If Camelot existed, like the song says, for one brief shining moment, that moment isn't here. This sword-swinging tale of King Arthur concentrates on his pre-Camelot days, when he was already a battle-tested knight and leader of men but not yet Britain's monarch. It fills in the missing years, if you will, between the stripling Arthur of Disney's animated The Sword in the Stone (1963) and the knee-creaking royals of Camelot (1967) and First Knight (1995).
Arthur (Owen) is an action figure, but one who desperately wants to believe he is fighting for a noble cause. This being 467 A.D., he finds it battling bloodthirsty Saxon invaders. He also finds love in the lithesome person of Guinevere (Knightley) after rescuing her from a dungeon. (How she managed to keep her eyebrows so impeccably groomed while imprisoned is never explained.) No pouting princess, she's as much a warrior as he, especially when she's wearing blue war paint all over her body—and little else.
Arthur occasionally verges on being stirring, but mostly it feels like a skillfully recycled version of Gladiator (which screenwriter David Franzoni also wrote) and Braveheart. Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) stages several rip-roaring battle scenes, including a corker on a frozen lake, but the overall story lacks momentum. Owen, whose eyes smolder even when he's supposed to be happy, projects a rugged masculinity that's attractive and fitting for the role. Knightley's Guinevere gets shortchanged on character development, though her archery skills are given a thorough workout. (PG-13)