So, by now everybody in America has seen Spider-man 2, or at least it looks that way, as the film continues to steamroll box office records. And only the curious are left to see Fahrenheit 9/11 now that the faithful have driven it to box office heights previously unheard of for documentary fare. Which leaves us with a relatively light slate of films opening this weekend.
King Arthur (PG-13)
Disney's big budget historical epic technically opened on Wednesday, perhaps in hopes of getting a jump on the weekend competition and Will Farrell's comedy, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (more on this one in a moment). The Mouse is probably also praying that Spidey's repeat business tapers off, because otherwise this movie was launched into no-man's land.
The $120 million film boasts a more "realistic" Arthur, as the Once and Future king is this time portrayed as a Roman lackey, having served in the Roman military for 15 years. He and his knights have only one mission left to fulfill before they receive their freedom: they must rescue the last Roman officials left in a northern village when the Saxons attack Britain. Arthur joins forces with Merlin, a former enemy, and Guinevere, a warrior maiden, to face the Saxons in battle.
The film stars Clive Owen as Arthur and Kiera Knightley as Guinevere - both are British stars, and Disney clearly hopes that the film will have global appeal in order to recoup its investment. In Hollywood's haste to capitalize upon the "revitalized" epic genre after the success of Gladiator, they haven't done all that well: Disney's own abysmal Alamo and the mixed success of Troy aren't exactly causing audiences to flock to the theaters.
Roger Ebert says the film "is not a bad movie," although that's much like damning it with faint praise. Slant Magazine says it is "revisionist mythmaking of the most bland variety," and complains that the film purports to tell the "true tale" of Arthur only by stripping away the "magic, mystery, and majesty of the fable" and replacing it with "grim n' grimy realism." In the wake of the stunning success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, it seems that filmmakers are running scared: they don't want to be compared with the majesty of Middle-Earth, so they're deliberately running away from magical epics, replacing them with films that promise reality instead of myth.