King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

From the stone to the throne.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword 

Certifcate: 12A

Running Time: 126 minutes

Director: Guy Ritchie

Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Aidan Gillen, Djimon Hounsou and Eric Bana.

(Movie House Cinema preview screening)

Synopsis

Robbed of his birthright, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy – whether he likes it or not.

“When people fear you, it is the most intoxicating sensation a man can possess.”

Review

Having faced harsh criticism for some of his work in the past, Guy Ritchie might have seemed like a strange directorial choice by Warner Bros. to bring the legend of King Arthur back to the big screen. Yet why wouldn’t the ‘King of the British Ruffians’ be the right man to tackle one of the greatest British legends of all time?

His work on the cheeky, yet efficient Sherlock Holmes movies were great big-budget cinematic pantomimes: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. managed to be a solid Bank Holiday Monday romp – one of which I enjoyed much more than any of the Mission: Impossible films!

Let’s not forget he’s also the man Disney has snapped up for their upcoming live-action remake of Aladdin.

It’s Bloody King Arfurr init!

Son’s of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam plays Arthur, a noble born orphan who finds himself living far from home, in the rough streets of Londonium. This vision of Arthur is far from the noble king we’ve seen onscreen in the past; he’s a bit of a lad, a geezer with a twinkle in his eye and it’s only when he pulls the famous Excalibur sword from the stone that his true lineage is revealed.

Feeling threatened the mage-king Vortigern (Jude Law) plans to have Arthur executed before he can inspire any possible revolt against Vorigern’s regime. Thankfully Arthur is rescued by Sir Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and his group who include The Mage; “an acolyte of Merlin” (Astrid Berges-Frisbey).

Soon Arthur is training to harness the full power of Excalibur and preparing for an inevitable ‘boss-battle’ with Vortigen.

When it comes to Ritchie’s films – even the ones you don’t like (Revolver), you find they’re very much his own creations.  From the dialogue, editing and trademark visual style, Ritchie’s thumbprints are all over his films and that’s definitely the case were King Arthur is concerned.

The Ganster Knights of the Round Table

Mixing the director’s London gangster aesthetic to a film about knights and wizards does seem a little bizarre and I found myself struggling to adjust for the first thirty minutes or so.  Ritchie might think it’s wonderfully cool to have his laddish dialogue be delivered by knights in ye olde dress, but I just felt it was  a little smug and terribly clunky.

Once I realised Ritchie was merely stamping his own style on to the fantasy genre, I finally managed to get to grips with the film: when we expect one thing and get given something completely different, it’s only natural to find things strange and unsettling at first.

Hunnam is solid enough; he’s just not an overly memorable Arthur, but he does the best he can throughout the feature. He’s a charismatic leading man and here he’s left to carry not just his sword but the weight of the entire film on his shoulders.

Boring ole Jude Law..

Sadly Jude Law makes an underwhelming villain, he doesn’t ham it up anywhere near as much as he should and his mage-king character lacked any real menace; as the drama unfolds he fades into the background along with the rest of the film’s cast.

My interest was heightened when the CGI started to flare up.  From a tower striking up its spells to unleash hell, to The Mage standing by a conjured whirlwind on a mountain – I got some feasts for the eyes.  So often with fantasy films (even Harry Potter) there seems to be  squeamish distain to show great big epic scenes – the type that normally show up within old fantasy paperbacks.

Post-Peter Jackson’s  Lord of the Rings, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is one of the better Sword and Sorcery films. It has the pace of the recent reasonable Assassin’s Creed, but nowhere near as much invention as last year’s World of Warcraft movie.

Verdict

Guy Ritchie has given us a well meaning, occasionally fun big-budget blockbuster that’s filled with all of the director’s trademark style.

Written by Chris Gray
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