Roman cavalryman, Artorius Castus (Arthur), leads a small band of fierce and loyal Sarmatian soldiers who are due to be released from service after 15 years of fighting. However, before receiving their freedom, they are sent on a potentially suicidal mission to rescue an important Roman family before the invading Saxons can reach them. Reluctantly accepting their orders, Arthur and his knights discover that the man they have been sent to rescue is oppressing the serfs of his land on the pretence of them opposing God. Taking the family and all the serfs with them, they begin their journey South to safety before the Saxons can attack.
King Arthur (2004) – Director: Antoine Fuqua
Running Length: 126 mins
Starring: Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Stellan Skarsgård
‘King Arthur’ is designed to be a historically accurate account of the ‘true story’ of King Arthur which is believed to have taken place around 1000 years earlier than the legend, according to recent archaeological finds. Instead of being medieval knights, Arthur (or Artorius) and his men are Roman cavalrymen. Merlin and Guinevere are Woads and the main enemies are the Saxons, although that said the Roman’s are hardly their allies. Arthur’s men are all Sarmatian – a nation who, in a pact with Rome, agreed to allow their young men to spend 15 years of their lives fighting for the Romans. With freedom at their fingertips, the suicide mission that Arthur and the knights are sent on shows how little they are thought of by their superiors.
While it was universally panned by critics, ‘King Arthur’ is actually quite a good film. The exploration of the Roman/Sarmatian history is very interesting and the skill of the knights makes for several exciting action sequences. The main criticisms of the movie are really the unconvincing Clive Owen and Keira Knightly. Owen, while looking the part, is unable to carry a role which requires a great deal of gravitas. Knightly, who isn’t introduced until the final third of the movie, seems virtually pointless. There is no chemistry between the two of them and, although she wears a very on-trend bikini top, the ‘tough woman’ act is incredibly forced and a little tiresome. Also, the unnecessary epic battle at the end of the movie ruins the subtlety of the rest of the movie. Generally ‘King Arthur’ is an entertaining movie which connects the interesting history of the Roman empire with the much-loved legend of Arthur and his brave knights.
IS ‘KING ARTHUR’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?
Due to the time period of when the movie is set, the violence involves sword fighting and bows and arrows. This is mostly dealt with via quick camera cuts and while an arrow or sword is often seen to hit, blood and gore is kept to a minimum. There are two references to rape; one of which is a joke between a male and female character where the male expresses concern for the woman’s safety to which she replies, ‘don’t worry, I won’t let them rape you’ (this is included in the trailer but has been reworded to take make it more family friendly). The other is a woman being attacked by a man as she lies on the floor screaming and trying to fight him off. The man is ordered to leave her alone but her safety isn’t guaranteed.
There are also several torture references, although they aren’t too explicit. A man is tied with his arms above his head and is clearly being starved and beaten on a regular basis. Shortly afterwards, the knights discover a hut which has been sealed from the inside and contains pagans who are being tortured and starved to death. Several emaciated bodies are shown but torture is only mentioned in the dialogue and not shown on-screen. One character says ‘they tortured me, with machines’ but does not go into further detail although their fingers are broken which have to be reset; this causes them to cry out in pain.
There is quite a lot of sexual content which is mostly in the dialogue. One character talks about their endowment and describes it as ‘a baby’s arm holding an apple’. There is some banter between the knights; one in particular jokes about sleeping with another’s wife, saying that some of their children look like him. One male character watches a female character as she is bathed. There is some nudity here but nothing too explicit. There is also a sex scene towards the end where a man and a woman kiss passionately and begin to remove each other’s clothes. This scene lasts a few minutes.
CAN I SEE A CLIP?
There’s no denying that ‘King Arthur’ has its flaws, however it didn’t really deserve such bad reviews from the critics as it is perfectly entertaining and enjoyable. Kids who enjoy stories of knights and sword fighting are likely to love the action; however the sexual content may put a lot of parents off from allowing their children to watch it. We feel that ‘King Arthur’ should be appropriate for kids aged 10 and over.
- Violence: 3/5
- Emotional Distress: 3/5 (more than one established character is killed, each one is mourned and the emotional impact is moderate but relatively short)
- Fear Factor: 3/5 (the references to torture may be quite disturbing for children who are unaware of this concept as it is dealt with in an adult way. The ruthlessness of the Saxons may also be quite distressing for younger children)
- Sexual Content: 4/5
- Bad Language: 3/5 (moderate cursing at the beginning of the movie, this is significantly reduced after the first 20 minutes)
- Dialogue: 4/5 (references to torture and rape)
- Other notes: Deals with themes of fighting for freedom, loyalty, questioning authority if it is seen to be cruel, protecting the weak and doing the right thing even if it isn’t easy.
Words by Laura Record
It's got a round table, some knights, and a noble warrior who rises to become King Arthur, but everything else about this revisionist legend is pure Hollywood. That's not such a bad thing if you enjoyed Rob Roy, Braveheart, Gladiator and Troy, and there's some intriguing potential in presenting the "real" Arthur (played by Clive Owen) as a 5th-century soldier of Rome, assigned to defend Roman-imperial England against a hoard of invading Saxons (led by Stellan Skarsgard in hairy villain mode). As revamped history and "archaeological findings" would have us believe, Guinevere (Keira Knightley) is a warrior babe in face-paint and Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd) is a nonentity who fades into the woodwork. Never mind. Best to enjoy the harsh, gloomy atmosphere of Irish locations, the ruggedness of Owen and his hearty supporting cast, and the entertaining nonsense of a Jerry Bruckheimer production that strips battle-ready Guinevere down to leather-strap S&M gear while all the men sport full-body armour. Hail to the queen, indeed. --Jeff Shannon