was about the most obvious propaganda I’ve seen for the spreading of British-American “democracy” EVER!  Arthur brought Freedom to the Britons: Freedom at a very high cost.

6 thoughts on “King Arthur (2004)

  1. WAIT! You’re in the wrong tradition.

    The story isn’t based on the Arthurian legend we all know, with the round table and all, but on historically accurate stories of the clan wars and the reign of the warrior kings in Ireland. It’s these stories they think the Arthurian legends grew out of.

    So, what Fuqua did in this movie was take those legends and provide a more historically-rooted reinterpretation of how things would have logically worked out, minus the mythical Camelot and Merlin and dragons. Okay, I don’t actually know if there were dragons in the Arthurian legends, but I know that it’s about as historically accurate as if there were.

    This was actually something that left both critics and audiences confused when the film first came out and people expected the familiar Sword in the Stone story. This sort of made a lot of nerds unhappy when the film first came out, but Keira Knightley did a ton of press for the film talking about how she was pleased to be playing a character who was based on the ways we know women were treated in the warrior clans native to the U.K. and Ireland. Although, historically speaking, Guinevere probably would have been offered in marriage to Arthur as part of the agreement for teaming up with her clan.

  2. The thing is that the basic fundamentals of the Arthurian legend grew up in a lot of different cultures: in France (see Chretien de Trois), in Briton (see Thomas Malory and the old stanzic poems), I believe even in Germany, etc. But Fuqua still injected the typical parts of the “traditional” literary traditions, like the sword in the stone, the trifecta of love, etc. I’m sure there are accuracies in his presentation of the clans, etc. But all I’m saying is that he included those “expected” elements from Arthuriana in there but at the same time also shat on them, and that makes things unbelievable. I mean, there are so many variations on the stories that making one “enduring and true” narrative would be impossible, though we’ve come to expect a particular narrative with Arthur because they’re also found in the literary tradition. If Fuqua really wanted to go from another and “truer” and historically accurate angle, he shouldn’t have injected those expected literary elements because they conflicted in the film. All I’m saying is don’t have Lancelot flirting with Guinevere if you’re only going to have him die before their romance blossoms. Lancelot, in many tales, goes on to live to be a very old man. And Gawain has many adventures, gets married, etc. I read a lot of these tales in a class devoted entirely to the Arthuriana, by the way. I’m not saying I’m an expert, but I’m also not a dilettante.

    I think all directors who are making quasi-historical films are going to try to justify their actions with “history.” But that doesn’t mean that their film reflects the collective consciousness of how we have interpreted history for centuries based on the literary tradition. One of the things that bothers me about these “historical” films is that when people see them, they assume that’s how it actually happened, because why would a director make an historical-like film and NOT make it accurate? Especially when they get the actors to talk it up? That’s just to get people to watch it and suspend their disbelief more. Troy is case and point. But now the story of the fall of Troy has entered the collective consciousness through the masses’ gulliblility when watching the film Troy, and not because they’ve actually read the Iliad or other classical Greek tales and histories.

    That’s basically my point about the film King Arthur. If we read the literary tradition and we watch the various filmed interpretations, then we can at least have a better understanding of accuracy and inaccuracy. Fuqua, while trying to make a more historically accurate film, has also butchered the literary tradition. Now, which one is more correct, we’ll never know. I’m going with the literary tradition since my background is literature, not history.

  3. Pshaw, whatever. The fact remains that King Arthur is a piece of wet crap and isn’t worth a tinker’s shit compared to John Boorman’s great (if admittedly plodding) Excalibur. Now there’s an Arthur film.

    Also, hellz yeah for bringing back Rome. Keep the dream alive!

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