King Arthur rides again: dubby’s DVDiscussion

Dubby Bhagat


The legend of King Arthur, his Queen Guinevere and his most famous Knight, Lancelot gets reworked in the new movie King Arthur, which is said to be based on newly discovered historical facts behind the universally well loved legend.

Set in an England with warring tribes, barely controlled by the Roman Empire, we meet Arthur as a noble war lord with his loyalties to Rome, a Lancelot who is forced to be a knight, and a Guinevere who is a wild tribal captured by evil Saxons. Yes, there is a round table and yes, there is valor and honor but African-American director, Antoine Fuqua, who directed the gritty thriller, Training Day, plays King Arthur as a harsh epic war movie with a search and rescue mission at its heart. Arthur played by Clive Owen was a bigger role than the actor has ever done and he said “I was a little concerned. There was a lot of pressure, King Arthur is a very heroic character. But the bottom line is, I approach it like I do any movie-play the part, play what’s written, and you hope that the writing and the director supports you and creates that world around you. I can’t play heroic. I have to just be given stages.”

Keira Knightely who plays Guinevere said “Traditionally Guinevere has been terribly romantic, very innocent, and in this one we’re trying to provide the reality behind all the legends, so we’ve said that Guinevere is a Pict, and they were matriarchal societies, which makes us all stronger. So she’s quite manipulative and calculating and she’s got a point to prove.’’

Lancelot is acted by Ioan Gruffudd and is seen as Arthur’s best friend who is supportive of the king and is a part of the supporting cast, that has been described as ‘hearty.’ Wild action and a quest for freedom coupled with Arthur’s vision of leadership make King Arthur worth seeing.

But no movie has quite captured the Arthurian legend and they have been many attempts. I recommend the beautifully scripted, poignant, First Knight which has Sean Connery as Arthur, Richard Gere as Lancelot and Julia Ormand as a Guinevere, who has to choose between them

In First Knight, Sean Connery is fantastic as high-minded Arthur, true to the traditions of the ancient stories, while Richard Gere is a rough and ready Lancelot who rescues Julia Ormand and earns her love, as does Arthur who helps to save her people. First Knight is about the fabled Camelot and is a memorable retelling that requires at least a three handkerchief cry.

Made in 1953, Knights Of The Round Table was MGM’s first wide screen movie and starred Robert Taylor, Ava Gardner, Mel Ferrer and Stanley Baker. Not available in DVD, this version has tremendous pomp and splendor and tries to stick to the original story. But the story of Arthur and his knights is too big for any single film.

For example, some consider Robert Bresson’s. Lancelot Of The Lake, which is a French movie with English subtitles made in 1974, to be the best of the Arthur movies but it only concentrates on the break-up of the round table.

None of the movies highlight on the quest for the Holy Grail which was central to Arthur and his Knights, and which has become of paramount importance after Dan Browns, Da Vinci Code, which is being made into a film with Toms Hanks, In Arthurian Legend the quest for something was mandatory. A quest film that is funny and exciting, is The Sword Of The Valiant which is based on the epic poem, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It is a Sword and Sorcery movie with Sean Connery as an awesome Green Knight and Miles O’Keefe as Sir Gawain, the Knight who has to solve a riddle or lose his life. With Trevor Howard as Arthur and John Rhys - Davies and Peter Cushing this fantasy adventure is strong on star power and mesmerizes one as Gawain sets off on a year long journey and meets incredible characters on his way to gain redemption. I loved it.

The Sword In The Stone is a Disney Cartoon that is delightful for children as it shows the wizard Merlin teaching a young orphan to become King in the most unusual ways. Based on T. H. White’s, Once And Future King, this retelling concentrates on the early days of Arthur and is full of fun.

But my favorite Arthur retelling is the Broadway musical, Camelot and I haven’t even seen it. I liked the film version which had Richard Harris, Vanessa Redgrave and Franco Nero but it doesn’t come near the singing of Richard Burton and Julie Andrews in the stage version. The music and lyrics by Alan Jay Learner and Fredrick Loew are brilliant and have some of my favorite lines ‘’Don’t let it be forgot That once there was a spot For one brief, shinning moment That was known as Camelot.’’