The film is promoted as “The untold story that inspired the legend” and from the way that the story unfold you can see that in this movie. This is not just another rehash of the legends of Arthur and has sword Excalibur but a version that would be closer to the actual truth of how King Arthur came to be. We don’t have all of the mystical musings of a fevered Christian mind but a telling that is based in part by archaeological findings. The film is entertaining, fun to watch and is suitable for the whole family to see. It is true that there are some horrific parts in the film that might not be for the very young but it is not gruesome as some films are now days.
The film starts at the Hadrian’s Great Wall, the wall that was built by the Romans to keep the Picts or the Woads out of what Rome had claimed. The reason that they are called Woads is that during battle the people that lived north of the wall would cover themselves with a blue dye that was made from the woad plant. Not only did it make them more fierce looking it also made them more fierce in battle because of the properties of the plant but this is about the movie and not medicine so we shall continue. Arthur (Clive Owen) or Artorius Castus so named for his father who was the commander of the post at the wall when Arthur was born. We see him and his knights as they really should be and not some legendary figure on shining platemail that is sitting on a horse with stars in his eyes. We see instead him leading a group of Sarmatian knights, horse lords in a campaign to keep the Woads out of Britannia and keep the roads safe.
The Sarmatian knights were conscripts from Sarmatia that are the descendants of the famed knights that fought so fierce against the Romans that they were spared and incorporated into the Roman army. They were both feared and revered as warriors so Rome put them to good use where that talent for war could be best used. The film shows that several of these soon to be knights were sent to Britannia to serve under Arthur for 15 years. After that said time they would be discharged as full Roman citizens and given leave to travel anywhere they wish in the Roman Empire. That is really what and where this film is taking place, at the time of the discharge of the knights and the closing of the Roman outpost at the wall and all of them, even Arthur have been looking forward to it. Each man has his own reasons, the knights to return home to the land that they grew up in and Arthur to go to Rome but it is not the utopia that he thinks it is.
The woads are being lead by Merlin in an every lasting campaign to drive the Romans out, never just against Arthur and his men, they have no real quarrel with them but with the actual Roman people that are subjugating him and his people and not allowing them to have the land for themselves. They look forward to Rome leaving but there is another threat that is coming to fill the place of the departing Romans, the Saxons. As said in the film, they only conquer what they kill. They are racial purest that do not want any indigenous blood mixed with their own. When they take a village they kill all the inhabitants and then burn the village to the ground so that there will never be anyone to oppose them. Merlin knows what is coming if they are not dealt with and he knows Arthur and his knights could be put to good use against that force.
Bishop Germanius (Ivano Marescotti) is a self serving priest that serves the Pope in Rome and has come personally to give Arthur and his men their discharge papers. He is a self righteous man that has no interest in anything then furthering his own career in the church and bringing back the son of a despicable Roman citizen that lives north of the wall. He is going to use Arthur to retrieve the child and uses the discharge papers as hostage to make sure that it happens as he wants and wills. He is going to test the patience of Arthur and his men to the fullest. It is during the rescue mission that Arthur meets Guinevere (Keira Knightley) and rescues her from the household of the very man he has been sent to get. More and more Arthur is learning of the real nature of Rome and it is turning him against them in ways that he never thought. Arthur believes that all men are free and that they should live together in harmony but is learning that Rome is self serving and will hold anyone as slave if it suites their purposes. It is a Rome that he can no longer bare.
All these events eventually lead to Arthur facing the Saxon army himself in one hell of an exciting battle. We even get to see just how vicious the woad women can be. This film is full of battles and each is actually very realistic, not is having blood and guts thrown at the camera but in actually field tactics battle. You see just how nature can be used to defeat your enemy. This is a film that any history buff is going to enjoy but because of Arthur’s misguided beliefs his speeches are going to come off as a bit stiff. When he is not give a speach his word flow with might and grace that you would not expect from this type of person. This is a film that you are going to want to see more then once and will enjoy it more and more as you do.
I give this film a Musing review of