King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aiden Gillen,
The opening credits to Guy Ritchie’s expensive “King Arthur” revision, features cheap looking fonts and perplexing imagery. A large tower with fire coming out the top and no accompanying sound. A second opening sequence is a prologue to the tale we are about to watch and then finally, twenty minutes in, “Warner Bros presents” is stamped on the screen, as our title character appears on screen. Why remake King Arthur, Ritchie thinks there are not many films exploring the legend. A quick search on IMDB proves otherwise. Perhaps Ritchie should spend more time researching or watching movies. The “Snatch” and “Rock N’ Rolla” director forces his signature euro gangster style onto the medieval story which results in a perplexing and bizarre vision that never fits.
Vortigern (Law) made a treacherous deal with the Mage’s of the world (magic beings), overthrowing his brother King Uther (Eric Bana). Before his death Uther lead his son, the rightful heir, to safety. While the young boy lives, the magical sword Excalibur cannot be wielded by another man. It lays dormant below the sea of the castle, waiting. Arthur (Hunnam) comes of age inside brothels, raised by prostitutes, to become a tough gentleman and brute fighter. Eventually Vortigern summons all young men of age to try and withdraw the sword from the stone, determined to retain his rule. When Arthur’s identity is known, the kingdom is divided, calling chanting for the rightful king. Arthur must face his darkest memories to wield the full power of the sword and his destiny.
Ritchie’s version of “King Arthur” full embraces magic and the fantastical elements. The Deathlands sequence is the first nail in the coffin for this adaptation, as it exploits visual effects creatures to no gain but to check the science fiction box. In the third act, when a monster snake appears to save the day, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” is belittled to nothing more than a 13-year-old summer fantasy flick. The elements used here are contradictory, Arthur and Vortigern wearing what appears to be modern clothes (a tee shirt) while the rest of the cast draped in period clothing. Ritchie can’t decide if he wants to push this re-telling towards the “300” series, “Game of Thrones” or “Harry Potter”, so we get a messy blend of the three.
What’s supposed to be the anticipated final battle scene between Arthur and his evil uncle (played by a bored looking Jude Law) is nothing more than visual effects vomit. The CGI camera work spins us around fiery capes and darkness where we can’t see who is injuring who. The battles mirror video games more than cinema. Ritchie uses his signature quick clip edits for comic relief, speeding through Arthur’s childhood and other major events previous versions would’ve spend time showcasing. Yet with all that rapid, choppy, editing this film drags its feet to a less than lackluster conclusion. Hunnam for all his acting achievement last month in The Lost City of Z is completely lost in this role. Even the forgettable 2004 Clive Owen/Keria Knightley modern rendition of this story was better. Ritchie said he wanted to deliver escapism, but the only thing you’ll want to escape from is this wreck of a cinematic failure.
Ritchie’s medieval gangster flick is a repugnant melting pot of fantasy, science fiction and war.