OldKingClancy posted a MOVIE REVIEW item: about 1 month ago

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword



King-arthur-legend-of-the-sword-poster

Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Written by: Joby Harold
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Eric Bana
Studio: Warner Bros
Genre: Action, Adventure, Fantasy, Romance, War
Official Site:
Plot: Arthur, King Of The Britons, Absolute Top Lad

Review:

Like Sherlock Holmes, the story of King Arthur has been done a thousand times beforehand, and like Sherlock Holmes Guy Ritchie has seen fit to bring his style to a modern re-telling of the story. I haven’t seen Ritchie’s Holmes yet but some of my friends recommend it as an enjoyable watch which I can see given the charm of Robert Downey Jr in a stylish mystery thriller, as for his King Arthur though... well let’s just say that Jax Teller is no Tony Stark.

Opening with a retelling of Arthur’s legend, where as a young child his father Uther, King of England, is betrayed by his brother Vortigern and killed but not before Arthur is sent downriver to safety on a boat. Arthur is found by a group of prostitutes who take him in and keep him safe, all the while Vortigern takes the throne and uses his training as a mage to construct a tower to harness his power, waiting for Uther’s son to reappear and challenge him.

Decades go by and Arthur lives a simple but comfortable life, trained in fighting and thieving and without a knowledge or care of his past. That changes when Excalibur is found trapped in a stone that no-one can get it out of, using the opportunity Vortigern has all men of the same age as Uther’s son attempt to pull the sword from the stone, and when Arthur’s turn comes up he finds himself thrown into a world of magic, betrayal, rebellions and giant fucking snakes.

All things considered, I was actually with this film for the first half hour, I liked that it jumped right into things with Arthur and Vortigern having their face-to-face early on rather than waiting the whole movie for them to finally do so. Sadly the rest of the film struggles to maintain that level of originality, the biggest problem being the sheer amount of story that it just rushes through, after the opening we get a quick montage of Arthur growing up which made sense, we got all the relevant information but without the overlong exposition or slog through the run-time. Then later on we got a quick montage of Arthur travelling through ‘The Darklands’ which seemed to have enough material to fill the majority of a movie by itself but ok the film needs to get back to its main storyline. Then even later we get another quick montage of Arthur planning out the Rebellion’s attack against Vortigern and you realise that that this movie has a hundred great ideas but it doesn’t know what to do with any of them so it throws all of them in an attempt to build up the world but keeps the actual story to a bog-standard ‘The King is evil, let’s kill him storyline.

And that’s not to say that the film needed an explanation for everything, things got way crazier than I was expecting and the lack of overlong exposition did help move things at a sleek pace. But when Ritchie says he wants to do a six movie franchise on King Arthur and he’s throwing around enough material to fill up three movies you have to wonder exactly where this franchise can go and if there’s even enough to carry a second movie let along six. Then again, considering the reception this film got I don’t think we need to worry about where this franchise is going.

Character work was alright, because most of the focus was on Arthur and Vortigern the supporting cast had to stand out with charisma more than actual arcs and the results were mixed. Arthur’s right-hand men Wet Stick and Lack Back (yes those are their real names) were fun when the three of them were together but on their own, Wet Stick sort of faded into the background while Lack Back did manage to stand out thanks to his relationship with his son Blue.

On the Rebellion side Littlefinger is still a charming dickhead as Goosefat Bill but I still couldn’t get passed it being Littlefinger, though I did have to laugh at the Queer As Folk reunion between him and Hunnam and wondered if they’d hit a Hard-R Rating to recreate some of their scenes together. Djimon Hounson was decent as mentor/leader figure Sir Bedivere but he got relegated to the sidelines once Arthur joined them which was a shame cause there felt like there was a lot more to his character that we only touched upon. The two weakest elements were sadly the women, Annabelle Wallis just sort of blended into the background as Maggie, a spy in Vortigern’s palace who really didn’t have anything to add to the story despite the film trying to insist she does. And in the place of Merlin who doesn’t appear here we have a young woman known only as The Mage played by Astrid Berges-Frisbey, I’ll give Frisbey credit for doing the most she could do with the character but this is an absolute waste, The Mage is our only real example of using magic in this film and all she does in control animals, like Maggie the film tries hard to make her seem important but they never give her anything to work with to prove it. She’s another victim of the film not really knowing what ti wants to do with its own material.

Charlie Hunnam takes the role of Arthur and honestly it’s kind of a mixed performance, there are moments where Hunnam is pretty good, his loyalty to the brothel that raised him and his disinterest in anything to do with the Rebellion until Vortigern sacks his neighbourhood all make for a more interesting hero type and even going forward there’s a lot of reluctance in his performance, it’s nothing groundbreaking but it made for a nice change to see an Arthur who didn’t want to be King. The biggest problem Arthur has was that he was played by Hunnam, the guy just lacks that natural presence to fill out a role in the proper way, he’s not a bad actor and I have seen some strong work from him – Lost City Of Z is probably his best role to date – but this is a fairly bog-standard Arthurian flick and Arthur is your fairly bog-standard hero so putting a fairly bog-standard actor like Hunnam into that role and it’s not gonna come off as all that strong.

The film’s ace-in-the-hole though was Jude Law as Vortigern, I’ve been a fan of modern day Jude Law who seems to be embracing more asshole roles lately and Vortigern is another asshole that completely steals this film. Law seems to be the only person in the film who remembered to have fun and he spent his time either chewing the scenery or delivering evil monologues about how evil he was, but crucially he kept a charm to Vortigern to explain why he was able to have an army follow him that slowly dissolved into desperation trying to stop Arthur from taking over. It’s a fun role and Law absolutely takes it and runs away with the whole damn film.
Rushed storyline aside, Guy Ritchie at the helm of this in an interesting choice and when he allows himself to, Ritchie has his usual flair to add some colour to the whole thing, an early scene where Arthur and his friend are trying to recount a story to one of the guards and they keep bouncing back and forward in time and all of it being recreated onscreen was a very Ritchie moment and a lot of fun to watch. In fact Ritchie’s best moments are the ones where he lets the film go completely over-the-top without any explaination as to what the fuck is happening, the film opens up with giant elephants shooting fireballs and ends with a massive snake and a demon knight and in-between it all the scene where Arthur first uses Excalibur is actually quite a good use of slow-motion and utter devastation, I had to wonder if Ritchie was trying to make The Witcher but couldn’t get the rights to the game so made this instead.

That joke actually holds water because there’s one fight scene where the CGI is so obvious it’s a literal cutscene from the PS2 era of gaming.

The problem is that the rest of the film is so fucking serious and grey that those moments of ridiculous stand-out because there the only time any life in injected into the movie, there’s a distinct lack of playfulness that I’m used to with Ritchie’s films and it’s definitely missing here. Of course that’s not to say that Ritchie can’t do serious, the death of one of the cast is very effective with a sudden cut to silence punctuating the act and Vortigern’s sack of Arthur’s brothel is a harsh watch, one of the few times I’m thankful this wasn’t an R-Rating cause I could imagine it being so much worse. My issue is that the film is trying to have its cake and eat it too, it wants to be taken seriously as a medieval epic filled but it also wants to have fun with giant snake creatures fucking shit up, of course you could argue that the film was always trying to go for a lighter touch but I’d counter that if that was the case why was it so dull, you’ve got a movie that literally includes a scene where King Arthur goes Super-Saiyan on a bunch of dudes and the film is boring for the longest time, something’s gone wrong there.

I wouldn’t call Legend Of The Sword a disappointment because I never really had much hope for it, but I can see shades of at least a decent film here, Ritchie sets up a giant world then ignores most of it, he brings in a large cast but either doesn’t give them anything to work with or doesn’t let them have fun with the role – notable Jude Law sized exception - and he allows himself to have moments of utter insanity but they serve as a few bright sparks in an otherwise mediocre King Arthur film. Not worth it, not with Monty Python having the best King Arthur film readily available.

5/10

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Other reviews of this film: cerealkiller182 (7/10) , Hubbs (5/10) > Display all
jimmydevito
jimmydevito at 09:20 PM Jan 13

yeah I really didn't care for it either



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