King Arthur: Director's Cut (2004)

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Released 29-Nov-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Making Of-Blood On The Land: Forging King Arthur
Alternate Ending-Badon Hill
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2004
Running Time 135:51
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (72:44) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Antoine Fuqua
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Clive Owen
Stephen Dillane
Keira Knightley
Ioan Gruffudd
Stellan Skarsgård
Ray Winstone
Hugh Dancy
Ray Stevenson
Til Schweiger
Charlie Creed-Miles
Joel Edgerton
Mads Mikkelsen
Sean Gilder
Case ?
RPI $36.95 Music Hans Zimmer


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures Yes
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
English Titling
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    When is a Director's Cut not a Director's Cut? When it's King Arthur: Director's Cut. This extended version of the film includes a few minutes of extra battle footage, but it still radically departs from the Director's vision. King Arthur is a technically well made but ultimately shallow film, derivative of many other classics. Despite being a Jerry Bruckheimer multiplex movie, it failed to become a summer blockbuster. Indeed, it struggled to recoup its costs. Peppered with a few generic (and very familiar) ancient battle scenes, King Arthur is weighed down by a dull story with dull characters, and remains a great disappointment.

    The movie's marketing promised us "the untold true story that inspired the legend". So this is the 'true story', where The Knights of the Round Table are Eastern European Cavalry, conscripted to fight for the Roman Empire, and Guinevere is a cute, half-naked (even in the snow), feminist warrior?

    In this version of the story, the reliable but dull King Arthur (Clive Owen), the grouchy Lancelot (Ioan Gruffudd), and the soccer hooligan-like Knights of the Round Table are constantly fighting native barbarians along Hadrian's Wall in Northern England. The barbarians, Woads, are led by Merlin (Stephen Dillane). A Roman Bishop sends the Knights on a suicidal mission to rescue a remote Roman family in danger from a Saxon invasion. When they reach the family, they find Guinevere (Keira Knightley), imprisoned in a dungeon, being starved to death . . .

    Hang on, exactly what does any of this have to do with the legend of Camelot?

    Even if this version is a more historically accurate story, what's the point? It should have rather been a documentary. This movie takes all that is special about the King Arthur legend, and discards it. For example, there's now no real romance between Arthur and Guinevere, except for one brief (and interrupted) sex scene, which seems to have been clumsily edited in later, and no love triangle with Lancelot at all. The only link with Camelot is that a few names have been retained, and in an absurd move of grossly false advertising, the movie has been titled "King Arthur".

    Director Antoine Fuqua and script-writer David Franzoni have sewn together scenes inspired by Gladiator, Braveheart, The Magnificent Seven, and Saving Private Ryan; and while most of the film is a yawn-fest, and instantly forgettable, the film stirs awake occasionally during the large action set-pieces, such as the battle scene on a frozen river.

    Sadly, however, there just isn't enough depth to the story. The character development is poor, and I never really cared about the characters. For example, I've seen the film four times and I still can't recall any of the names of any of the Saxon characters who, by the way, are presented as one-dimensional cardboard cut-out villains, lacking any real motivation.

    On a brighter note, the film does have some wonderful photography, especially the sweeping aerial camera work. Also, the art direction, sets, and costumes are all wonderful. The film also has a lot of atmosphere, and when it's snowing in the movie, I actually did feel cold.

    So why is there a Director's Cut? King Arthur started out as a US R film, but half way through production, the Studio instructed the Director, Fuqua, to make a PG 13 movie (to increase the box office takings). A number of changes were made that went well beyond trimming down the violence. With the film 'finished', it went before a committee at the Hollywood Studio, and more changes were made. Finally, the film was screened to test audiences, and even more changes were made, including adding narration, and completely changing the ending. By the way, the original (and better) ending is included as an extra here, and Fuqua describes why he prefers it. Indeed, in a recent interview, Fuqua claims the film was never finished, but rather "abandoned".

    So is this Director's Cut a return to Fuqua's vision, complete with his original ending - the one he prefers? No. This version merely adds back some of the more violent moments that were trimmed from the film originally.

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Track Listing

1. Opening Credits
2. Hadrian's Wall
3. The Final Order
4. Saxon's and Woads
5. Marius' Estate
6. Rain and Snow
7. Excalibur
8. Saxon Confrontation
9. Freedom
10. Battle for the Wall
11. Badon Hill
12. Saxons Surrounded
13. A Roman Knight
14. Unity

Transfer Quality

Video

    Overall, the transfer is excellent. The film often appears grainy and dark, but I'm sure this is an artistic choice, to reflect the sombre and gritty mood of the film.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is excellent. For example, consider the detail in the shot of the soldier in chain-mail with grass behind him at 44:05. The black level is also good. The shadow detail appears limited for artistic purposes. Due to the lighting and camera work, the film tends to have a high contrast and intentionally has many dark and murky scenes. After all, the story is set before electric light. Consider the lack of shadow detail in the round table scene at 21:08, or in the interior of the tent at 33:09.

    The colour is excellent, and it captures the drab and cold environment well. Many scenes have an intentional green or blue tint, as colour is used in the story telling.

    There are no problems with MPEG or film-to-video artefacts. Tiny film artefacts appear throughout, but they were never distracting. Some edge enhancement is also noticeable at times, but again, I never found it distracting.

    English subtitles are provided, and they are accurate. The titles for place names and dates are player-generated.

    This is an RSDL disc, with the layer change placed during Chapter 8 at 72:44. The film is divided into 15 chapters.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio is excellent.

    There are two audio options: English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s), and English dts 5.1 (768Kb/s). I found both tracks similar in quality, but I did prefer the dts track for what appeared to be a wider range and deeper bass. The greater presence in the bottom end of the dts track is often noticeable, such as during the scene with the advancing army at 109:49.

    The disappointing feature is the now-common compromise made with the dts audio, as dts is capable of being encoded at a whopping 1509Kb/s.

    The dialogue quality and audio sync are excellent on both audio tracks.

    The musical score is credited to Hans Zimmer, and six others who provided additional music. As always, Zimmer provides a great orchestral score, let down by the lack of the film's emotional depth.

    The surround presence and activity is very good. The rear speakers are used effectively to help carry the score, such as at 110:44, and provide ambience, such as the war drums at 99:35. The subwoofer is also used very effectively to support both the score, for example at 62:11, and the sound effects, such as the rumble of horse hooves at 101:11. This approach to sound design really helps make the battle scenes more immersive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The extras are slim.

Menu

    An animated menu with stereo audio.

Featurette-Making Of-Blood On The Land: Forging King Arthur (17:11)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, with Dolby Digital stereo audio, this extra includes interviews with cast, crew, and the odd historian. There are a number of behind-the-scenes shots, and some clips from the film. The extra covers a lot of material in a short time, ranging from the fight choreography to the film's score. It really should have been two or three times longer to be a proper 'making of'.

Alternate Ending-Badon Hill (4:14)

    Presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, non-16x9 enhanced, with Dolby Digital stereo surround audio, this is the original, darker ending. It can be viewed with or without the Director's commentary.

Gallery-Photo

   Bruckheimer must be very proud of his photography, as he often sticks his snaps onto his DVDs. Using your remote or the 'slide show' option, you can see a collection of his stills.

Censorship

    There is censorship information available for this title. Click here to read it (a new window will open). WARNING: Often these entries contain MAJOR plot spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    King Arthur was released on DVD in Region 1 in December 2004, in an Unrated Version.

    The Region 4 DVD misses out on:

    The Region 1 DVD misses out on:

    It was hard to make a choice, but I have to favour our version. Yes the R1 has more extras, but I'd much rather watch this film in dts, and using a projector, with our superior PAL resolution. I am always happy to jettison extras if it means we get a dts track.

Summary

    King Arthur is an attempt to make a classic, epic film, with mixed results.

    The video quality is excellent.

    The audio quality is also excellent.

    The extras are slim.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Brandon Robert Vogt (warning: bio hazard)
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayGrundig Elegance 82-2101 (82cm, 16x9). Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationSony STR DE-545
SpeakersSony SS-V315 x5; Sony SA-WMS315 subwoofer

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Comments (Add)
History Vs Legend - wolfgirv
Not a great movie! - Pendergast (Why not take a look at my bio, you might think it stinks.)
Neither legendary nor historic -
Blu problems - wolfgirv