March 9, 2003

By Michael Strickland

King Arthur

I generally don't get excited when I hear about a new Jerry Bruckheimer movie in the works. Let's be honest, most of his work (e.g. Coyote Ugly, Armageddon, Con Air) appeals to few people over the age of 17 or to those who lack a Y chromosome. They're "popcorn movies" with a capital "P." But news of his latest production, King Arthur (set for a 2004 release), has piqued my curiosity.

The Arthurian legends have always interested me. In particular, I am fascinated by theories which suggest the mythical king is based on an actual historical figure. Chief among such theorists is British scholar Geoffrey Ashe. His book, The Discovery of King Arthur, presents a compelling case that King Arthur was in fact a sixth-century British king named Riothamus. The book outlines a number of similarities between obscure references to Riothamus and events from Arthurian legend.

It's been a long time since I read the book—I wrote a term paper on it during my first semester of college, well over 10 years ago—but I remember being impressed by the thoroughness of Ashe's research. His work becomes especially notable when one considers the paucity of primary sources from that time period. Roman rule in Britain came to an end early in the fifth century, and Rome herself fell in 476. Historical documents from Britain during the resulting Dark Ages are scant.

Bruckheimer's King Arthur seems a refreshing change from previous cinematic retellings of the legend, with a focus on the historical rather than the mythical. As the Hollywood Reporter describes it, "the film will focus on the history and politics of the period during which Arthur ruled—when the Roman empire collapsed and skirmishes over power broke out in outlying countries—as opposed to the mystical elements of the tale on which past Arthur films have focused."

While one can't rule out the spectacle of flying swords and 20-minute jousting scenes when a producer like Bruckheimer is involved, the film sounds promising so far. I'll keep my expectations in check, but will look forward to the "real" King Arthur coming alive on the big screen next year.


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Michael Strickland ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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3/8: The Women are Smarter
3/7: Salt on Old Wounds
3/6: 3/3/03, 3:33 p.m.
3/5: Beer Day
3/4: Pulling the Trigger
3/3: Make 'Em Laugh
3/2: Whither Iraq?
3/1: Strickland Cellars
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