From Nothing Comes a King Arthur Film
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a medieval action-adventure film which is the 2017 reimagining of King Arthur’s ascension to the throne. The film is directed by Guy Ritchie and stars Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam as Arthur, a tough, quick-talking young man brought up in a brothel. Arthur has grown up not knowing about his lineage, until a series of circumstances leads him to Camelot, where he canonically pulls the sword from the stone. Faced with this newfound reputation, Arthur must come to terms with his repressed memories while fighting the forces of his power-hungry uncle King Vortigern (Jude Law), who naturally wants Arthur dead.
There have been many iterations of King Arthur film and TV shows over the past century, so casual moviegoers could be forgiven for not being too hyped about this latest retelling. But if there is anything this film has going for it, it is director Guy Ritchie and his unmistakeable high-speed storytelling style. The Hertfordshire-born director is best known for the his work on Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, as well as Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes films. And while he has had some misses in the past, fans will be hoping he can put a positive and fresh spin on this age-old tale. Can he do justice to King Arthur with his own unique vision, or should he never have picked up the sword in the first place?
If you’re walking into this film expecting a fun, action-packed Guy Ritchie movie with King Arthur in it, then I believe you would be satisfied for the most part. In its essence, Legend of the Sword does not feel much like a King Arthur movie, but that doesn’t stop it from having some great moments and action sequences courtesy of its director. The final product is a result of some strong editing, bogged down by and all-too predictable plot. The pacing starts off with a bang but hits a lull in the second act, not helped by the fact that the film doesn’t always have a clear idea of its end goal. Fans of Guy Ritchie as well as King Arthur enthusiasts might want to check this out, although the latter group may have mixed feelings depending on how tightly they cling on to the mythology.
Bend it Like Guy
Visually, the effects are reasonably good, with some obvious CGI effects that are easily overlooked once the viewer is treated to a few glorious action sequences, involving alternating sequences of explosive motion and slowed down footage. Easily the best parts of Legend of the Sword are the many Guy Ritchie-isms across its 126-minute runtime. From the high-octane action and high-speed camera set pieces to the expositional loops fans will be used to, Legend of the Sword surprisingly shines best when these filmmaking styles are put into full effect. There is a quirky quality to the way certain group discussion scenes pan out, as Ritchie uses his trademark edits to build the characters, introduce new ones, as well as set the tone. A surprising amount of ground is also covered in the film with regards to time and plot progression, as several quick-cut montages which span days (and even years) offer relief for people wondering if they were going to watch Arthur slowly getting from one place to another.
King of Cramalot
All this cramming of content in one film would have been fine if it was consistent in terms of tone and pace, but what may become some audiences’ biggest issue with Legend of the Sword is a fundamental one, and that is simply the fact that Guy Ritchie’s style doesn’t always seem to lend itself to the King Arthur mythology. More often than not, the mostly one-dimensional characters feel like they’re running around in a different movie, and while this can be understandable considering it is an Arthur origin story, it can be confusing when a fantasy action film becomes a medieval heist film halfway through, all while the viewer is left wondering, what’s the point in all this? While the editing can definitely be praised in certain scenes, it too is inconsistent, as one character is seen to be in danger in one scene, then never shows up again for the rest of the film.
Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law are fine in their roles, but because of the large leaps the story has to take, character development takes a hit. This in turn leads to a lack of empathy for these characters, as the viewer isn’t given enough time to care about what happens to these people in the end, which, by the way, is made pretty clear from the beginning. Some of the supporting actors also play a role in letting the film down, as some awful dialogue execution was more than a little distracting. Finally, the production team didn’t quite stick the ending both in terms of script and execution, making the last ten or so minutes feel slightly unsatisfactory.
At the end of the day, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is good fun, but it unfortunately suffers from too many flaws and too few great scenes to make it a good film, relegating it to ‘that film you put on the TV in the background when your friends are over for dinner’. Eyebrows will be raised (if they aren’t already) at Guy Ritchie’s upcoming live-action Aladdin remake, but only time will tell if that combination bears fruit. What we have in Legend of the Sword is a pretty un-legendary film with several redeeming qualities, qualities that Ritchie is almost certain to bring to all his future projects.
Overall Score: 6.5/10