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King Arthur (2004)

Imagine the King Arthur of legend as a brooding Roman general, the Knights of the Round Table as a bunch of Russian roughnecks, and a snarling, ferocious Guinevere enthusiastically kicking Saxon butt.

This is Camelot, Jim, but not as we know it.

This latest version of the perennial cinematic legend breaks all the rules. Lancelot does no more than gaze longingly at Guinevere, while she makes all the serious moves in getting Arthur's attention, and Merlin is a grizzled old war leader, without a pointed hat or a magic wand in sight.

This new interpretation is based on the only historically acceptable mention of Arthur, a Roman general of the same name. Arthur is a Roman name (from Arturus, the bear) and so it seems likely that any historical figure with a claim to be the real Arthur would at least have Roman connections. This Arthur, played by Clive Owens, is the son of a Roman and a British native woman. He has no divided loyalties, and is more in love with his vision of Rome than his mother's homeland.

His knights are a motley collection of Samartians (from Russia) press ganged into Roman service. Lancelot, as presented here, would no more cuckold his commander than saw off his own sword arm.

Looking forward to freedom after fifteen years of doing the Roman's dirty work, the knights are forced into one last mission, rescuing a Roman dignitary and his son from the advancing Saxon hordes.

The Romans are about to quit Britain, leaving the blue painted natives to the mercies of the Saxon invaders. Arthur also manages to rescue Guinevere, who turns out to be the daughter of Merlin, and a trained warrior.

Guinevere is played by Keira Knightley, who is fast becoming cinema's It Girl, and she looks very looks fetching in blue paint and scraps of leather. But more importantly, she delivers the best Guinevere even seen on screen. If you are sick of simpering Guineveres, swooning all over Lancelot, Knightley is what you've been waiting for.

As King Arthur, Clive Owen looks the goods, but in his zeal to present us with a new concept, he unfortunately jettisons some of the qualities the late, lamented Richard Harris used to such great effect in Camelot mainly humor, and a touch of whimsey.

With the scent of battle in his flaring nostrils, and astride a fine horse, Owen is more than adequate. But he's a dead loss in the love scenes. There is no chemistry between his Arthur and Knightley's Guinevere at all. In fact, she seems totally wasted on this emotionally challenged war lord.

Maybe she would have been better off with Lancelot after all.

I paid for this DVD with my own funds.

Get the movie at Amazon:

King Arthur

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