When the Jerry Bruckheimer "King Arthur" came out in 2004, I vowed never to pay to see it. Because, you see, I know just a bit about Arthur, and all the historical and legendary variations. (And by "just a bit" I really mean "I'm an entry in 'The Arthurian Encyclopedia'...)
And I knew it would be a crappy piece of crapulous crappiness.
And so I never did watch it.
Until tonight, when, bored out of my mind and the only broadcast alternative being "Legally Blonde II", I allowed myself to watch it on network TV. (Well, I didn't PAY to see it, did I..)
And so I say: What. A. Piece. Of. Poo.
The historical inaccuracies are beyond counting...
The WOADS??? What's wrong with calling them Picts?
Arthur as an actual Roman (Arthur Castus?? "The Pure"?? How heavy-handed can we get, David Franzoni?)? Well, half-Italian, half-Briton, apparently.
The Round Table was a bunch of SARMATIANS??? Not bloody likely; Rome did not post such people to the ends of empire. (Well, they sort of did, but the few Sarmatians that had been sent to Britain were gone from there by about 200 CE. And in any case, Rome didn't like to post conquered "ethnics" to the far-flung corners of other conquered ethnic lands: afraid the auxiliaries would sympathize, and go native and desert or rebel against the Eagles. And NEVER were they without a firm solid-Roman legionary hand over them, just in case.)
"RUS" as a battle cry? Gang of Russians?? A Sarmatian named Lancelot??? And Galahad and Bors???
Roman pols claiming it's heresy to disobey them because they're God's deputies and the Pope said so? Isn't that kind of like, blasphemy?
Saxons invading from the NORTH?
A Christian boy destined to be pope called ALECTO (name of my favorite Fury)? (My favorite Harpy is Celaeno, if you're wondering: "She Whose Wings Darken The Sky Before A Storm". Though they're all cool.)
The Pope running things as a military commander and dictating Rome's foreign policy? Nuh-uh. Besides, by then Rome was ruled from Constantinople, I b'lieve.
Pelagius? He died before the historical Arthur was born. They could never have been friends.
The Roman pull-out from Britain happened 50 years before the movie says it did. And the Saxons didn't invade until many years into the reign of "Arthur", whoever he might have been. Hengist and Horsa, people!
Bogus battle tactics. In those days, you were infantry OR cavalry, not both. And you don't hurl your axe in battle, 'cause you might never get it back and what will you do after you've flung it and people who hung on to theirs come after you? You're toast, baby.
BADON HILL??? Came at the end of Arthur's reign, not the beginning.
And didn't we see that ring of fire offense in "Braveheart"? Yes, I believe we did. Though the flight of the flaming arrows was cool.
Mail? I don't think so! At least there wasn't that much of it, though the Celts had invented it centuries before (go Celts!) and the Romans improved on it (though they mostly wore plate armor or leather cuirasses and stuff). Mail was rare and expensive, and not until the Saxons did it get really popular. And I doubt the Saxons or anyone else back in that day wore dramatic long sweeping cloaks into battle: they'd impede the sword swing and wrap around your legs and just get you all tangled up in trouble.
And that's just the FACTUAL stuff. Some of the factual stuff.
The violence it does to the legend (The Sword in the Grave? Oh please! As if an expensive thing like that would have lasted stuck out there in the open more than ten minutes!) is even worse. And the Pagan/Christian thing? I won't even get into it, because my head will explode and there's no one around to clean it up.
They couldn't even get the geography of the place right!
Giant stone fortresses? Never existed in 5th-century Britain.
Stonehenge at TINTAGEL?? No. Just...no. Tintagel on sea. Stonehenge inland in the middle of a big old plain.
Wall in North. No Romans north of Wall, with big fancy villas or not.
No Saxons coming from north of Wall. They came from the east and south, like the Vikings 300 years later.
No glaciers or big giant frozen lakes in Britain, except during the Ice Age 10,000 years previously.
Man! What a piece of wretchedness. David Franzoni, a scriptwriter I have liked, was asleep at the wheel for this one. He just didn't do his homework. Or maybe the dog ate it and he threw together this farrago of meretricious trash so he could hand it in on time to Bruckheimer. Or maybe he got it right and Bruckheimer messed around with it. I don't know. But it is truly, truly awful.
Oh, and the really bad Italian accents for the Roman characters? Hilarious. They all sounded as if they should be reciting the daily specials at my favorite pasta palace.
And of COURSE all the leaving knights loyally ride back to the side of the lonely Arthur on the hill awaiting the oncoming Saxon hordes. And of COURSE they go eight against several hundred if not thousands, and of COURSE they are triumphant. How very Kurosawa. Or Peckinpah. Yeesh.
Killing off Lancelot before having to deal with THAT little bit of legend was very smart, though. He's only a 12th-century French import anyway.
I guess we should count ourselves lucky that Rohan didn't ride to the rescue in the ruin and red day ere the sun rose...it was just a bunch of faintly blue, possibly radioactive people in tattoos and skimpy leather outfits coming out of the woods. And...leather bikinis in WINTER??? I know my people went into battle naked, but this is just silly.
And Clive Owen's little Braveheartesque speech? Oh, gag me with a caber! Viggo did it LOTS better.
Once I got over expecting anything good or real, of course, I just sat back and enjoyed the cheesiness. Not to mention the scenery and costumes (kind of hard to do, actually; the lighting director must have been freakishly sensitive to light, the thing is shot so darkly---I mean, it's called the DARK Ages, but they weren't literally...), and had many good laughs at the whole thing.
Especially the end. So, the souls of the knights dead in battle went into a bunch of very groovy-looking HORSES. I laughed so hard at that one I almost tipped over the laptop...especially at the lingering, almost porno slo-mo closeup on this gorgeous galloping black stallion, who you just KNOW was meant to be gorgeous Ioan Gruffudd/Lancelot...
Now, people have played around with Arthur's story for hundreds and hundreds of years. Even I have tinkered with it... BUT you can't tinker and then still say your version is truthful and accurate and based on the most recent and up-to-date research.
Which is what Bruckheimer and Franzoni and even Keira Knightley, poor deluded lass, claimed for this mishmosh. I'd like to see their justification for postulating one Lucius Artorius Castus (an apparently quite historical Roman cavalry officer, but of the SECOND century as opposed to the fifth, and by no means a Romano-British halfbreed) as Arthur based on "newly discovered evidence."
Yeah, in your Hollywooden dreams, guys...the utter gall just staggers me. They want to have it both ways: to have all the Arthurian mojo and cred, and also to pimp it out and glam it up and get their mucky fingerprints all over it. Jerks.
More cheese than a roomful of cheddar. Dear God, what a waste. The definitive Dark-Ages Arthur remains to be put on film. I suggest somebody (NOT Franzoni!) go buy the rights to Rosemary Sutcliffe's "Sword at Sunset"...