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DVD Review: KING ARTHUR Director's Cut

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PHOTOGRAPHY

KING ARTHUR Director's Cut

DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 139 minutes, director commentary, alternate ending, "Knight Vision" trivia Track, Producer's Photo Gallery, Blood On The Land: Forging King Arthur featurette, Cast and Filmmaker Round Table, Playable King Arthur XBOX Demo

STUDIO: Touchstone

RELEASE DATE: 12-21-2004

ANALYSIS: I had mixed feelings after I saw KING ARTHUR in the theater back in July. Now, Touchstone has released the Director's Cut which has 15 minutes of footage not seen in the theaters and violence that had to be toned down to get the movie a PG-13 rating for theater release. I sat down and watched this time around. I rather like the movie better now than I did when I first saw it months ago. The attention to detail is amazing. The battle scenes hit you in the gut with more punch than they did in the theaters. I came to release that this is one of the better movies that Jerry Bruckheimer has produced.

KING ARTHUR is a different take on the legend of Arthur that combines some history with fiction. There are some historical inaccuracies abound, but the movie in involving and exciting. KING ARTHUR takes place in the late 5th Century and follows the last mission of Arthur and his Sarmatian knights. They must transport a Roman family to safety (and then Arthur's men will get their freedom) while making sure the invading Saxons don't kill them. This version of the Arthur legend is without the mysticism of previous tales. This is the down and dirty version that has the most accurate look of the times of any Arthur movie. Like with the first viewing, some of the knights are hard to tell apart except for Arthur, Lancelot, and Bors. KING ARTHUR does have a unique look. It is one of the best things about this movie. It is a fresh and innovative take.

The actors give it their best in their roles. Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Ioan Gruffudd, and Stellan Skarsgard are the standouts in this movie. Antoine has competently directed the movie and the battles breath with life (and blood). On top of this, Hans Zimmer's score makes this movie seem very alive.

VIDEO/AUDIO: KING ARTHUR Director's Cut is presented in 2.35:1 Anamorphic Widescreen (and yes, there is a Pan and Scan version of the Theater Cut if you dare tempt fate and go that way). Colors and blacks are good. The transfer is a little soft at times, but the image detail is fine. Some motion blurring was present when I paused the movie.

You can hear the movie in an English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround or French Dolby Surround with the option of French or Spanish subtitles. The audio mix is distinct. The music is clearly the winner, but sometimes the sound effects do ring through almost as strong as the sweeping music composed by Hans Zimmer. The music and sound effects are balanced well enough that they don't drown out any of the dialogue (that comes through and easy to hear).

SPECIAL FEATURES:

BLOOD ON THE LAND: FORGING KING ARTHUR (17:47) is a featurette that goes into the production of KING ARTHUR including the care and detail that went into the production from training the actors (and extras) to fight (and ride horses) to the digital effects used to enhance some of the scenes in the movie. You get treated to interviews with the cast and crew, see the weapons and props being made, and video of the actors (and extras) training to fight (and the extras get dressed up to be Saxon warriors).

The ROUND TABLE VIDEO COMMENTARY (15:39) has producer Jerry Bruckheimer ask questions of the director, the screenwriter, and actors Clive Owen, Keira Knightley, Ioan Gruffudd, and Hugh Dancy. They have a fun time talking about the movie including the historical details that went into it, Clive Owen on his stunt double, Keira being scared of Stellan Skarsgard on set, and Antoine Fuqua being impressed by the work of the actors he directed (as in how they handled the fight scenes). This is the second best thing to a full audio commentary with all of the above people.

There is an alternate ending (4:11) which comes with optional director's commentary. It is a little darker ending to the movie which test audiences didn't respond to. also you get to see some of the photos Jerry Bruckheimer took during filming in the Producer's Photo Gallery. For those of you that have an XBOX, a playable demo of the King Arthur video game (from Konami) is included among the bonus features.

Rounding out the bonus features is an audio commentary (for the movie) with Director Antoine Fuqua and a "Knight's Vision" trivia track which tells facts about the production of the movie in addition to some historical facts while you watch the movie. I think it is best to play both tracks at once since Antoine is quiet at times during the commentary. Antoine talks about the actors (including the Italian actors who learned English for the their roles), the production (design of the costumes, the problems with stunt horses battle scenes that had to be toned down for a PG-13 rating, and ideas the actors brought to scenes), and the history of the times that KING ARTHUR is set in (like talking about the people of the time: Romans, Saxons, and others). The Knight Vision track comes across through a subtitle track and gives many historical facts. It's not a bad track.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Skip the theater cut DVD and watch the Director's Cut DVD of KING ARTHUR. Good extras and a fine presentation makes this DVD worth watching.

this DVD Review is (c)12-17-2004 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission. Send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com and look for additional content (and site updates) at http://www.livejournal.com/users/enterlinemedia