Release Date:  July 7, 2004
Rating:  PG-13 (for intense battle sequences, a scene of sensuality and some language)
Genre:  Action/Adventure/Drama
Run Time:  137 minutes
Director:  Antoine Fuqua
Actors: Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffud, Mad Mikkelson, Kiera Knightley, Joel Edgerton, Hugh Dancey
 
Director Antoine Fuqua (“Tears of the Sun,” “Training Day”) serves up a thoroughly postmodern “King Arthur” that shuns the beloved legend of Camelot for a more politically correct retelling of the ancient myth.

Lucius Artorius Castus (Clive Owen) is a righteous and courageous Roman commander responsible for protecting the Roman-occupied lands of Britain in 452 A.D. His faithful knights are Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen), Bors (Ray Winstone), Gawain (Joel Edgerton), Galahad (Hugh Dancy), and Dagonet (Ray Stevenson), all Samaritans who are serving their final days of servitude to the Roman army, in exchange for peace with their people.

After 15 years of fighting, the men are ready to go home. But Bishop Germanius (Ivano Marescotti) decides to send the knights on a final suicide mission. Before Germanius will grant the men their freedom, they must rescue his godson, who will otherwise be slaughtered by the advancing Saxon army, a ruthless killing machine. To succeed, however, they may be forced to ally with their enemy, the native Woads, whose mysterious leader is named Merlin (Stephen Dillane).

When most people think of Arthur, they think of Camelot. But that version of the story is but one of many, and it evolved during centuries of literature. In fact, the real Arthur may not even have been named Arthur at all. History tells us only that a brave Celtic chieftain who lived during the sixth century held off the fearful Saxons, saving his people. Since the 10th century, poets and writers have told the story, each shaping it around the zeitgeist, the spirit of the times.

During the 12th century, William of Malmesbury made Arthur a national figure in his “Chronicles of the Kings of England.” The poetry of Wace gave us the Round Table and Arthur’s tragic death. French poet Chrétien de Troyes crafted the story into narrative form. He was also the first to romanticize the exploits of individual knights, including the well-known “Lancelot,” which chronicled his adulterous love for Queen Guinevere. Other tales include “The Brut,” the first of the legends told in English, and many German retellings. The best-known, however, remain Sir Thomas Malory’s English classic, “Le Morte d’Arthur” (1485) and especially, “Idylls of the King” by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, which placed responsibility for the failure of the Round Table – and the quest for the holy grail – on the adultery of Lancelot and Guinevere.

Fuqua and writer David Franzon (“Gladiator”) bypass the ancient myths and create a new one fashioned after the spirit of our times – postmodernity – where do-it-yourself faith and feminism are the hallmarks. A disappointment on many levels, “King Arthur” consists of mostly fighting, all of it vicious and violent (though apparently not enough to warrant an R rating). Fuqua also offers a grrrrl twist, with Guinevere (Kiera Knightly) portrayed as a Woad who dons paint and a skimpy warrior bikini to fight foes alongside the knights. She even says to Lancelot, “Don’t worry. I won’t let them rape you” – the one humorous line in the film.