Thursday, July 08, 2004

The once and future movie-going experience 

I shouldn't write about a movie I haven't seen (no, this is not a post about "Fahreheit 911"), but since I'm not going to comment on the film's artistic merits, what the hell.

"King Arthur" is getting some atrocious reviews, mostly from the big children in the media who are disappointed that the magic is gone ("Troy" had the same problems, having been de-deified by its director). I, for one, while a fan of my name-sake, was always a bit sick and tired of all the ahistorical medieval add-ons (knights in shining armour, the Holy Grail, etc.) and wanted to see what a moviemaker would make of the "historical" King Arthur. By the sounds of it, the new film version is still somewhat off the mark: the new Arthur , according to Slate's David Edelstein, "is a battle-hardened warrior at the northernmost outpost of the Roman Empire, circa 452 A.D. ... He is a Briton, but he commands a Sarmatian cavalry for the occupying country." If that's correct, then it's incorrect. While Sarmatian cavalry was stationed in Britain during the late Empire, the Romans withdrew from the isles in 410 AD. The historical Arthur (to the extent we know him) was a war leader of a mixed Roman and Briton heritage, who lived and fought about a hundred years later than the new movie has him doing. I also gather that the film is pretty hostile to Christianity (what's new?). This again would be inaccurate. Arthur was most likely a Christian fighting against pagan Saxons.

Something else, though, in Edelstein's review caught my eye:

"[Arthur] is a Briton, but he commands a Sarmatian cavalry for the occupying country. He likes the Romans. He fights against his own people because he considers Rome the fount of democracy, religious tolerance, and the credo that men (and women) control their own destinies. Given the bloody repression practiced by Rome at the time, this is moronic, but Arthur is not presented as a moron, merely a soldier who is a tad out of touch - as much of a bleeding-heart liberal-humanist as a man who has lopped off thousands of insurgents' limbs can be."
God, it sounds like some Dark Ages version of Ahmed Chalabi or Iyad Allawi. I wonder if that's why, subliminally, the reviewers turn off the new Arthur? I was prepared to go and see "King Arthur" just as a piece of entertainment, but now with all the talk about "occupying country", "insurgents" and liking the US, sorry, Rome, I will definitely have to check out this shameless piece of political propaganda.


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