It’s been a while since we had a Guy Ritchie movie, that was typically Guy Ritchie-esque. ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ was a great spy-thriller with conservative helping of Ritchie’s trademark film making style, but ‘King Arthur’ throws the Brit back into a very British movie featuring a story based on English history. Or more mythology, based on how the movie turned out. And it’s a pretty enjoyable ride. For the most part. Check out my Movie Review and let me know how you felt about this one.
The movie marks a different spin on the King Arthur mythology. While acting as the typical origin story, this movie takes things in a different direction, showcasing a different type of the Arthur archetype than we’re used to, and a lot more magical bred into the mix. Different isn’t always great folks. Screenwriters Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram (‘Sherlock Holmes’) almost set a King Arthur story in Middle Earth, with all the magical creatures and fantastical elements that come with it. Which seemed out of place, when in contrast to the street level grittiness that Ritchie brings to his usual projects.
‘King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword’ even opens in a very ‘Lord Of The Rings’ type epic battle scene, which may have turned off some viewers right off the bat. While the story of King Arthur is usually a swashbuckling action adventure, we’re introduced to the world through Tolkien-like magic and fantasy. It’s reminiscent of ‘Warcraft’, which received similar audience reactions as ‘King Arthur’.
The opening sequence showcases Eric Bana (the King) doing some badass stunts, and winning the day with his magic, (glowy lights and all) sword, Excaliber. Bana in anything is usually great, and he doesn’t really disappoint here either. The story sets up a betrayal by the King’s brother (Jude Law) and his usurping of the throne that rightfully belongs to the prince Arthur, (Charlie Hunnam) who was Moses‘d down a river for safety.The young Arthur grows into a man that becomes the protector of the brothel workers’ that raised him, all the while unaware of his true lineage. The montage from boy-to-man is one of the best and trademark Guy Ritchie sequences that truly elevates the film.
The biggest compliment I can give ‘King Arthur’, is that it is the best Robin Hood origin movie ever. It’s because the movie never actually feels like a King Arthur story, besides the whole sword in the stone bit; but more about a righteous heir fighting to reclaim his father’s legacy. Which is pretty interesting, given that one of the screenwriters, Joby Harold, has also written the newest ‘Robin Hood’ adaptation starring Taron Egerton.
One of biggest downfall of Ritchie as the director, and an example of the inconsistency with tone of this film, is yet another montage that is supposed to be the biggest character development arc, but most of it happens in narration, cutting to the actual scenes, with wild monsters and all. If the budget on all that CGI was already spent, why not show that development and desperation of the character’s growth as a linear event, instead of juxtaposing and summarizing it through a montage. It was a waste.
The take on this version of Arthur, raised on the streets of London, learning to hustle and became the kind of man who has all the makings of a true leader, is probably the best part of ‘King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword’. It’s a unique spin on the character that is, in a way, still a King, protecting those loyal to him, loyal to his mates and ensuring his own brand of justice is always upheld. And Hunnam does an incredible job of portraying a rogue become royalty. This version of the character makes a potential franchise all the more interesting, albeit moot now.
‘King Arthur’ isn’t a bad movie. It’s just a movie trying too hard to reconcile it’s director’s style, with the kind of story that it wants to tell. While at its core the characters and their relationships make up the bulk of the story, the fantastical elements of mages, unexplained wish granting sea-squids, and the entire plot revolving around a magic tower, feels odd and out of place. Those aspects really pull you out of a movie that otherwise was built on the backs of the characters chemistry with one another, dialogue and the quirky action sequences. Although the distinct lack of any notable or interesting female characters is kind of a glaring point against the film as well. (Astrid Berges-Frisbey’s no name age and Annabelle Wallis’Maggie characters notwithstanding.)
While I want to give Ritchie the benefit of the doubt, the end result of ‘King Arthur’ feels like an indie director given a big budget who focused more on the CGI and toys he got to play with, then the thing that made him a beloved storyteller in the first place.