King Arthur

King Arthur (2005)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Clive Owen, Ioan Gruffudd, Keira Knightley

I've never been a big fan of movies set in the medieval "sword/bow and arrow" era. For some reason, I've always found them uninteresting and a tad bit bland for my tastes. Perhaps that's the sci-fi side of me speaking, but it doesn't make it any less true. Still, I can still appreciate and in some circumstances really enjoy these types of movies – "Braveheart" and "The Lord Of The Rings" trilogy come to mind.

I think the title of this movie says it all. This movie is about King Arthur, (played by Clive Owen, which contrary to popular belief was an actual person and not just a legend. Yes the movie shows a young Arthur taking the sword from the stone, but there is a lot more to it than what you probably know.

In this version of King Arthur, he's a man who constantly struggles between the loyalty of his men, his country, and his religion. During a time before Arthur was born, the Sarmatians fought the Romans and ultimately lost. For their loss, the Sarmatians passed down their debt to the Romans for 15 years by giving up their children (which included Arthur) to fight for the Roman cause. Now 15 years later and one day before Arthur and his knights are to be granted their freedom, they are asked by Bishop Germanius (Ivano Marescotti) to partake in one final mission if they want the papers that assure their freedom. This final mission entails finding the Bishop's grandson and rescuing him from the Saxons, which have hundreds of men fighting their fight.

His men of course, are infuriated with this final mission because it pits them against incredible odds. Nevertheless they follow Arthur to this one final mission, mainly because of the camaraderie they've built over the years. When they finally reach the town where the Bishop's grandson is, they find out that the town has been keeping people imprisoned for being pagans. One of these prisoners is Guinevere (Kiera Knightley), a young Pict woman.

The acting isn't too bad overall. Clive Owen and Ioan Gruffudd both do a solid job as Arthur and Lancelot respectively. Keira Knightley also gives a good performance, and I didn't find her toothy grin as annoying as I did in Love Actually (Michelle Rodriguez and Knightley should go head to head in a battle of the annoying toothy grins). I think the one thing this movie lacks is star power. Braveheart had Mel, "The Lord Of The Rings" had Viggo, and "King Arthur" has… Mister Fantastic? Pft. Admittedly, Clive Owen is a bigger star now compared to when this movie was released in theatres and on DVD, thanks to Sin City, but still I think this movie would have received more attention if it had a bankable movie star in it.

Aside from decent acting, the other thing this movie has going for it is the action scenes. Although not nearly as graphic as Braveheart, the action scenes in King Arthur are still gruesome and barbaric in their own right. The UMD version of the movie is the Director's cut which includes 13 additional minutes that wasn't in the theatrical cut.

If I had any complaint with the action scenes it would be with the "ice" scene when Arthur and his knights square off against the Saxons. It was a great fight, but then right when the fight reaches its climax; it cuts to Arthur and his crew reaching their destination. It's safe to assume that the Saxons retreated, and Arthur and his knights reached where they wanted to go, but to just cut to the destination without mentioning the outcome of the fight felt a bit abrupt.

Overall, I found the movie to be "ok" but nothing that would warrant going out of your way to watch it. It might be worth checking out if you're into the sword/Bow and Arrow genre; otherwise there are other movies that do this better.

The video in King Arthur is presented in 2:35.1. This means that there are some sizable bars on the top and bottom of the screen in order for the video to retain its OAR. The video quality is so clear though that this hardly warrants complaining about it. The movie takes you through a variety of different locales. From lush green pastures, to dirty rock-laden landscapes, to snowy scenery the transfer holds up through and through. Color balance and brightness levels are right on the money as well. I couldn't ask for a better transfer.

The sound is incredibly solid. It's loud enough that you won't have a problem hearing the movie without headphones, and there is some decent use of directional audio as well. The only thing that would have made it better is a bit more use of directional audio, and a bit more punch for the bass. Otherwise, a solid audio track.

The extras are…non-existent. There isn't even a menu choice for extras. This really hurts this UMD movie overall. I understand that the movie was 136 minutes long and UMD space might have been sparse, but at least throw in a commentary or something.

The only way I see someone purchasing this UMD is if they are already a fan of the movie and want a portable version of the film. If you own the DVD and want to know if the video quality is good on UMD, the answer is yes. Outside of that, rent the movie and save yourself a purchase. The lack of any extras at all makes this UMD hard to recommend.