The Director's Cut, Director's Cut
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Now, from the producer of PEARL HARBOR and the director of TRAINING DAY . . . experience the extended unrated director's cut of this hard-hitting action epic! Prepare for more thrills, more adventure, and more intensity as the heroic true story behind one of history's greatest legends explodes onto the screen! It is the valiant tale of Arthur (Clive Owen) and his bond of brotherhood with Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd) and the loyalty of the Knights Of The Round Table as they fight for freedom and those they love. Also starring Keira Knightley as Guinevere, this never-before-seen KING ARTHUR is a longer, grittier, and more explicit motion picture -- don't miss it!
The 15 extra minutes of footage in the unrated extended cut of King Arthur mostly add more graphic violence such as severed limbs, spattering blood, and arrows through heads (instead of torsos in the theatrical version). It doesn't all seem necessary, but it probably is more realistic for depicting combat with sharp metal objects. There are also some new scenes, including a glimpse of the young Arthur and a conversation between Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd) and Guinevere (Keira Knightley). The love scene is the same, but it's been moved just slightly to a more logical yet less satisfying spot in the film. Oddly, in his commentary track director Antoine Fuqua doesn't even break his various trains of thought to discuss these additions, other than to complain about how he had to edit his R-rated film to earn a PG-13 rating ("I wanted to slit my throat I was so depressed."). Fuqua is usually pretty interesting to listen to, partly because of his political viewpoints, and he draws parallels in his film with nation-building in Iraq and how minorities make up a disproportionate portion of the U.S. military. He also discusses his influences, provides more historical perspective (Knightley's leather battle outfit could actually be considered conservative), and heaps praise on his collaborators.
The making-of documentary and "round table" (ha ha) discussion among the principals (Fuqua, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Clive Owen, and Keira Knightley, and others) are worth watching for their behind-the-scenes info and historical background, respectively. There's also a grimmer alternate ending, a sporadic subtitled trivia track (low point: "An ambush is a sudden attack made from a concealed position"), and a demo for the hack 'n' slash Xbox game. --David HoriuchiSee all Editorial Reviews
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I really cannot understand all the negative press this movie has received. Historical evidence (as presented in a quite excellent History channel documentary recently) proves that King Arthur was most likely a Roman general who did band together with the native Britons in fighting off the invading Saxons.
The traditional story that Hollywood has brainwashed the movie-going public into believing is total drivel. Arthur was not a figure of the middle ages, he was not an Anglo-Saxon and there was no magical sword in the stone. For years I have felt disdain for the manner in which the English have claimed King Arthur as their own - here at last is a movie that goes some way to setting the record straight. One really should not forget that the warriors from Brittany who sailed with Norman the Conqueror sang and celebrated King Arthur as their hero, someone who had fought to protect the Britons from the invading Saxon hordes.
Another criticism leveled at this movie is the presentation of Guinevere as a warrior woman. However this is also historically accurate as explained by actress Keira Knightley in both the "Making of..." documentary and the roundtable discussion (included as part of this impressive DVD set). Women often were quite capable warriors and it was not until about five centuries later that they faded into historical obscurity. Was it not after all a Briton warrior queen who caused Rome so much concern in the earlier centuries of the first millennium?
What we have here is a thoroughly entertaining, informative and dramatic recounting of the inspiration for the Arthur legend. Arthur himself is a half Briton, half Roman who takes command of a group of Samatian (sp?) cavalrymen guarding Hadrians Wall (historical evidence also points to this being an accurate account). With news of an invasion to the north by the Saxons Arthur and his men are sent to retrieve a Roman family and transport them back to safety. What follows is an epic struggle to survive and a growing awareness by Arthur as to his Briton heritage.
I really enjoyed this movie and I also think the DVD is exceptionally well done. The highlight of the special features in my opinion is the roundtable discussion which includes the major actors as well as the writer, director and producer. They discuss the historical accuracy of the movie as well as the challenges in bringing it to the screen. There is also a (rather fluffy) making of documentary, an audio commentary and a (rather lame) trivia track. Overall though this movie is an impressive achievement.
NOTE TO MR. GEORGE: Most of the evidence quoted comes from the aforementioned History Channel documentary on King Arthur as well as material covered in the DVD for which this is a review. I am also at a loss to understand where your assertion that I have a disdain for the English comes from - since I am part English myself.
The fight sequences would have been exhilarating, if only the characters had been compelling. But they're not. They're neither convincing as human beings, nor in the least bit interesting. In particular, the ice fight is visually stunning. But it doesn't make sense. Why would you walk down the centre of a frozen lake, where the ice is thinner and you're further away from safety? And why is Keira Knightley wearing next to nothing when there's snow falling? Well, apart from the obvious reasons.
So much for the movie. The packaging proclaims that this is "The Untold True Story That Inspired the Legend." That's a logical fallacy, of course-if it was untold in the fifth century, how can it have come to light now? But is it a plausible piece of historical fiction? The answer, unfortunately, is No.
I don't want to be accused of being an encyclopedia freak or anything like that; but equally, I don't think that knowing something about history and legend should disqualify a person from holding and defending an opinion about a work of art that purports to be historically accurate.
The screenwriter and director of this movie have attempted a snow-job on the movie-going public. They profess to tell the "true story" of King Arthur, and that is simply not what they do. And it doesn't matter how many times Keira Knightley says in interviews "This is historically accurate." It isn't. I don't mind movies that are historically inaccurate. But movies that are marketed on one assumption and then deliver something else is simply a lie. And that's what this film is--a lie.
The rest of my comments address the more serious historical blunders of David Franzoni and Atoine Fuqua. If you're not interested in the historical background, son't read any further.
The film's prologue states that "Historians agree that the classical 15th century tale of King Arthur and his knights rose from a real hero who lived a thousand years earlier in a period called the Dark Ages. Recently discovered archaeological evidence sheds light on his true identity." Of course, anyone baldly stating that "historians agree" on anything from the results of Agincourt to the colour of an orange obviously doesn't know historians. They disagree wildly about whether there ever was any original of King Arthur. David Dumville, for example, claims there was not; Leslie Alcock (an archaeologist, not historian) is an agnostic; Geoffrey Ashe has argued in favour of an historical Arthur, but changed his identification in the 1980s; many historians don't care. And the legend of King Arthur is not 15th century. The earliest legendary accounts (as opposed to historical accounts) of Arthur date to perhaps the ninth century, perhaps the tenth. Sir Thomas Malory wrote his highly influential book Le Morte d'Arthur in the fifteenth century, of course-but that's not what the moviemakers say.
The movie seems to be based on a book by Linda Malcor and Scott Littleton called From Scythia to Camelot, in which it is argued that the legends were inspired by Lucius Artorius Castus, a commander of Sarmatian auxiliary cavalry stationed on Hadrian's Wall in the third century. This is possible-some Sarmatian legends do show a similarity to, for example, the story of the Grail. But the legend of these cavalry auxiliaries bears very little resemblance to the story of Arthur, so screenwriter David Franzoni took the Sarmatian Cavalry idea and transported it anachronistically into the fifth century. Unfortunately, it doesn't fit there.
The film is set in the year 452, and in one scene Bishop Germanus talks about the imminent withdrawal of Roman troops from Britain. The Romans withdrew from Britain in 410. It is possible, perhaps, as a number of historians have suggested, that native British soldiers stayed behind and organized a defence against the incursions of the Angles, Saxons, and Jutes from Germany, the Picts from Scotland and the Scotti from Ireland. But after 410, neither of the emperors nor the Pope had any right or ability to recall these legions, if there were any. The highly-organized Roman system we see in the film is therefore hugely anachronistic, especially the garrison on the Wall itself, which, as the northernmost extreme of the Empire, was the first part to be abandoned.
The barbarian raids, incidentally, were hardly the full-scale and well-organized (and financed, according to one line in the movie) invasion imagined in the movie. They began (according to tradition) in 449, were brought to a full but temporary halt in about 500 (perhaps by Arthur at the battle of Badon Hill), then resumed throughout the latter part of the sixth century until the Britons had been driven back into Cornwall, Wales, Cumbria, and Brittany. The idea that the Saxons were thoroughly and decisively trounced once is absurd, especially since the movie's time scheme suggests that all the events depicted occurred within a few weeks. That's the kind of telescoping of historical events that Shakespeare indulged in, to great artistic achievement, but that's not what the moviemakers promised with this film. They promised the "true story."
Some of the characters are historical-Pelagius and Germanus, for example. Lancelot could never have been a real person-he was invented by a Swiss poet called Ulrich von Zatzikhoven in the late twelfth century. Gawain's name, of course, is anachronistic-his name in the earliest Arthurian stories is Gwalchmei. Similarly for Guinevere, whose earliest recorded name is Gwenhwyfar. That Galahad should be a historical character is ridiculous-he was invented by an anonymous author in the early thirteenth century specifically as a knight on a quest for the Holy Grail. Merlin may have been a real historical character, a bard of the sixth century (not fifth, and not contemporary with Arthur) whose name, in reality, would have been Myrddin. it was changed to Merlin by Geoffrey of Monmouth in about 1138 to avoid the unpleasant associations with the French word merde. So half the characters don't belong in the particular historical milieu that the moviemakers tried to portray.
Then there are things that are just uncomfortable. All the harping on freedom, for example-a concept that was meaningless in most pre-American Revolution societies. They had, instead, an idea of the rightness of one's role in life-to them, freedom didn't mean living without the dominion of overlord, or voting rights, or whatever the screenwriter meant. Freedom in the Dark and Middle Ages meant living one's proper and assigned role in life. When the characters speak of freedom in this movie, they just look like their costumes don't fit properly.
All of this would be forgivable if the film was self-proclaimed as a fantasy, or if it were not incompetently directed, written and, in many cases, acted. Unfortunately, it is garbage from the opening moment to the closing. The movie absorbed two hours of my life, that I'd really very much like to get back and do something useful with.
Incidentally, the narration at the beginning and the end of the movie is by Lancelot. How? He dies at the end. Or is it perhaps just a wannabe Lancelot, like the wannabe-director Antoine Fuqua and the wannabe-scriptwriter? This is absolutely the worst Arthurian film I've ever seen; and I've seen "Sword of the Valiant."