Director Guy Ritchie’s latest cinematic project is a re-interpretation of the Knights of The Round Table and the mythology surrounding Excalibur, the magical sword of power and leadership.
Primarily buoyed by the press sneak peeks, which delivered what seemed to be exquisitely filmed sequences using a visual scheme that emphasized blue, grey and steel colors as well as lavish green landscapes, the initial impression made by King Arthur Legend of the Sword promised a visually impressive adventure with the kind of production art design that has become synonymous with big budget science fiction movies.
King Arthur stars twice Oscar-nominated Jude Law as King Vortigren, uncle of Arthur and brother to the slain King of Britain, Uther Pendragon, played nicely by Eric Bana (Hulk, Troy, Munich, Star Trek
, Time Traveler’s Wife and The Finest Hours). Arthur is portrayed by Charlie Hunnam, star of the successful seven-season TV series Sons of Anarchy. He also previously starred in Pacific Rim, a science fiction adventure film about giant robots built by humans to combat giant monsters invading our world (basically the Transformers meets Jurassic Park/Godzilla). Interestingly enough, Hunnam also starred several years earlier in a civil war drama, Cold Mountain (2003), with Jude Law and Nicole Kidman. Hunnam is extremely likable and down to earth as would-be leader of the fabled knights and legendary Camelot. He is flanked by The Mage (Astrid Berges- Frisbey) and Goosfat Bill (Aidan Gillen). The film’s cast is rounded by Djimon Hounsou, who plays the role of Bedivere, mentor and protector of Arthur, echoing an earlier role with Morgan Freeman in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Hounsou has previously starred in Gladiator, Eragon, Guardians of The Galaxy, Furious 7
and The Legend of Tarzan.
The movie is both a fresh look and should have been a nice break from Game of Thrones, a long running TV series about medieval knights, maidens in dungeons and rival kingdoms in a fantasy setting. It’s a safe bet to guess both Warner Brothers and the producers were looking to bring the already pre-existing fans of the sword and sorcerer genre and boost their box office with newcomers that have tired from the superhero genre, the superspy genre
and the NFS ace driver road mayhem genre.
Guy Ritchie, already a proven pro at managing modern-day humor and sly wit overlaid on a period piece was the obvious choice for helming this project. He was very successful with Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law) and its sequel Game of Shadows. However Medieval England and Victorian-era Britain are two different worlds in the choice of social settings and banter.
King Arthur Legend of The Sword displays many delightful moments of comedy and camaraderie, for one instance there is an unmistakable Antman antics mechanics of our heroes relating certain events to each other.
All in all, however, given the scale of this production there does not seem to be enough action spectacular set pieces, most are front loaded at the beginning of the film, and for the climax and closer the movie lacks enough zest or punch. King Arthur reminded me a bit of Solaris (George Clooney) and the newest The Fantastic Four
adventure (Miles Teller and Kate Mara), both less than spectacular for different reasons.
Perhaps too much time in the film is spent on planning “the attack”, the scenes are overextended in what should have been a short screen time, creating a large middle part from The Princess Bride – “have fun storming the castle”.
Not enough mystique about the Knights of the Round Table, Merlin, Morgan La Fay and most importantly Excalibur? All of these threads were presumably held back from this movie in anticipation of the studio producing six additional movies. The result is a lackluster entry in a would-be series franchise kickstarter that cavitates without the most essential elements of a blockbuster summer movie in sufficient density - excitement, magic, romance or mystical qualities to qualify as legendary.
The movie suffers from polarized re-interpretation. On one hand it strains to present a very realistic setting of medieval England and London and attempts to relate the characters as present day persons; on the other hand it also steeps the main conflict in sorcery, fantastic dark forces beyond present day realism and straight into fantasy land.
In rewriting the story of King Arthur, director, scriptwriters and producers leave out any interesting twists and do not inject sufficient original material to make the adventure fresh and enticing to new and old audiences alike. The film is stripped down and the origin story of Arthur lacks majesty, power and passion. At times the movie felt like a military action adventure set in the Dark Ages of Europe with a band of soldiers in the barracks who are plotting a prison break.
Those powerful scenes and moments from the press peeks? There are very few additional instances in the film with beautiful enchanting vistas or panoramas. The production art design reveals itself gritty, muddy and somber and is much closer in visual style to The Fellowship of The Ring.
Still we believe some viewers will enjoy this unconventional retelling of the Arthurian legend simply from fatigue from long-running franchises and for novelty, at times it displays the kind of effort that succeeded in bringing back Westerns to the silver screen by milestone movie Silverado.
If you are a die-hard fan of traditional sword and lady faire adventures, of the legends of Camelot, the adventures of Robin Hood and the Crusades, the Musketeers and Renaissance Romance, you will undoubtedly overlook the shortcomings and the rather significant disconnect between the buzz and hype-promised adventure and the actual movie.