If you don't expect much from summer movies, King Arthur may not disappoint. And if that sounds like faint praise, I'm afraid it's all I can muster.
The film sets out to tell the true story behind the Arthurian legends familiar to most of us only through movies and children's books, and while its claims to history are pretty questionable, I got a kick out of seeing bits and pieces of the well-known stories juggled around and fit into an unexpected historical context.
Even though the setting is primitive-Celtic instead of shining-armor-medieval, we start spotting unusual twists on familiar stuff right away. There's Arthur—some folks call him Artorius—and half a dozen knights, some with familiar names like Galahad, Tristan, and Lancelot. Merlin name is mentioned, Arthur's sword gets called Excalibur, and eventually we even get a convincing enough rendering of the sword in the stone business. We even get a damsel-in-distress Guinevere (a feisty and fetching Keira Knightley, the best thing about the movie), and though she definitely fits the "fair maiden" bill, this warrior princess is more Lucy Lawless than Vanessa Redgrave. Kinda fun.
The idea here is that the Knights of the Round Table are Roman conscripts, the sons of fierce warriors who were the only survivors of the empire's military campaigns in Sarmatia. Think Afghan horsemen and you won't be far wrong. Nearing the end of 15 years service protecting Roman interests in the south of Britain, these boys want only their freedom. It's time to go home.
It turns out the Romans are feeling pretty much the same way. It's half past A.D. 300, and the empire is a bit overextended. After decades of fending off nasty northern natives who paint themselves strange colors (a ...