Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

King Arthur

(USA/UK/Ireland, 2004)

Interesting idea. We know that King Arthur and all that Lady in the Lake, Holy Grail, Merlin the Magician stuff is legend, not history … but what if it’s legend based on history? So that in the year 452 there really was an Arthur, a Guinevere, a Lancelot, and all the other usual suspects?

That’s the premise here, and it looks good. Talk about your Dark Ages. Rome is falling and pulling out of Briton in the face of Saxon barbarian invasions. Arthur and company are sort of indentured knights fighting for decadent Rome. Nobody asks the Britons themselves what they want, of course, they seem mostly interested in harvesting filth and painting themselves blue … and you know, it’s just not possible anymore to go over this ground without being reminded of that masterpiece, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I kept expecting a couple of the serfs to get into a discussion something like this:

OLD WOMAN: Dennis! There’s some lovely filth down here … Oh! How d’you do?
ARTHUR: How d’you do, good lady … I am Arthur, King of the Britons … can you tell me who lives in that castle?
OLD WOMAN: King of the WHO?
ARTHUR: The Britons.
OLD WOMAN: Who are the Britons?
ARTHUR: All of us are … we are all Britons … and I am your king ….
OLD WOMAN: Ooooh! I didn’t know we had a king. I thought we were an autonomous collective …
DENNIS: You’re fooling yourself. We’re living in a dictatorship. A self-perpetuating autocracy in which the working classes…
ARTHUR: (Grabbing him by the collar) Shut up, will you. Shut up!
DENNIS: Ah! NOW we see the violence inherent in the system. Help, help, I’m being oppressed!

Sorry, I just couldn’t help it. Anyway, it is the muddiest film I’ve seen since Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, but that’s good. I don’t suppose 452 was particularly clean, especially if you were a anarcho-syndicalist peasant being oppressed by a foreign dictatorship. The look of the film is quite nice, and it’s fun to see the story unfold. However, it is a Jerry Bruckheimer film, and that means a lot of extended action scenes. No problem with that, this is a story of war. But they go on too long for me and Lee, and there probably aren’t enough of them for real action movie addicts. The one at the end seems to take forever, and isn’t very believable. I must say, though, that even Lee liked the middle battle which took place on a frozen lake that was cracking beneath the warriors’ feet.

It was a cold night when we watched this, and believe me, I had a hard time watching the horribly under-dressed people out in the snow and blowing wind. Then I find out it was actually filmed in Ireland, during one of the hottest summers on record! All that snow and ice was Styrofoam and CGI. The actors were probably sweltering in their furs. The movie business is an odd one, no question about it.