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Rule your destiny: King Arthur.

STAR Starring: Clive Owen, Stephen Dillane, Keira Knightley, Hugh Dancy, Ioan GruffuddDirected by: Antoine FuquaProduced by: Jerry BruckheimerSexed up, tricked out and totally ready to party, King Arthur enters the summer fray with consummate new-world vulgarity. Set during the fifth century against a backdrop of warring British interests, Roman conquerors and Saxon invaders, this frantic period entertainment retells this beloved British foundation myth with big-bang razzmatazz and high Hollywood camp. It's the Arthurian legends, a PlayStation passion play and a Jerry Bruckheimer lollapalooza rolled into one. Rooted in Celtic mythology, King Arthur has been grist for pap, poetry and politics from the sixth century onward, immortalized through the years by Sirs Thomas Malory and Alfred Tennyson, Lerner and Lowe, Disney and JFK. Initially, Bruckheimer seems a strange fit with such Camelot-bound company. The producer of such propulsive blowouts as "Bad Boys" has only occasionally turned toward the past for inspiration, preferring to keep his stories within the same life (and attention) span of his target audience. The producer traffics in modern studio myths in which men invariably triumph because they're both natural leaders of other men and heroic individuals, and can lay their hands on the biggest, baddest guns. Chivalry has nothing to do with it and neither does love.Despite the presence of Keira Knightly as Guinevere, love and chivalry have precious little to do with King Arthur either. Set in the rolling British wilds (i.e. Ireland) the story credited to David Franzoni unfolds in the waning days of Roman rule. For years, Arthur (Clive Owen), an imperial soldier, has led a brotherhood of knights in support of Rome and against rebelling British tribes. Led by Merlin (Stephen Dillane), these proto-hippies live al fresco in the woods and seem to be graduates of the Mel Gibson Academy of Extreme Performance, where they apparently majored in howls and body paint. Now with Rome in retreat, the knights and tree-huggers will find common cause in the big, bad, blond to the bone Saxon invaders, newly arrived from Germany and led by Cerdic the Entertainer (Stellan Skarsgard). A nutty, often enjoyable farrago of craft and cinematic sampling, King Arthur moves fast and loose, and is almost aggressive in its absence of an original idea, in and of itself a Bruckheimer trademark. The choral-infused soundtrack echoes the day-spa mewling of Enya a la Gladiator; an aerial view of the knights trudging across a mountain pass directly echoes a similar image in Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. A field littered with dead combatants is, inevitably, shot from on high as if from the point of view of a disproving god, a panorama of death recycled since at least Gone With the Wind. When the tree-huggers race through the woods, director Antoine Fuqua and cinematographer Slawomir Idziak appear to be conjuring up The Last of the Mohicans albeit without the brilliance. A genius of his system, Bruckheimer makes eminently watchable movies often written by a committee and directed by filmmakers whose talents never detract from the producer's commercial imperative. In this case the director is Fuqua, who scored a few years back with Training Day, a feat he's in no danger of repeating here. The logistics of epic-scale productions often militate against the quiet, intimate scenes that movies like this need in order to give them a touch of humanity, to show the man behind the legend. But because Fuqua can't handle down time (the actors look ill at ease when they're not in motion) and because he doesn't have a powerhouse like Denzel Washington--or a showboat like Johnny Depp--to fill in the script's emotional blanks there's nothing personal here, no reason to care. Both the quiet, interior Owen and a boisterous scene-stealer such as Ray Winstone (the Sexy Beast himself) seem out of sorts in a film like this, presumably because they've been left to their own devices. The usually terrific Owen delivers a remote, diffident performance that doesn't telegraph kingly indecision so much as actorly embarrassment. Where in Amman:Grand: 11:30-14:00-16:30-18:00-19:00-20:30-21:30-23:00-24:00Le Royal: 12:30-15:00-17:30-20:00-22:30-1:00Galleria: 11:00-13:15-15:30-17:45-20:00-22:15-24:30

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:Aug 22, 2004
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