In a few words: Gladiator light.
In a few more words: Jerry Bruckheimer can say what he wants about this movie being King Arthur's true story, I've always though he was after "Gladiator Part Two" when he produced this movie. Compared with "Gladiator", it sure falls short, but it's not as bad as people said in its time.
Starting with the good things, the script is not half bad. It comes from "Gladiator"'s auteur David Franzoni. It's not memorable, true, as it is packed with lots of empty talk about "honor", "freedom" and all that mumbo-jumbo modern filmmakers feel it's obligatory to stuff into present-day epics. But on the other hand, its take on the "real" King Arthur is quite refreshing, and Franzoni seems to have noticed the pace problems in "Gladiator" and acts accordingly: what few politics the film has, they are placed at the beginning, and the big battle comes at the end, as it should be.
Then there's the question of Antoine Fuqua. Fuqua is a good director when it comes to action, and that shows here. But he's not Ridley Scott, and his attempts at visual panache fall quite short here, even when he adopts Scott's visual conventions, such as tinted cinematography, snowy landscapes and so on. Yes, of course, the film is spectacular enough, but can't touch Scott's eye for eye candy.
But, more annoyingly, he fails to do much with everything else but the action sequences. The actors are left on their own (Clive Owen has never been so wooden, and only his companions are a bit better) and can't overcome their poorly scripted characters and stilted dialogue. No matter what goes on, everything feels damn flat and passionless, and unless the viewer does a personal effort the film ends up being boring.
So, anything new or surprising here, for those who have seen "Gladiator"? Not much, I'm afraid, although there are worse guy movies around. The only really surprising bit came from an unexpected Christian-bashing subtext, which could be either another trace of modern contamination (a reaction to the revival of Christian fundamentalism?) or may actually have some historical basis: I once met a Roman history teacher who claimed that the adoption of Christianism wounded the Roman civilisation and was one of the causes of its downfall.
When the camera pans down, you can actually see a kneeled Keira Knightley for a split second.
Did anybody just say "mosquito bites"?!!!