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King Arthur (2004): The True Story That Inspired The Legend (Apparently)

King Arthur is literally the stuff legends are made of. There are countless folk tales, adaptations that range from animated to live action. Most recently, Guy Richie tried his hand at the Arthurian legend with limited success. Arthur, his knights, Camelot and his roundtable is a veritable feast for any storyteller. Unfortunately, there have been very few adaptations that got Arthur and his story just right. While I have a special place in my heart for First Knight, I can also admit that the film had more to do with Lancelot and Guinevere than Arthur and his illustrious legend.

The Story

King Arthur and the knights of the round table
Arthur and his Knights

King Arthur certainly does not lack star power. The Antoine Fuqua directed, Jerry Bruckheimer produced blockbuster was crafted to be a huge tentpole Hollywood feature in 2004. Starring Keira Knightly, Clive Owen, Mads Mikkelson, Hugh Dancy and Ioan Gruffudd, I believe it’s safe to say that you are allowed to pick your poison.

With King Arthur, Fuqua promised an interesting take on the Arthurian legend. In this film, Arthur (Clive Owen) and his knights have completed more than a decade-long tour in the service of Rome. After years of battle, they long only to return home. Unfortunately, before their release is granted, Rome requires that they go to battle once more. Arthur and his knights must travel beyond Hadrian’s Wall and fight the northern tribes – or Woads – in order to secure a noble family’s freedom.


Deeds themselves are useless unless they are for some higher purpose.

Forming a coalition of sorts, Arthur and the Woads band together to fight and defeat the Saxons. Along the way, we get some fantastic battle scenes, subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) flirting, interesting characters and Keira Knightly… painted blue.

King Arthur Review

Arthur and Guinevere
Arthur and Guinevere

King Arthur is not the King Arthur you are most likely expecting when you decide to watch this film. The roundtable we all love has a fleeting cameo, the tone of the film is dark, broody, yet maintains some of its magical undertones. In many ways, the film is strange and confusing. It aims to ground itself in some form of realism, and yet its roots in the supernatural fly in the fact of that premise.

Where the film succeeds is in the visuals. King Arthur is quite a striking film at the hands of its director. The battle sequences and overall production value is very good and its one of the reasons the film remains memorable.

Knights! The gift of freedom is yours by right. But the home we seek resides not in some distant land, it’s in us, and in our actions on this day! If this be our destiny, then so be it. But let history remember, that as free men, we chose to make it so!

Another is the ensemble cast. While Clive Owen and Keira Knightly receive top billing, it’s the knights – Bors, Galahad, Gawain, Tristan, and Lancelot – who are actually more interesting, despite their limited screen time. At the end of the film, I found myself wanting to know more about Arthur’s brothers in arms, something the film failed to do adequately. Where the script failed all the actors in some areas, the charisma and charm of the ensemble rescues King Arthur and makes its flaws more forgiving.


This version of the story also pretty much avoids the love triangle we generally associate with this tale. In King Arthur, there is some low key flirting between Lancelot and Guinevere (and I mean Low Key), as well as some knowing glances. But that’s about it. In King Arthur, Guinevere and Arthur are the focus of the love story, although it feels more about duty than attraction and actual emotions.

This disappointed me quite a bit because irrespective of whether you’re Team Lancelot or Team Arthur, the love story is fairly central to what makes Arthurian legend so timeless. I personally felt Lancelot and Guinevere had more chemistry. However, it must be mentioned that there is a director cut of the film that ads almost 20 minutes to the film. These additional minutes adds a lot to the overall story, including the romance.

Final Thoughts

I’m a huge fan of Arthurian legend. For me, the best parts of the story revolve around magic, Merlin’s ability to weave it, Arthur and Excalibur and of course, the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot. Unfortunately, while King Arthur is gorgeous to look at, it was stripped of most of the things that makes King Arthur about the actual King Arthur. Despite that, I really enjoyed most of the scenes with Arthur’s knights. Despite the lack of great character development, their chemistry works.

Where to Watch: King Arthur is available for sale on Vudu, iTunes, and Amazon. It also streams on Netflix.

Content Note: King Arthur rates PG-13 for intense battle sequences, a scene of sensuality and some language. R-rated Director’s cut has also been released.

Have you watched King Arthur? What did you think? Comment below and let me know!

Photo Credit: Touchstone Pictures, Jerry Bruckheimer Films


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By on January 19th, 2018

About Naazneen Samsodien

Naazneen hails from South Africa and has spent most of her life steeped quite happily in fandom. A corporate Human Resource professional by day, she completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology and is currently completing her MPhil at the University of Cape Town. She spends her nights in a parallel universe where her creative pursuits find meaningful outlets. When she is not doing research, writing fanfiction or reading the latest novel for her book club, she is voraciously consuming information on pop culture and global socio-political issues - or quite simply, travelling the world. She loves words, fangirling shamelessly, Mr. Darcy and rugged beards... a lot.

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