King Arthur (USA/UK/Ireland, 2004)

king_arthur_ver2Directed by: Antoine Fuqua. Fuck. This is absolutely incredible. I am actually almost speechless, I’m tempted to leave it at Fuck. I guess this guy did Training Day, and I guess that’s a big deal, and I’ll see it eventually, but holy Fuck is this ever a turd of a movie. This thing makes Braveheart look like an intelligent, carefully planned, sophisticated interpretation of history, peopled with subtle acting and nuanced emotions. Watching this movie (within the first five minutes!) made me long for Braveheart, for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, for Gladiator, for any historical movie other than this. This movie was worse than fucking 10 000 BC. Fuck. Now, let’s back it up a bit. I had pretty modest expectations here. I didn’t think that some throwback mid-2000’s sword-and-sandals/medieval knights movie would be good. Of course it wasn’t going to be good. There’s very little chance of this being good. But there was a fairly good chance of it at least not being remarkably, spectacularly horrible. I didn’t expect to be convulsing alternately with laughter and nausea at the sub-soap-opera-pulp dialogue, the flat, cartoonish characterization and  cinematography and composition that continually reminded me of those awful big-budget movie parodies at the beginning of an episode of Extras. This movie is exactly what that show was poking fun at, and sitting through an entire film of it (an extended “Director’s Cut” in this case—2 and a half hours!) makes me lament the lost moments of my life that I spent on just being curious to connect with another example of modern cinema. On paper, it could possibly be not garbage. Clive Owen is great, Ray Winstone is great, Keira Knightley is great–just not in this movie. It’s full of great supporting people doing stuff waaaaay below their capability, including Ray, Mads Mikkelsen, Joel Edgerton, Charlie Creed-Miles (Ray’s son in Nil By Mouth, remember?). I’m already going on too long about this piece of shit, but I want to vent one more clearly delineated grievance that continually bothers me. Every time that Hollywood looks at history, the production propaganda, the filmmaker interviews, the audio commentaries, all of it amounts to the film bending over backwards to impress us all with how historically accurate the whole production is; how the story is so plausible and in accordance with what their one historical advisor (usually some crankpot from the fringes of any respectable academic standards) tells them; how Keira Knightley’s deerskin bikini top is very similar to the deerskin bikini tops worn by the actual matriarchal, pre-Christian, wiccan warrior archers in their blue war paint; how the smooth, airy, generic-Celtic world music soundtrack, and the “Careless Whisper”-esque smooth sexy sax during the steamy parts is completely authentic to the steamy sax that Roman warriors listened to during their steamy parts, etc etc etc etc etc etc etc etc. None of that shit bothers me, in and of itself. I don’t care how cheesy it all is, how contrived it is, how many blatant fucking narrative Hollywood liberties they took with the historical record because it’s A HOLLYWOOD ACTION MOVIE, NOT A HISTORICAL TREATISE. I understand that the film is a hokey film, and I forgive it. Forgiveness doesn’t even enter into it—you don’t need to forgive a McDouble for being a McDouble. Either eat it or don’t eat it. But when McDonald’s starts making great claims towards nutritional value, when the film is fucking jumping through hoops to try to impress everyone (including themselves) with how fucking FACTUAL it is, it drives me up the fucking wall. Gangs of New York drove me nuts with that stuff. Watching Scorsese taking a tour around his film set with his historical advisor, going to such great lengths to reproduce the exact measurements of what the Five Points was “really like”, and using that film set to carry out a bloated, overly stylized soap opera with fictional characters bearing nothing more than a coincidental resemblance to anything that ever happened to anybody ever. It was an entertaining movie, why not just leave it at that? I really enjoyed Gangs of New York, and I’ve seen it several times (my thoughts on that film warrant their own sprawling post). Isn’t that enough? Why do the filmmakers—so many filmmakers—demand anything more of their films than that it be a cohesive, entertaining, well-crafted, memorable piece of cinema? Most of us spectators don’t want anything more than that. Take our word for it, filmmakers—we just want a nice way to kill two hours. Of course, at this point in the lengthy dissertation, the question is purely academic. As noted above, King Arthur isn’t even a good movie, and in fact, measured against nearly every objective critical criteria, that movie is a wet turd.


5 responses to “King Arthur (USA/UK/Ireland, 2004)

  1. Pingback: The Last of the Mohicans (USA, 1992) | Offhand Reviews·

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