KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD
Director: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Aidan Gillen, Eric Bana
Guy Ritchie’s adaption of the King Arthur lore has a different take on it compared to the one we’re used to seeing. We first meet Arthur as a baby being sent down the river for protection by his father, Uther (Bana). This all happens shortly before Uther slays the mystical sorcerer known as Mordred using his sword Excalibur. His uncle, Vortigern (Law), kills Uther in a vengeful power play to claim the throne due to his jealousy of Uther’s newfound heroic status. Years pass by and Arthur grows up in the poor streets of Londinium becoming a tough street fighter. When the mysterious and legendary sword Excalibur reappears, Vortigern grows concerned and learns from his sea creatures that only “the young boy and future king” can remove the sword. When Arthur is the one to pull the sword, he learns of his royal past and how his greedy uncle killed his parents to rule the land. Arthur has a hard time accepting his fate in order to take the sword back and take down his uncle whose reign is destroying the small and poor village.
Whenever I see remakes upon remakes, I want a new angle to the story. Why remake an old story if you’re going to repeat what’s come before. There have been countless King Arthur movies with the likes of Sean Connery, Clive Owen, or Graham Chapman in the title role. I question why we’re seeing another version, but I’ll softly applaud Guy Ritchie for making it a prequel/origins story on the Arthur legend. There is no mention of Lancelot, Guinevere, or the Knights of the Roundtable. I only learned afterwards that this was planned as the beginning of a new six-part franchise. After seeing King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, I have a feeling this will be the only one despite it ending with a clear set up to a franchise.
Where do I even begin with how this iteration goes horribly awry? Director Guy Ritchie has been turning his sights lately on adaptations after making successful attempts at Sherlock Holmes and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. He can do action fairly well, so there was potential for this to work out in a passable fashion. If Ritchie and his screenwriting team of Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram were going to go the prequel wrote, why did they make the plot so generic? They retreat to the classic idea of having the son character avenge his father’s death to regain the thrown from his evil traitorous uncle. It may sound familiar to you, as it feels ripped off from Hamlet and The Lion King. Ritchie utilizes his standard stylized action sequences, which come with slow-mo camera work and slick editing. It rarely works this time as so much of the movie is darkly lit making a good chunk of the film hard to watch as you can’t see what’s actually going on. It’s as if none of it takes place during daylight. Ritchie is desperately trying to appeal to the Games of Thrones, Lord of the Rings crowd by adding in sorcery and fantasy type creatures to the swordplay and battle sequences at hand in this dark and depressing world. It was a bit laughable to watch Jude Law plotting his scheme to a trio of slimy lady sea creatures who resemble Ursula from The Little Mermaid. That happened very early on, and it was then that I knew we were only going to go downhill from there.
I could have potentially gotten behind the story if it meant rich and juicy characters. That doesn’t happen here either. If you didn’t know anything about King Arthur, there’s nothing in this origins story that makes this character stand out. Charlie Hunnam recently ended his run on FX’s Sons of Anarchy and his film roles have included The Lost City of Z, Crimson Peak, and Pacific Rim. He has that dirty sexy vibe he’s known for but looks oddly contemporary with his hipster haircut in an otherwise period movie. He only offers glimmers of personality and doesn’t take this Arthur beyond your standard action hero. As Vortigern, Jude Law is the only actor fully giving into his character. He’s always reliable in the maniacal villain role. Eric Bana has minimal screen time as Arthur’s father while Djimon Hounsou and Game of Thrones star Aidan Gillen round out the cast in forgettable roles.
I cared less and less about the dumb sword as the movie went on. It’s frustrating to feel like Ritchie wasn’t even trying to be original when he was plotting out this potential franchise. This version of King Arthur doesn’t set itself out from the other versions or even set itself apart from these types of bloated blockbuster action epics where CGI and battle scenes are used at a premium. The movie’s score by Daniel Pemberton is the only highlight as it has a pulsating beat, which drives and kicks the action into gear. It was the only memorable aspect in a highly forgettable movie. It’s a shame as Hunnam has the potential to lead a great movie franchise but won’t find it here.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? There are plenty of other King Arthur movies you could watch.
RATING: 1.5 out of 5 TICKET STUBS