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I did not hate this film. It was fairly entertaining, with well-staged
battle scenes and high production values. The acting, though often
either overblown or slightly wooden, was passable, and Ioan Gruffydd
was actually quite good.
What bothered me is that the text at the opening of King Arthur
promised a portrayal of the "historical" Arthur, and then manifestly
failed to deliver. For the record, there is no "historical" Arthur.
There are scattered references in the works of Gildas and Bede to an
Arthur, or an Aurelius Ambrosianus upon whom the legend of Arthur is
based. There is a fairly detailed story of a King Arthur in Geoffrey of
Monmouth's History, though most of this seems drawn from Welsh and
Cornish folktales of the type later collected in the Mabinogion. There
is, however, very hard evidence that there ever was a King Arthur, or
battles of Baddon Hill and Celidon forest.
There was, however, an invasion and colonization of Britain by the
Saxons and other Germanic tribes during the fifth and sixth centuries,
following the Roman military withdrawal. And it is pretty clear that
the native Celtic and Romano-Celtic population put up one hell of a
fight, slowing but not stopping the Saxon invasions. My own opinion is
that there is enough smoke to suggest that the Arthur of medieval
romance probably had some kind of historical prototype (most legends of
this type usually do: a "Dux Bellorum" (war leader) as named in Gildas,
possibly this shadowy Aurelius Ambrosianus.
So, I had high hopes for the movie King Arthur. After all, the film had
the time period right, and the context looked convincing enough.
Unfortunately, rather than using the historical material and context,
the filmmakers completely ignored them. There was no consistency to
this movie, and anyone with even a passing knowledge of the history of
the early middle ages (the so-called dark ages) will be more than
irritated by the pretended historicity of the movie. Some examples: 1.
The film suggests the late-imperial Roman government and policy was
directed by the Church, through the Papacy. This is absolutely false.
Although the Empire was staunchly Christian at this time, it was the
Emperor and his court -- at Constantinople rather than Rome -- that set
and executed policy. Bishops did not order armies around. In fact, the
See of Rome at the time was a relatively weak power centre at the time,
especially compared to the Bishops of Constantinople and Alexandria.
2. While it is true that the Romans enlisted soldiers and units from
border tribes like the Sarmatians, they were never posted at the other
end of the empire. This would have made no sense, since the whole point
of the foederati was to create a buffer between the empire and the
northern and eastern barbarians. The Sarmatian soldiers were typically
posted in Sarmatia.
3. Arthur would never have known Pelagius who, though a Briton or
Irishman by birth, was in Rome from about AD 405. He was condemned by
the Church, but never actually excommunicated or convicted of heresy,
and probably died in Rome in AD 420, around the time the "historical"
Arthur was born.
4. By the fifth century, the Roman occupied part of Britain had been
quite thoroughly Romanized. The population was mostly Romanized
Britons, and NOT an ethnically British population under the boot of a
few foreign, ethnically Roman aristocrats. While there certainly were
non-Romanized Celts like the Wodes about, most of the Britain that
Arthur would have been fighting to defend would have been populated by
Christian Britons who though of themselves as Romans.
5. Bishop Germanicus, or St. Germain, was not a former Roman general.
He was a former Gaulish lawyer.
6. Hadrian's wall was built not to keep the Britonnic Celts and Saxons
out of Roman Britain. It was built to keep the Picts and Hiberni -- who
were explicitly NOT Briton and in the case of the Picts, probably not
even Celts -- out of Britain. It runs/ran from Solway Firth to the
River Tyne and thus is waaaaaaaaaaaaay too far north to have had much
to do with the "historical" Arthur.
7. While the Church in the fifth century was certainly militant (read
St. Augustine for that), the portrayal of churchmen as murderous
ascetics who tortured and sacrificed pagans is absolutely ridiculous.
In fact, by this time, most of the population south of Hadrian's Wall
had been converted to Christianity.
What troubles me is that there is no reason why the filmmakers should
have played so fast and loose with history to make this movie. I
understand creative license, but the way in which they claim
historicity on one hand, and then create a nonsense fabrication on the
other to no end other than the fact that they just seemed to want to
do it that way -- makes it very difficult for me to respect King
Arthur. I can respect Excalibur; at least no one claimed that it was
Tags for King Arthur Full Movie
, Ioan Gruffudd
, Joel Edgerton
, Mads Mikkelsen
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