Until you start thinking about it, you don’t realize how brilliant the legend of King Arthur is. The mixture of the old fashioned great knight story with the fair but strong leader of Arthur with his respected followers alongside classic fantasy elements brought in by Merlin’s magic is potent and it’s the reason this story has lasted for centuries. It’s inspired many of the fantasy stories we enjoy today, I mean it’s pretty obvious that Game of Thrones has taken a lot of it so it’s about time that we get a modern take that is worthy of the legend. Can King Arthur: Legend of the Sword be that film?
After his father Uther (Eric Bana, Munich) is killed in a revolution by his brother Vortigern (Jude Law, Sherlock Holmes), Arthur (Charlie Hunnam, Pacific Rim) is orphaned and grows up in a brothel, unaware of his royal lineage. However, he is soon discovered when he lifts the sword from the rock and must then lead the fight against the evil usurper.
I mentioned at the start that Game of Thrones was very much inspired by Arthurian legend in mixing standard Medieval fare with fantasy elements. And with that show being the biggest thing on Earth right now, the finale got the highest ratings that HBO has ever had, you’d think this film would do a very similar thing. After all, that’s what people want and expect from a King Arthur movie, why not give it to them? Well, it seems like the director Guy Ritchie (Snatch) was a bit ashamed that he had to make a fantasy movie, so he decided not to make one at all. Oh sure, the elements are there. There’s a huge massive elephant they bought from the set of Lord of the Rings and magic is prevalent and key to the story, but the way the movie is presented is indicative of a film desperately trying not be fantasy.
Because let’s just thinking about the things you expect from a fantasy movie. Not necessarily the ingredients, but the elements you’d expect. You know, a stirring orchestral soundtrack, characters who are of the time and could never work in a modern setting, that sort of thing. Then you should take those things, put them on an e-mail and send them right to Guy Ritchie as he has no idea. Because while he has no idea how to make a fantasy film, he does know how to make a gangster film. So that’s what he’s done here. He’s made King Arthur into a gangster film. The entire way this film is shot, edited and scored is more like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels than Camelot and it gets very grating incredibly quick.
So where does this irritation start? Well, it starts right with Charlie Hunnam who is told to speak in the most cockney accent he can muster. I’m sure a historian could correct me but I’m not entirely sure that Cockney was an accent that was readily heard in Arthurian times. And with all respect to Cockneys who are some of the funniest people on the planet, it’s not exactly a voice that makes you think he should be king right off the bat. His cohorts are worse though, named stupid things such as Back Lack (Neil Maskell, Kill List) and Wet Stick (Kingsley Ben-Adir, Tresspass Against Us) because, for some reason, these are meant to be our Lancelot and Galahad for the movie. I suppose we do have Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou, Gladiator), but that’s not enough to make up for the various insults of the Arthurian legend already present in the film. And before I move onto another reason I hate this film, let me just mention the horrendous soundtrack which is just a man quickly panting in your ear for two hours.
Now onto the other reason, I hate this film. The action. If I’m honest, the standard action scenes are ok. Not brilliant, not terrible but they do the job they are meant to do even if the editing is a bit too frenetic for this sort of movie. Things change when Excalibur gets involved. The film makes a huge point of this mythical sword, it is in the title after all, and one of the arcs of the movie is that Arthur struggles to know how to use it like his father did. A pretty decent idea considering using the sword too early would make every action scene around ten seconds such is it’s power. But when he does use it, boy does the action get terrible. Everything turns into something that you’d see in an early PS3 game with the CGI to match. It looks horrendous as it’s obvious that everyone involved is a polygon and it’s as far away from reality as Donald Trump is. Basically, it’s the final straw.
It’s really hard to come up with some positives for this film as it has so few. I suppose it’s nice to see Aiden Gillan (Game of Thrones) in more things as I think he is very good actor but that’s not enough to buy a ticket. There are some elements of the film which are just plain fun to watch but for the wrong reason, such as a cameo from David Beckham who delivers the worst lines in a pretty bad script with the complete lack of gusto you’d expect. It’s rather hilarious to watch. The nicest thing I can really say about the film is there is some pretty countryside at least.
When you manage to make a thing about King Arthur that manages to be more insulting to the legend than The Holy Grail, you’ve done something very impressively bad. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword seems to be completely ashamed of the source material and looks to be as different as possible from it but instead just insults the people who enjoy the original stories. I’m not against people changing things around from ancient source material, the TV show Merlin changed a lot but was able to cultivate a cult fanbase, but at least try to get why people fell in love with that source material, to begin with. Or else we will be wishing the police would arrive to end the film before the end.