Any romance that may have been was replaced with a rather abrupt (though no less annoying) sex scene. And Lancelot, who is interested in Guinevere, is content to sneak a peak at her bathing, David-and-Bathsheba style. Although the knights are infused with certain individual traits, the film’s characterization, like its plot, is slender. The best of the lot is Owen, who is highly credible as Arthur, and Stellen Skarsgård, as the Saxon’s merciless leader aka Willie Nelson.

The most objectionable part of the film is its depiction of Christianity. Without a doubt, the church had already become corrupt by the fifth century and had plenty of villainous leaders. But Fuqua takes this to an extreme. All of the Christian monks and bishops are portrayed as ineffectual, self-serving and evil; even the barbarians are less barbaric than the Christians. The only upright believer, Arthur, keeps his faith to himself and allows his men, pagans every one, to mock Christians, his faith and even his God – without a word of defense. Though Arthur does pray for strength and bargains with God, trying to persuade God to take his life and spare his men, Arthur is a devout follower of Pelagius.

This is certainly a realistic historical element, for Pelagius had many followers. But his teachings, which were grounded in Stoicism, denied the existence of original sin (Pelagius taught that Adam had merely set a bad example) and grace (he believed that any redemption through Jesus Christ came by instruction and example, nothing more). This teaching pitted him against church father Augustine, but was eventually deemed so heretical that Pelagius was excommunicated. His teachings, which continue to proliferate in philosophy and other religions, are called “the Pelagian heresies.” In other terms, Pelagius was a liberal – only back then, liberals got kicked out of the church.

That Arthur is portrayed as a Pelagian, therefore, only underscores the film’s anti-Christian slant. Oh, and did I mention that Arthur also weds the pagan Guinivere?  Like I said, postmodern.

The cinematography is dominated by deep blues and grays, with nothing outstanding, and the editing at times appears choppy. Overall, this “untold true story that inspired the legend” is not only uninspiring, but it adds little to the body of work that comprises the Arthurian legends. For something far better, see the 1981 “Excalibur,” which is based on Malory’s version of the story.
 

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