King Arthur reigns over usually mindless action fare

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Fans expecting another mystical take on the legend of King Arthur and the knights of the roundtable are in for a big surprise with the new Jerry Bruckheimer-produced King Arthur. This version, which claims to be a historically accurate account, is grounded in a gritty realism that is evident in the films highly intense battle sequences.

King Arthur begins with the title character (played effectively Arthurs warriors, which include Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), think they are about to be released from duty, but the Roman Catholic church forces them into one last assignment. Arthur and his men must rescue an heir to the church from his remote village before an attack by the brutal Saxons led by Cerdic (Stellan Skarsgard).

As the mission is completed, Arthur begins to question the cause for which he is fighting. Eventually, Arthur unites with the English renegade Woads to battle the Saxons and allow the English to reclaim the land, which is rightfully theirs.

David Franzonis screenplay chooses to abandon the magic and mystique that has been featured in many previous versions and creates a world that is a lot like his previous work in Gladiator. You can almost visualize interaction between Arthur and his knights and Russell Crowes Maximus.

The screenplay also abandons the familiar love triangle among Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere (Keira Knightley), instead keeping the romance between Arthur and Guinevere. The heroine is also given a slight touch-up, evolving into a fiery warrior capable of holding her own on the battlefield.

I liked some other small touches in Franzonis script, including Cerdics son constantly questioning his fathers quest for power and glory.

But the films strength lies in the two action sequences that take up the majority of the second half of King Arthur. Director Antoine Fuqua does a magnificent job of staging both battles, especially the sequence where Arthur and his men battle the Saxons on a frozen lake. Its a visually spectacular sequence that is topped by a final battle that includes some plausible and appropriate strategy by the army severely undermanned.

The end result is summer action fare with just enough intelligence to put it above the mindless action films that usually litter multiplexes this time of year.

Dollar dud of the week

With nothing dandy (outside of the previously mentioned Kill Bill: Volume 2) to choose from on the discount circuit this week, Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (D-) proves to be at the top of the heap when it comes to bad cinema.

I dont really know anyone over the age of 3 eager for a sequel to the dreadful 2002 film, but alas, the popular childrens cartoon continues on the big screen. This time Scooby and the gang are out to stop a super villain who has created a monster machine capable of re-creating classic Mystery Incorporated foes.

Scooby Doo 2 is loud and colorful and does have Matthew Lillard doing an impressive impersonation of Scoobys best pal Shaggy, but theres really not much else going on.

Pressed to say something good about this sequel, I will say its marginally better than Part 1, although that film didnt exactly set a high standard.

It all adds up to a family film that might entertain the young kids, but will leave the adults yearning for something else.

Scooby Doo 2 is playing at the Plaza 6, where all seats are $1.

Sportswriter/movie reviewer Micheal Compton is looking over your shoulder right now. He can be reached by e-mailing mcompton@bgdailynews.com  Daily News ·813 College St. ·PO Box 90012 ·Bowling Green, KY ·42102 ·270-781-1700 

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