Saturday, May 13, 2017


King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is the latest cinematic take on the classic legend of King Arthur. This time, acclaimed director Guy Ritchie is telling the origin story with Arthur being sent away after his evil uncle takes the crown from Arthur’s father. This film also leans heavily into the mystical elements of the Arthurian story. The film stars Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Eric Bana, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, and Aidan Gillen. This film is an absolute catastrophe. From start to finish almost nothing works and this comes in as yet another failed attempt at a story that should be so easy to tell.

Beginning with some positives, I thought that most of the cast was engaging. Hunnam, Hounsou, and Gillen, in particular, did a good job embodying their characters and making me slightly interested in them. The rest kind of muddle their way through and I could have done without them. That said, the three strongest performances had me rooting for them and at least marginally interested in general.

Additionally, I thought that the film had an interesting premise about the born-king being separated from his life but still rising from his hard street life to pull sword from stone and rule England. Problematically, I don’t think the film pays off that very well but it is at least marginally positive.

Finally, I think there are a couple interesting segments in the film. There are a few “Guy Ritchie” moments where the film is, in many ways, at its strongest. These had a great pace and energy to them that made me want to press on through the otherwise muddled film. Additionally, there are several chases through cities that were pretty cool to watch.

Each of those positives is kind of reigned in, however, because this movie is a complete and utter train wreck. If you want to talk about a director going outside their comfort zone, this is definitely the movie. Like Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes interpretations, it doesn’t work. The only times the film works are when Ritchie uses the characters and style to his advantage. Every time the film needs to be broader and more fantastical, it completely sputters out. I also think this film is a great argumentative piece to show why Zack Snyder is such a valued director. Ritchie has talent but, when he does Snyder-y things in this film (particularly in “sword vision”), he can’t execute the moment. They all look so false that they remove you from any interest you might have had and just don’t have the strength, weight, and style a superior director could pull off.

In addition to those issues, the film is pretty shoddy around the edges. The computer effects look almost incomplete throughout the film, the set and production design are nothing to write home about, and the costumes feel like lazy college students dressing for their local Renaissance Fair. This was an expensive film with an extremely talented team who has done brilliant work elsewhere. Despite that, it wasn’t there in this film for reasons unknown.

Last, but certainly not least, this film takes an interesting and uncomplicated story and makes it a mess. There are several ways to approach the Arthurian myth to make a good movie, but for some reason directors refuse to do any of them. Tell a great grounded character story with Arthur and his Knights ruling (or as they grew up). Tell a wildly fantastical tale filled with magic and intrigue. Maybe combine the two into a Lord of the Rings style offering. Despite all these options, we continue to see failing Arthurian stories. This one feels like it wants to tell a character story but, at the same time, is so committed to using fantasy to develop the action and excitement that it inevitably fails at both.

Overall, I was wildly disappointed by yet another King Arthur film. Not that I had high hopes going in, but I checked my expectations at the door and left wondering why I saw this at all. I really hope that Guy Ritchie learned some valuable lessons from making this film and that his next effort, Disney’s live action Aladdin, doesn’t have the same failings. Definitely one to skip this summer.

Ryan’s Score: 3/10

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