“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” is directed by Guy Ritchie starring: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Aiden Gillen and Astrid Berges-Frisbey. Guy Ritchie’s version of King Arthur is a completely new telling of the legend, which finds young Arthur fighting his way to claim his seat as the rightful King of England. Being robbed of his birthright, Arthur must face his evil uncle Vortigern and reclaim the sword from the stone.
Guy Ritchie’s last few films have been rousing adaptations of literary classics. His “Sherlock Holmes” films not only breathed life into an ages old character but it allowed a new generation of fans to become more immersed in the stories. Here, Ritchie does just that once again but with King Arthur. The film has its signature Guy Ritchie-look and feel and it may not appeal to everyone, especially if they are King Arthur purists. And even though I tend to be a purist, there was a lot to admire and takeaway from this new version of the myth. The film speaks on so many different levels concerning politics, magic and action and delivers something very special and unique to Ritchie’s vision.
Like I said, this new version is radically different from most King Arthur tales, but I dug it. Ritchie successfully deconstructs the Arthurian legend and makes it his own, with a bit of punk rock flavor. And part of the flavor comes from the kick-ass soundtrack by Daniel Pemberton who gives us this Irish-feeling hard rock soundtrack, giving the film its identity. Charlie Hunnam is a great rendition of this new Arthur and he really grew into the role. If you are a “Game of Thrones” fan then you will be delighted when you see a few of those actors pop in and out with supporting roles. For those complaining about a lack of magic, this film is packed with it. And for the most part it works. The third act of the movie gets a little silly but by that point you just have to go with it. Jude Law’s character is more dynamic than I thought he would be, even if he comes across as a standard baddie.
But what really sets this movie apart for me is the actual legend itself, dealing with Excalibur and the Sword in the Stone/Lady of the Lake mythology. They did something really cool here, and it plays out incredibly well for the story. Visually, the Excalibur sequences are breathtaking and are so full of life and energy. One of the best sequences in the film involves Arthur training in “The Black Lands” and from here on out this film was packed with music, action and glory. This movie knows exactly what it wants to be and it doesn’t do anything more to deceive its audience. If you just go with it, this movie is loads of fun feeling like “Snatch” or “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” meshed with Arthurian Legend.
This was indeed a fun movie, but there were some issues that I had with it. First, some of the CGI looked a little fake in certain sequences, especially the beginning but as the film goes on I think the cheesiness goes away. The first act of the movie is a little hard to get into, especially since this version is so different from any Arthur story that we’ve ever seen so it might take you awhile to adjust to the hard rock element. But really that first act was lacking in setting the story up. I was confused in some scenes and tried to deduce who was who. I think this is a mere storytelling issue. And the end I mention can get a little silly, but the biggest issue that I had was the character of Mordred. Mordred is the bastard son of Arthur and his sister Morgan LeFay, and in this version they made Mordred some sort of Wizard sorcerer and it just didn’t work. I wish they could have saved that part of the original myth for another film.
Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur” film is a post-modern take on a classic mythological character. He weaves his style, and his sense of humor into creating a rock n’ roll version of the story that is in many ways fun and satisfying. It may not speak to everyone but it spoke to me in many ways that I never would have thought possible. It has action, swordplay, action and good acting and that’s the ingredients for a fun and entertaining movie. Is this the best movie of the year? No, but it’s certainly a lot of fun.