After “Troy” sucked the gods and myth out of “The Iliad”, along comes the Bruckheimer take on “King Arthur” which tries even harder to be less mystical and more about the men and fighting than the magic and romance. The result is even more disappointing.
On its own as a sort of pseudo Dark Ages war film, it has its interesting moments but in the context of the Camelot legend, it’s a pretty dire interpretation which takes some very dubious liberties trying to make it real, and by doing so sucks much of the life out of the tale.
Considering the people involved like Bruckheimer, Fuqua and Owen one would’ve expected something with a lot more pace let alone power. The performances don’t help the matter either. Owen has a definite strength and prescence but plays it all so coldly and dim that he doesn’t so much add energy to the screen as zap it away at times.
The rest of his knights are there more for filler than anything else with only Gruffudd’s fiery Lancelot and Winstone’s oafish Bors leaving any mark. Merlin seems like an afterthought, Knightley is enjoyable but quickly turns plain in her Legolas meets Braveheart act, and Skarsgaard is pure underacting Hollywood villain with whispered threats of menace.
Fuqua’s fiery direction in “Training Day” has been utterly doused here, the man shooting scenes with very little fire or atmosphere. The misty locations of Southern England aren’t eyecatching or inspired and assorted bouts of action seem almost clumsily handled. Yet there’s some memorable scenes here including a great sequence on an ice lake, the discovery of the Roman family’s secret, and the final battle at Hadrian’s Wall.
Insanely it seems that by trying to tie the Arthur legend into reality, the writers have had to dumb down or add all sorts of stupid movie moments to try and keep our attention. It works in some ways thanks mostly to strong production design, the leads, and the odd interesting sequence.
Yet you can tell Bruckheimer and co. were desperate to make another “Braveheart” or “Gladiator”, territory they never come even close too. There’s no more reality to this take on the Arthur legend than the mystical one, and at least it was one worth remembering for centuries. This is a decent timewaster which will be forgotten immediately.