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Antoine Fuqua
Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Ioan Gruffudd, Mads Mikkelsen, Joel Edgerton
Writing Credits:
David Franzoni

A demystified take on the tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$15,193,907 on 3,086 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English PCM Uncompressed 5.1
French Dolby 5.1
Spanish Dolby 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 141 min.
Price: $20.00
Release Date: 4/3/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Antoine Fuqua
• Alternate Ending with Optional Commentary
• "Blood On The Land: Forging King Arthur" Featurette
• Cast and Filmmaker Roundtable
• “Knight Vision” Trivia Track
• Producer’s Photo Gallery
• Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


King Arthur: Director's Cut [Blu-Ray] (2004)

Reviewed by Brian Ludovico and Colin Jacobson (February 28, 2017)

Perhaps the most recognizable and popular name in all of British literature, dozens of books, stories and films have been made about King Arthur, his cohorts and their exploits in the mythical kingdom Camelot. In those tales, Arthur and his knights act as paragons of nobility, fealty, piety and justice.

To coin a phrase: that’s your father’s King Arthur. That’s not the patriarch we meet in Antoine Fuqua’s 2004 epic King Arthur.

Supposedly from a more historically accurate perspective, Arthur begins in 452. England represents the western-most boundary of the decaying Roman Empire and the whole of Europe teeters on the Dark Ages.

As part of their truce with Romans, the English agree to dedicate every male child to 15 years of service as soldiers, and those born to Roman parents can command an attachment of this army. As the child of at least one Roman parent, Arturius Castos (Clive Owen) gets this opportunity.

For 15 years, Arturius led knights like Galahad (Hugh Dancy), Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen), Gawain (Joel Edgerton), Dagonet (Ray Stevenson) and Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd) on many dangerous missions. The surviving knights only need to complete one last escort mission before they earn their freedom. We follow these efforts and various issues that crop up along the way.

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and that maxim can apply to movies as well as life in general. It certainly relates to King Arthur.

The film intends to offer an epic retelling of England’s most famous patriarch, one that removes all the centuries of polish, embellishment and straight fiction to present a reality-based version. The movie wants to make Arthur less a mythical figure and more a historical one. Unfortunately, it fails for a lot of reasons.

One problem: the movie wants to be historically accurate, but must rely on pure fiction to drive its own narrative. In between the epic-style battle sequences, the movie uses the interplay between characters to move the story, but that interaction falls mainly into two categories: blatant exposition or maudlin speechifying.

I can deal with the exposition but the constant proselytizing and postulating on the value of freedom, the equality of all men and the like becomes too much. It seems like every three minutes, one character makes some heartfelt address to another about what they love about freedom, why they want freedom, what freedom is, blah blah blah. It’s tiresome, and it makes the movie into a poor imitation of Braveheart.

Ironically, it’s Braveheart that we have to thank for the faux-epic battle sequences we see in every big money, period-piece summer tent pole movie. The fights in King Arthur are no different than those in Alexander, Troy, Gladiator and to a lesser extent even the Lord of the Rings films.

This means they’re filmed in close-ups to accentuate the heat of battle, they’re ultra gritty and dirty, they’re at times uncomfortable to watch, and they’re gory. At least in this unrated cut, the camera doesn’t shy away from limbs being lopped off or blood spattering across the screen.

In Braveheart, these battle scenes seemed fresh. By the time Troy, Alexander and King Arthur showed up, they’d become tired and predictably filmed. I

It goes to prove my theory that “epic” is like “grace” in that it can’t be created: it just has to be there. It isn’t there in King Arthur. Compound this uninteresting battle scene problem with the problems in between the scenes, and King Arthur has serious pacing problems, among other issues.

Those concerns continue with the film’s characters. Clive Owen displays absolutely no charisma in the title role, and this means Arthur ends u as one of the least interesting leaders in films.

Besides his constant blah blah blahing about freedom, I can’t figure why anyone would charge into battle for Arthur. His famous Knights of the Round Table - subjects of vast volumes of lit and lore - are no more interesting than their leader.

The script doesn’t provide any of these knights with enough of their own story or their own pathos to make them individual characters, so how does the film compensate? By making them into action figures.

You’ll have trouble remembering the names of the knights or what kind of people they are, but you’ll remember “the guy with the bird” and “the comedy relief guy” and “the guy with two swords” well enough. Showing the knights pining for home and for true freedom doesn’t count as bonding among characters.

There’s no real sense of brotherhood anywhere in the film and as a result, we don’t ever invest emotionally in the knights. This means we really don’t care what happens to them when they meet their predictable fates.

The only saving grace for this otherwise loss of a movie comes from Stellan Skarsgard as Cerdic, the Saxon leader. Skarsgard is a cold-blooded menace that oozes screen presence with every frame. I loved his cruelty and his thirst for violence. Skarsgard is the only actor who appears to have any fun with his character.

Otherwise, King Arthur sits squarely on my “worst of 2004” list. The idea of a historically accurate look at the Arthurian legend is an intriguing one… for a Sunday night History Channel documentary special. Fuqua’s movie is a dull, lumbering walkthrough with boring characters, one-note performances, bad pacing and absolutely nothing memorable in it.

The Disc Grades: Picture C-/ Audio B+/ Bonus B-

King Arthur appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. A fairly early Blu-ray release, the image seemed spotty at best.

Sharpness became a definite issue. While close-ups looked acceptable, two-shots and anything wider tended to lack real definition. Though the movie didn’t appear terribly soft, it came across as a bit mushy and without the delineation I expected.

No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I saw no print flaws. However, I noticed light edge haloes and the image could appear a little blocky. I also saw mild digital artifacts.

In a cinematic world full of teal-tinted films, King Arthur stands as one of the tealest. Dear God, did this image emphasize blue-green!

Skin tones could be orange, but teal led the way. The color choices became almost comic in their extremity, and the teal didn’t look very good, as the general iffiness of the transfer made the hues lackluster at best.

Blacks seemed a bit too dark, as they swallowed up detail, and shadows were also affected, so low-light shots demonstrated lackluster delineation. In truth, this wasn’t a terrible presentation, but it was below the standards I expect from Blu-ray.

At least the film’s Uncompressed PCM 5.1 soundtrack worked better. The movie’s variety of action films fared best, as they used the five channels in a satisfying manner. These put battle elements in all the speakers to combine for a lively, engrossing setting.

Quieter segments appeared good as well. General atmosphere came across as natural and consistent, with a sense of place that suited the story. Music also gave us positive stereo imaging.

Audio quality satisfied. Music sounded bold and lush, while effects came across as accurate and dynamic, with solid low-end response. Dialogue seemed concise and intelligible. This turned into a well-reproduced soundtrack.

With that we go to the set’s extras, and these launch with an audio commentary from director Antoine Fuqua. He provides a running, screen-specific look at how he came onto the project and his approach to the material, research, history and the adaptation of the legend, story/characters, sets and locations, stunts/action, editing and ratings issues, cast and performances, music and connected domains.

While inconsistent, Fuqua usually provides a pretty good chat. He touches on a nice variety of subjects and gets into the movie challenges. At times he praises those involved too much, and we hit spots of dead air, but much of the commentary satisfies.

Next comes a featurette called Blood on the Land: Forging King Arthur. It goes for 17 minutes, 10 seconds and offers notes from Fuqua, producer Jerry Bruckheimer, historical consultant John Matthews, screenwriter David Franconi, production designer Dan Weil, prop maker Graeme Byrd, supervising armourer Tommy Dunne, costume designer Penny Rose, stunt coordinator Steve Dent, military advisor Harry Humphries, dialogue coach Mel Churcher, director of photography Slawomir Idziak, visual effects supervisor Matt Johnson, lead digital matte painter David Early, digital effects supervisor Dottie Starling, VFX sequence supervisor Douglas Harsch, composer Hans Zimmer, and actors Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Ioan Gruffudd, Stellan Skarsgaard, Ray Winstone, Joel Edgerton, Mads Mikkelsen, and Ray Stevenson.

“Forging” looks at history/legends, story, characters and tone, Fuqua’s approach to the material, cast and performances, sets and locations, props and costumes, stunts and action, cinematography, effects and music. While “Forging” covers a nice array of topics, it tends to be fairly superficial. It’s still worth a look but it’s too brief to offer substance.

A Cast and Filmmaker Roundtable runs 15 minutes, one second and involves Fuqua, Bruckheimer, Franzoni, Owen, Knightley, Gruffudd, and actor Hugh Dancy. The chat covers the project’s roots, cast, characters and performances, various challenges, stunts, action and battle scenes. Like “Forging”, some information emerges, but the “Roundtable” focuses so much on praise that it lacks much depth.

Called “Badon Hill”, we see an Alternate Ending. It lasts four minutes, 13 seconds and shows a more somber/darker finale. It doesn’t improve the movie but it offers an intriguing alternative.

“Badon Hill” can be viewed with or without commentary from Fuqua. He tells us why he changed the film’s finish. Fuqua doesn’t let us know much, but it does become clear he prefers the alternate ending to the theatrical one.

Knight Vision delivers a trivia track that runs during the movie. It tells us production facts as well as some of the history behind the story. Nothing remarkable shows up here, but “Knight Vision” adds some informational value.

Finally, we find a Producer’s Photo Gallery. This presents 20 pictures that Bruckheimer shot during the production. It’s mediocre.

The disc opens with ads for Deja Vu, Apocalypto, The Guardian, Invincible and The Prestige. No trailer for King Arthur appears here.

With 2004’s King Arthur, we get a grittier version of the ancient legend. Unfortunately, this doesn’t become especially interesting, so the movie winds up as a slow, plodding affair. The Blu-ray comes with flawed visuals, good audio and a decent smattering of bonus materials. King Arthur lacks the depth and power to succeed.

To rate this film visit the DVD review of KING ARTHUR

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