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Prayer Focus
Movie Review

KING ARTHUR

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for intense battle sequences, a scene of sensuality and some language

Reviewed by: Sheri McMurray
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Action, Adventure, Drama, War
Length:
2 hr. 10 min.
Year of Release:
2004
USA Release:
______
Featuring: Clive Owen, Stephen Dillane, Keira Knightley, Hugh Dancy, Ioan Gruffudd
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Producer: Jerry Bruckheimer
Distributor: Touchstone
Copyright, Touchstone
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Relevant Issues

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“Rule your fate.”

It’s 300 A.D. and the Sarmatians to the east of Britain are all that’s left of a warring cavalry. So impressed with their agility and prowess at battle, the Romans decide to spare them their lives in return for just one little favor. All their young sons and their son’s sons are taken from their families and forced to serve as knights for Rome for 15 years each. Of course, they may return at the end of their service to Rome, unless they happen to die in battle, which will most likely be the horrible outcome.

It is into this dreary and sad history we are introduced as Lancelot (Loan Gruffudd) is shipped off from his village as a pre-teen boy knowing full well he will never see his family again. It is a rough life. A life or death struggle just to make it through each 24 hour period.

As the dawn of his 15 year servitude crests, we are forced to engage with Lancelot in his final bloody battle before his freedom papers are given him, and he may return home a free man. Miraculously, Lancelot and his forged family of knights have survived this tour of duty to Rome! They have lived and died along side one another in these years under Roman Christian rule. There are but these brave left: Galahad (Hugh Dancy), Dagonet (Ray Stevenson), hawk-loving Tristan (Mads Mikkelsen)—and Arthur (Clive Owen), to whom they have all have pledged their iron-clad allegiance.

It is with high hopes they travel to meet with the Pope’s advocate to accept their papers to travel through Roman Britain unharmed under the protection of His Grace. Unfortunately for them, the home office in Italy has one more campaign for them to run, and if they are successful (which means if they don’t die while carrying it out) then, and only then, will they finally be allowed to quench their thirst for freedom.

Arthur, who had a Roman father and British mother, is an idealistic Christian soldier who truly believes God has sent him into this world to protect and win in Roman battles. He finds through the course of this final campaign, that Rome is not the place of equality and freedom his most beloved father had imbibed within him. The realm he so honorably served and protected for these past grueling years in fact no longer exists. The film traces Arthur’s evolution from idealistic dreamer to practical hero.

We do get a glimpse of the famous Round Table within the walls of the British castle/fortress to which Arthur refers is round “…for men to be men they must all be as equal” showing no head at this table, but an equal place for all. He also prays in earnest to God to have his life the sacrificed rather than any of his men, so that they would be able to return to their homes and families.

Lancelot, his most trusted friend, overhears this plea and asks why he beseeches this “God” and not confide in him instead. Arthur responds that it is his faith that protects him. Lancelot responds by saying he trusts no man on his knees. Arthur shows true humility and says perhaps his prayers will put an end to this war. Being the realist he is, Lancelot sadly states there will always be battles in this world.

These knights willingly go off upon this one last mission, not because of their allegiance to Rome, but because of their respect and honor to Arthur. It is here that the sacrifice of faith and friendship is demonstrated in these brave men. Into the grip of the Saxons who have pillaged, raped and murdered their way across Britain they ride to rescue a Roman royal family and bring safely back the son, Arious, to the safe haven of the Roman Pope. They are ambushed in the forest by a fierce warrior tribe of Woads led by a mystical Merlin, but much to their surprise, are spared their lives.

Arthur and his men find the servants being flogged, beaten and tortured in a dungeon at the home of the Roman official he has been charged to rescue and is appalled this is being done in the name of Christianity. It proves more than just the honorable thing to do now, but the real Christian thing to do is save his British countrymen from the very rulers they have placed their faith in to protect them. Arthur also frees and falls in love with a beautiful, confident Woad princess, Guinevere (Keira Knightley). In this telling, Arthur and Guinevere are true loves and Lancelot, though smitten with Guinevere, never makes any advance towards her.

The Saxon army is headed by the ruthless warrior king Cerdic (Stellan Skrsgard) who will stop at nothing in his rampage of killing and burning to eventually meet and defeat Arthur and his knights. The scene where the seven knights aided by Guinevere’s expert archery, face down a whole battalion of 500 Saxon’s on a frozen river bed, is well worth the price of admission.

We are shown the “real” account of Excalibur and how this sword of renown was actually pulled from the burial mound of his father by Arthur as a young boy, to be used later in his soldiering life to avenge the death of his mother.

This is no fairy tale account of King Arthur, but an attempt at realism—probably more like the rugged lives actually lived back in this ancient time. Although the writers did take many liberties with the classic legend, who King Arthur really was is so clouded by now, who is to say this account is not more closely woven to reality.

LANGUAGE, SEX AND VIOLENCE: The battle sequences are vividly graphic and lengthy, therefore I would not suggest this film for children under 13. There was some use of medieval swearing, but it seemed appropriate for the movie’s theme of reality. The film included a scene where rape was inferred, but nothing actually seen. There is also a sex scene between Arthur and Guinevere—sadly, just an act of lust and not the true love for which the story really called.

Over the course of its blood thirsty battles and through to its conclusion, this film provides a somber look at how Christian ideals can be abused—crushing and breaking innocent lives in the process. As history has often proved, it takes but one brave and committed human being to change the course of the times and bring relief to those who are harshly oppressed.

In the end, Arthur acknowledges that his best friend Lancelot gave his life for the freedom of others. He decrees that “deeds in themselves are for nothing except they be lead by a higher power.” Many have given their lives throughout human history for a better existence for all. As Christians we are finely tuned to the sacrificial death of our Savior, Jesus, for the sins of all mankind. How relevant the truth that there is no greater love than a man who gives his life freely for the sake of his friend’s. Through to the end Arthur never gave up his belief in God, even when other’s questioned, Arthur’s faith remained strong and true. I found this the best, most profound example overall.

Viewer Comments
Negative—I did not like “King Arthur” and found the movie to be very anti-Christian. I was particularly disturbed by the fact that while Arthur is portrayed as a “Christian,” he is, according to this movie, a follower of Pelagius. Who was Pelagius? He was a fourth century Briton who claimed that man was not born with orignal sin, did not possess a sinful nature, and was able, by his own free will, to save himself through his own efforts. Augustine, bishop of Hippo, North Africa, was aghast (rightly so) and wrote an extensive rebuttal of Pelagius’ views. Eventually, Augustine’s views won out and Pelagius’ teachings were declared heresy by the Church.

Back to the movie—Arthur sees Pelagius as a hero promoting the doctrine of “free will.” This belief in free-will is then extended to the political, religious, and social levels also as liberal-minded Arthur permits his knights of the round table to remain pagans if they so desire, respecting their “freedom” to choose. Hmmm… I didn’t realize that Arthur was aware of the First Amendment of the Constitution! (Revisionist history really irks me.)

Meanwhile, the established “orthodox” church is portrayed as an oppressive, bullying, persecuting, and hopelessly corrupt institution, not to be trusted in any way. Arthur receives word that Pelagius has been murdered by the “corrupt” Roman Christians (inaccurate—history is silent as to what became of Pelagius).

At one point, a Christian priest is seen desperately pleading to God during an attack scene. One of Arthur’s knights, a pagan, ridicules him. Of course, the audience chuckles at another silly Christian expecting his God to actually answer his prayers! At another point, a Roman attempts to cast someone in a bad light by calling him a “pagan.” One of Arthur’s knights defiantly shouts, “So are we!” Finally, Arthur’s wedding to Guinevere is not officiated by a member of the Christian clergy, but by the Druid warrior priest, Merlin.

Christians are shown as weak and cowardly while the pagans are portrayed and robust, noble, and courageous champions of liberty .To me, the movie smacked of revisionist history, loaded with anachronisms and anti-Christian propaganda. For this reason, I would not recommend this movie.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—Tom James, age 40
Positive—…a pretty decent film, worth seeing, though far from perfect. Though most …Christians are displayed as tyrannical monsters, I felt the point of their presence was to show those members of the church who (followed Constantine’s lead and) went astray, thinking they had to torture people into believing in God. They contrasted nicely with Arthur who truly exhibited compassion for those around him, both speaking of and illustrating God’s love for the “pagans” who were living under his protection.

The scene with Arthur and Guenievere was rather long, but for the most part the romantic themes were eliminated. Her outfit (or lack thereof) in battle may catch some negative attention, but the scene was edited a great deal, so she’s barely seen in it. The violent scenes in the film are not nearly as bloody or graphic as other movies of the same genre, which makes it less objectionable.

Overall, I’d say parents and families should be cautious, not every film is suitable for every person, but this one keeps the offensive material to a minimum. The positive presentation of Arthur’s faith is nice to see, as is his compassionate but resolute attitude.
My Ratings: [Average/3]
—M. Kelly, age 24
Negative—My husband and I saw this movie last night, and even though we enjoyed some of it (the relationship between Arthur and his knights, the cinematography, the development of characters, etc,) I must advise parents not to be fooled by the PG-13 rating. The lust scene between the 2 main characters is pretty explicit. You don’t see a naked body, which would have brought the rating up to R, yet you see and feel the seduction, the touching, and the lust, all in the context of an extra marital affair. Arthur, so noble and given to his religion, is committing fornication.

Also, even though the war scenes are not as graphic as other war movies, the content of violence is such that in my opinion, it should have been rated R. There is one scene where a man is trying to rape a woman after a conquest. The captain of the army stops the man, not because rape is wrong, but because he considers it a weakness to mix with his enemies. Instead, he has the woman killed. Again, you don’t see nudity, but the subject matter is not appropriate for children or even teenagers.

Overall, it was a positive movie-watching experience for my husband and myself (he liked it better than me, the battle scenes were a little too long for my taste,) yet I found myself disturbed by the rating and the fact that very young people were sitting around me at the theatre. Please keep your children home.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Silvia, age 37
Positive—This might be one of the more enjoyable films of the summer. There are aspects of King Arthur that leave a little to be desired, but for the most part I considered it a worthwhile, enjoyable film, one that I’d probably go see again. I was not overly familiar with the “legends” that surround King Arthur lore, so this demystified tale didn’t annoy me, as it seems to have with others. The story works well, even though it stops rather abruptly after being quickly wrapped up.

On the positive side, in the story Merlin was not a spiritual leader to Arthur or even a “dark” man, rather he was a man who conceded to Arthur’s wisdom and experience. Only once did he point out to Arthur some fallacy in his manner, saying that it was Arthur’s love for the people, not his hatred of the enemy that did and should spur his quest. Also, Excalibur has no spiritual power; Arthur seeks God’s guidance in matters, not the swords.

Christians are not necessarily portrayed as “the good guys” in this film and often their manner and motives are questioned. That said, Arthur, who’s faith in God is established early on, remains steadfast and honorable in spite of the contemptible actions of others, and it is through his trustworthiness that his knights begin to accept that there might be something to his faith. Overall, I actually felt that Christianity got a decent representation, as the hero maintained his faith and won the respect of others while fighting those who used God’s name to do revolting things and any other persons who preyed on innocence. Arthur is played very well by Clive Owen, who, despite his dramatic training seems very comfortable with the action required by the role. The other seven knights were also superbly cast and their camaraderie is quite fun to watch.

I didn’t find the film to be too violent, even though there were three major battles and several other skirmishes. Most shots of blows landing are done from far away, or cut completely, and the nature of the violence is far from other films such as Gladiator or even Troy. Other than a few coarse jokes about the parentage of children, most of the language didn’t strike me as bad either. A sensual scene with Guinevere and Arthur involves prolonged kissing, and though more might be implied, it stops there. Her choice of clothing in battle is a little puzzling as well, but her character isn’t seen too much during the final battle, and therefore one has little time to focus on her lack of proper clothing.

Overall, I’d say this was a good film, worthy of seeing so long as you’re not a die-hard fan of the King Arthur lore. Though there are a few objectionable elements, it is nice to see someone of Arthur’s character standing up for what he believed and overcoming, all while relying on God’s guidance.
My Ratings: [Average/3½]
—K. W., age 22
Neutral—I thought this was a good movie as far as King Arthur, the meaning, etc., but there were some things, as a Christian, that I could have done without. One being one of King Arthur’s Knights having 13 children with a woman out of wedlock. They also joke of giving them numbers instead of names. At the end of the movie, he says now I really will have to marry your mom. There’s a very racey sex scene with the two main characters, that I could have done without as well. It was also before the two were married.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/5]
—Cheri Fields, age 43
Negative—This was basically one long battle. The plot was virtually non-existent. I don’t think I’ve ever been so bored in a movie theater in my life. This movie contained a lot of violence, but nothing really graphic or gory, still not something children should be exposed to… Don’t waste your time.
My Ratings: [Average/1½]
—Kat, age 18
Negative—Overall I would say the movie was full of anti-Christian bias. Men who were clergy were portrayed as sadistic torturers of pagans who refused Christ. The inquisition by the Roman Church started much later. The other Christians were portrayed as weak and cowardly or backstabbing betrayers and wife beaters and enslavers. Even Arthur the hero, in the end, turns his back on God and engages in fornication the night before he goes into battle and then marries the same woman in a pagan wedding after yelling at God because some of his knights died… I guess the faith he had talked of earlier was only skin deep. The pagan Merlin is shown as having more wisdom and a truer understanding of Love and the motivation of the heart than the “Christian” Arthur or any other Christian portrayed. As a Christian I regret the money I spent to watch this film and I believe you would too.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/4]
—Peter McConnell, age 33
Positive—As far as the comment about portraying an anti-Christian sentiment, I would highly disagree. The very fact that faith was a mysterious and perplexing issue with these pre-moderns deserves the most attention, for moderns tend to simplify faith to the extent that it is no longer faith. I believe this film represents a view of faith that should cause Christians to realize that in many contemporary ways, we are doing many similar things to others that the clergy/religious people were doing to those around them.

As far as filmmaking goes, I was expecting the level of energetic, enthusiastic, and diverse movie like Pirates of the Carribbean, but I was disappointed. (I made this comparison because both were produced by Jerry Bruckheimer.)
My Ratings: [Good/3]
—Doug Stuart, age 23
Neutral—I enjoyed this movie, but for once I actually felt that the cuts required in order to get a PG-13 rating actually hurt the film, as they rendered some of the battle scenes incomprehensible. Unlike some, I have no moral objection to the realistic depiction of battle violence, provided it is not done in such a way that the audience is expected to take sadistic pleasure in the suffering of others.

For me, the most objectionable aspect was the negative portrayal of orthodox Christianity. Arthur is shown as a follower of the heretic Pelagius, who rejected the Christian teaching on original sin. Pelagius is given a fictional martyr’s death in the film (in reality, no-one knows how he died) because he believed in “freedom.” That’s right, Hollywood doesn’t trust the audience to understand theological debates, so they get reduced to that Humpty Dumpty word “freedom,” which now seems to mean whatever the person deploying it wants it to mean. In contrast, St. Germanus of Auxerre is shown as venal and self-serving, even allowing a decoy to be killed at the beginning of the film in order to save his own skin. In other words, it is a movie where saints are evil and heresy equals freedom.
My Ratings: [Average/3½]
—Nick Xylas, age 37
Positive—The acting is excellent, the locations are breathtaking, and the story plot is really fantastic. This is a must-see for anyone interested in King Arthur. BUT, there is a lot of violence and one very sensual love scene. Not for children; not for anyone under 17.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Dana
Positive—Overall, a good movie. However, not for young children. My son (15) enjoyed it. I felt it gave a very positive view of one man’s (Arthur’s) faith in the one true God in light of friendship with non-believers and the human failings in the heartbreaking news about the corruption of the church in Rome. Through out this Arthur maintains his faith.

Disappointingly, the producer apparently felt the need for a physical scene between Arthur and Gueneviere. (This being out of context with the otherwise devout Arthur’s behavior.) Certainly, the attraction was evident without the scene.

There is a lot of violence although the majority in the context of war. Throughout the picture, Arthur values his faith and does not hide his beliefs despite much criticism from non-believers and errant believers alike.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4½]
—Steve, age 47
Positive—I have been a huge King Arthur fan ever since the night that I sat in an empty theater, many years ago, awestruck by John Boorman’s “Excalibur.” Since then, I have seen the legend of King Arthur mutilated in films such as “First Knight” and “The Mists of Avalon.”

My high hopes for the movie, “King Arthur,” were dashed before the film ever opened in theaters, by critics who were panning the movie from advanced screenings. So, I stayed away while it was in theaters and most definitely passed on special discounts on the week it was released to DVD. After finally getting around to renting a copy, I am left with just one burning question—Why do I listen to movie critics?

The movie King Arthur was very enjoyable. It has a tight, well written story, believable characters, gritty realism, a great musical score by Hans Zimmer, epic battles, and more blood and splatter than you probably really want to see (this was an unrated version, possibly more graphic than the theatrical release).

The bottom line is that “King Arthur” is a very good film. No, it’s not the mythical Camelot, but it does not try to be. Nor, does it trample all over the name of King Arthur by making him a shallow or less than heroic character.

Arthur’s Christian faith remains true throughout the story while others either question the existence of God or abuse their roles as so-called men of God.

This is not “Braveheart” or “Gladiator,” but it is a film worth seeing and appreciating. It’s not for the faint of heart, as battle scenes are very graphic. But, for any fan of Camelot or of knights and heroes, the movie “King Arthur” is a must see.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—Tim Jackson, age 44

Comments from young people
Positive—I loved this movie! I can’t believe it didn’t get more attention! The battle scenes alone are reason enough to see this flick.
My Ratings: [Average/5]
—Ariel, age 15
Negative—I failed to connect with the characters in any real way, and for that matter, neither did the characters themselves. It lacked the emotion required for these kinds of movies to work. Even Hans Zimmer’s musical score didn’t save this movie like he saved Gladiator. It wasn’t exactly clear what they were fighting for. I wanted so badly to like this film. It had so much going for it: a good director, great visuals, great costumes, great story, and, of course, Kiera Knightly. I have a hard time figuring out how this film managed to ultimately fail. I kept hoping it was going to get better.

As for content, the love scene was too long, not to mention ridiculous. The violence, while not bloody, was still brutal. There was a scene of attempted rape (true to the times, but unnecessary). Kiera’s character dons the most illogical outfit I’ve ever seen in a genre film. It’s almost non-existent. If a woman like her wore an outfit like that on the field in those times, the battle would never take place. Everyone would chase her around instead. Arthur is portrayed as a model Christian amongst evil ones, but he allows immoral violence from his men, and even engages in it himself. I find it hard to believe a man with any spiritual integrity would stand for killing non-combatants without mercy (no matter how evil they are). It’s God’s job to avenge. Arthur encourages blood-lust, and also engages in fornication. Is this a man of God?

I say see it at least once in your life but don’t bother with the theatre. It certainly deserves a remake someday. This story makes way more sense than the “Once and Future King” version.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/3]
—Cade Loven, age 17
Positive—…holds your attention from beginning to end. …there is a scene of “sensuality” that goes for much longer than is necessary. The fighting is great fun and the story is great. Have fun and see it.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/4]
—David Demeusy, age 15
Positive—…a movie I thoroughly enjoyed; it not only had some extremely funny parts, it had character and nobility. I like old time movies, though there was a scene of inappropriateness between two, overall was a great movie.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Amy Conner, age 14
Positive—Overall, this was a very good movie. It had epic battles, a good story, and great actors. King Arthur was portrayed as a strong christian, even though he was a follower of Pelagius, a Roman monk who had some different views concerning christianity. Some Christians may see the portrayal of the Roman-Catholic church as anti-Christian, This is wrong, due to the fact that the Roman Catholic church was extremely corrupt during this time period. Even though Arthur’s knights mock Christianity at times, Arthur usually has a faith-based come-back ready. There was some violence, all of it involving swords and bows, It would have been unrealistic not to have violence in it and the movie should be commended at keeping it pretty clean. There was a scene of sensuality in the movie but its over quickly. There was some language and crude remarks, but overall this is a good movie, I recommend it for kids 13 and older and maybe those a little younger who are very mature. Oh, and about Gwynivers battle-bikini she wears in the last battle, wouldn’t you want something comfortable and easy to move around in during battle.
My Ratings: [Average/4½]
—Andrew, age 15
Positive—…I was blown away. The action is almost non-stop, and fight scenes are very well choreographed. The movie did not stick to the typical King-Arthur-of-Camelot legend, which made it all the more new and refreshing. Each character was presented with both strengths and weaknesses, and each actor and actress portrayed their character well. The story of thinking your trials are over and then realizing they aren’t is something every Christian can relate to, and it’s fascinating to see the way the characters handle such scenarios. There was some objectional material which was, although probably realistic and not too overdone, was probably not necessary to the film. Some of the knights make some raunchy jokes, and there is one sex scene that reveals a bit of female skin, but other than that, most of it is tastefully done and appropriate for the situation. This movie was very enjoyable, not very predictable, and had a satisfying ending.
My Ratings: [Average/4]
—Ariel, age 14
Neutral—This movie was ok, but it made fun of Christianity and also it wasn’t that good, but I saw it in Kuwait, so all the romantic parts were cut out!
My Ratings: [3]
—Carlene, age 13
Movie Critics
…engrossing, highly intelligent …should attract a wide demographic, for despite male orientation there is enough of the romance and legend of Arthur to interest women of all ages… The villains are terrific…
—Kirk Honeycutt, The Hollywood Reporter