Making the Grades
King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table have long been the stuff of legend and movie scripts.
However, Director Antoine Fuqua wants us to believe he has the facts behind the fable. Focusing far less on the mythical qualities of the men, he gives us a gritty story set in Britain at the time Rome begins to withdraw.
As the Empire crumbles, Arthur (Clive Owen) leads a band of knights (Ioan Gruffudd, Mads Mikkelsen, Joel Edgerton, Hugh Dancy, Ray Winstone, Ray Stevenson) through the countryside trying to maintain order. Still bound by an ancient Roman law, the group is pressed into sober and gruesome battles, all in the name of a far-flung leader many of them neither know nor believe in.
After protecting Bishop Germanius (Ivano Marescotti) and his caravan from a group of guerilla fighters and their leader, Merlin (Stephen Dillane), the men reach the end of their required military service. They're now anxious to return to their homes in Sarmatia. Arthur is also eager to go back to Rome where he hopes to influence the fledgling Christian religion.
But before the Bishop hands over their release papers, he has one last demand. Forcing them to either accept the mission or be hunted down as deserters, he sends the soldiers deep into enemy lands to retrieve a wealthy Roman family. There they have to face the armies of the brutal Saxon leader, Cerdic (Stellan Skargard) and his son Cynric (Til Schweiger).
A rather unconvincing commander-in-chief, Cerdic is nonetheless eager to war against the famous Arthur and he isn't above sacrificing hordes of his own men in order to make that happen. However, he hasn't accounted for the loyalty the Knights feel toward their captain.
The men know Arthur as a man who values his faith in God, as well as freedom and equality (hence the round table) for all men. Crisscrossing the island in the name of duty has given them plenty of time to form strong bonds (and unfortunately, joke about sexual topics). Those bonds along with Arthur's leadership skills have forged the disgruntled band of conscripts into Britain's most formidable warriors.
In the epic style of The Lord of the Rings and Troy, the armies have a final bloody meeting. After spending a sensual pre-battle evening with Arthur, even Guinevere (Keira Knightly)---dressed in little more than a loincloth and some strategically placed leather bands---proves to be an impressive threat to the heavily armored Saxons.
For families, the violence pushes the limits of a PG-13 rating and is something parents will strongly want to consider before taking their teens to see this film. Still in a world of chaos and uncertainty, Arthur stands as a man of ideals concerned about the rights of all. Maybe more than his deeds, his vision of a better world is what makes the legend of King Arthur endure.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about King Arthur.
How did the Bishop and some other Roman leaders live up to the ideals of the Empire? How did the round table represent the ideal of equality that Arthur believed in?
Despite their brutal lifestyle, how did the knights show compassion to others? How did their attitudes compare with those of Cerdic and his son?