The classic tale of King Arthur and his round table comes to the big screen yet again. This time around we get the standard tale, but with a much darker and more gritty feel.
Arthur (Clive Owen) and his legendary knights are summoned for one final task before the knights are allowed to return to their homelands. Taken as children, they have been forced to serve Rome for 15 years but now the time has come for their freedom to be granted. Arthur must figure out a way to tell his men that he is leading them into their hardest and most deadly mission yet. They have been ordered to secure the safety of a Roman family before the Saxons attack, but when Arthur and his knights reach the community, Arthur's compassion will not let him leave anyone behind to the hands of the bloodthirsty Saxons. This means that they will be traveling with all the servants, slaves, and imprisoned captives. Among the captives is Briton Guinevere (Keira Knightley), who pesters Arthur about his Roman and British heritage to see where his loyalties really lie. With the Saxons hot on their trail, Arthur and his men prepare for one final battle, a battle that will never be forgotten.
One of the best things about director Antoine Fuqua's "King Arthur" is that it is probably the most "real" of all the King Arthur films out there. Fuqua wanted to tell the tale of Arthur without all the magic, mystical legends of Merlin. Normally when we think of King Arthur, we think of "The Sword and the Stone" or Merlin legends. That is definitely not the case this time. Diving into the minds of Arthur and his men, Fuqua does an incredible job bringing this re-imaging of King Arthur to the screen. We really feel for King Arthur's men and their lives in a land not their own. Fuqua also doesn't focus on Guinevere being a damsel-in-distress, but makes her a strong, stubborn warrior. He does not focus on the love relationship between Arthur and Guinevere, because his main concern is Arthur, his knights, and their legendary battles.
With some strong performances by Clive Own, Keira Knightley, Ioan Gruffudd (Lancelot), and a mixed bag of supporting cast members, "King Arthur" allows the character personalities to each shine in their own dynamic way. Arthur and his knights are especially strong. You can tell Fuqua took his time and poured his heart and vision into each scene--for example, in the battle scenes, each swing of the sword is perfectly timed and just the right amount of tension is allowed to build--therefore his superb direction makes his version of "King Arthur" one of the best out there. He definitely wanted it to be known that this particular film is different than every other run-of-the-mill King Arthur story.
Overall, director Antoine Fuqua's "King Arthur" is good. It isn't perfect, but it has great direction, a nice lineup of cast members, and some incredible visuals. "King Arthur" is a great new look at what Arthur's life might have been like before he actually became king. No one knows for sure what or if any King Arthur legends are true, but this take on Arthur's life is definitely more believable than those magical renditions.
Visually "King Arthur" is stunning, with some incredible colors and some amazing location shooting. Fuqua does a great job of immersing us into the world of Arthur and his knights. Although the colors are incredibly stunning, unfortunately the detail is very sporadic. At times there are some scenes of immaculate detail, while other times there are some serious issues of too much softness. As far as the blacks go, they are generally rich and true to their color. But at times there are some scenes of such high contrast that detail is lost. For instance, you can see hair or dark clothing colors that completely blend into the background. Overall "King Arthur" is nice to look at most of the time, with some incredible looking scenes, but there are still quite a few issues that present themselves in certain scenes.
"King Arthur" boasts an incredible 5.1 uncompressed PCM track. We also get a nice 5.1 Dolby Digital track. Here we get great dialogue mixed evenly throughout--it is clear, crisp, and strong. The surrounds get a lot of detailed attention as well, from each sword blow to arrows whizzing through all the speakers to the deep, booming bass of marching armies.
As far as the soundtrack goes, we get a really nice complementing track. There are some amazing instrumental moments that really bring us back to the period. Overall the entire mix of sound does a very impressive job keeping us in the period and moving us forward as the movie goes on.
Kicking off the extras is a Movie Showcase, which tells us what scenes are the best to watch due to the "outstanding" visuals and high audio quality.
Trivia Track: Here we get a boring trivia track tat doesn't have much information. There is some information about history, set design, actors...the usual stuff but really lacking any important or exciting detail.
Commentary: Director Antoine Fuqua: Here is a great commentary track that delves into some great detail and history of King Arthur and how the story was brought to the big screen. Here Fuqua talks about the background research done in regards to dialect spoken, casting choices, his ideas of characters, and really digging and focusing on the history instead of mystical legends. Fuqua also dives into how certain scenes were created, deciding how to cut the scenes, and even breaking down the final battle scene into single movements, which is really cool. The only downfall is that the commentary can be slow at times, but overall is a great track.
The rest of the features are in 480p.
Blood on the Land: Forging King Arthur: Here cast, crew and a historian talk about everything from set design, costume design, characters, weapons, filming, 3D work, and even the score. This is a pretty short feature, but isn't a bad watch.
Cast & Filmmaker Roundtable: This is an obvious "roundtable" of the cast and crew, interviewing each other about characters, shooting and stunts. This is another short feature, but I didn't get a lot from this one.
Alternate Ending: This is a darker ending that has an optional commentary by Fuqua.
Finally, there is a photo gallery with pictures!
"King Arthur" is a highly entertaining film. There are a lot of great battle scenes that are definitely worth a look. Throw in some really nice acting, some stunning visuals, a nice picture, a great audio track, and a good audio commentary, and we definitely get some great entertainment. Unfortunately, even though the visuals were great, that didn't translate to top-notch video quality. Therefore, I have to give "King Arthur" a Recommend. I thoroughly enjoyed this re-imaging of King Arthur and will definitely watch it again.