King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Genre: Adventure and Fantasy Running Time: 2 hrs. 6 min.

Release Date: May 12th, 2017 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Guy Ritchie Actors: Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Eric Bana, Aidan Gillen, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Neil Maskell, Annabelle Wallis, Poppy Delevingne, Millie Brady

 


 

F

or centuries, man and mage coexisted peacefully, until power-hungry sorcerer Mordred (Rob Knighton) committed regicide against the mage king, to begin freely using dark magic to conquer kingdoms. But his scourge of terror was ended when he reached Camelot, where King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) defeated him with the legendary Excalibur sword. The vanquishing of evil was short-lived, however, as Uther’s own jealous brother Vortigern (Jude Law) soon slew the king and his wife, leaving Uther’s young son Arthur to flee into the night.

Taken in by brothel workers and raised on the streets by crooks and thugs, the boy quickly learned cunning, thievery, and swordfighting. Growing into an opportunistic yet honorable young man, Arthur’s (Charlie Hunnam) true heritage is finally uncovered when he successfully pulls Excalibur from its rocky embrace. Now, with the aid of a motley band of resistance fighters, including Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou), Wet Stick (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Back Lack (Neil Maskell), Goosefat Bill (Aidan Gillen), and an enigmatic sorceress (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), Arthur must muster his courage and use the power of Excalibur to reclaim the throne.

“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” is, unmistakably, a Guy Ritchie film. From the rapid-fire dialogue (harboring cheeky reiterations, slang, barbs, and swift cuts between characters’ faces) to the strong stylistic choices (such as too much slow-motion or abrupt transitions) to the London gangsters attempting to blend into medieval settings, the entire endeavor is like “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” mixed with sword-wielding knights in shining armor. The problem is that these drastically opposing notions just don’t mix. In many ways, it resembles the King Arthur tale as if told by Frank Miller or George R.R. Martin (in its similarities to “Game of Thrones,” it also contains a conspicuous number of shared cast members), what with the spell-casting, the monsters, the ugliness of many of the human villains, and the strained attempts at bravado.

The first very obvious incongruous decision is with the editing. It’s overly stylized (with fast-forwarding, rewinding, and plenty of montages), rearranged, disordered, and occasionally utterly confusing. It’s basically a disaster, even when it attempts self-aware humor through pre-visualizing upcoming interactions (removing anticipation or spontaneity for the sake of a laugh), or by intercutting the present with events in the future. Even the foreword and the opening titles are seemingly misplaced, interrupting the flow of the action by materializing onscreen at odd times. With all of the flashbacks and the repetitious footage, the movie might have been half the length if it played chronologically and without the unnecessary recurrences. Plus, half-a-dozen visually mismatched narratives seem to be grappling for dominance, though none provide storytelling clarity. And then there’s the music – encompassing pulsing rock beats and somber, lyrical songs – which is also perfectly unfitting, hoping, quite futilely, to create a unique sensibility. Instead, it’s just another component that feels as if borrowed from a completely different genre (or movie).

As the introduction states, this take on the legendary British hero involves the rise of the mage sorcerer (but, sadly, no Merlin or Madam Mim), which brings about routinely unexplained, contrived utilizations of magic and monsters. In its efforts to recall the worlds of “Clash of the Titans” or “Conan the Barbarian,” the sorcery and otherworldly conjurings are hopelessly overwrought. They present only unusual designs (one of the more memorable – yet incompatible – of the creatures is a tentacled, obese woman, with various sexy sirens writhing beneath her slimy extensions) and the misuse of computer animation, which is so overbearing at times that entire fight sequences are obfuscated by elemental convolution. Smoke, dust, fire, and beams of light turn the entire climax into little more than a blur.

As “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” tries to distinguish itself from the competition, it only makes itself less appealing. The characters are generic and unsympathetic; the antagonists are evil solely because they’re supposed to be; and random superpowers (awash with pointless special effects) spoil the fun of hand-to-hand combat. A lone rescue sequence possesses some amusement, but only because it’s left to unfold in order, where the result isn’t shown in advance (or simultaneously to the plan being hatched). Everything else is clunky and derivative (even a giant rat skirmish reminds of the exaggerated hilarity from “The Princess Bride”). And the only thing about this venture that remains recognizable to the King Arthur chivalric romances is a sword embedded in a stone – though even the stone is actually the petrified body of a former wielder.

– The Massie Twins

  • 3/10