King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Is The Best Movie No One Will See This Year…
It’s been a little over a decade since the last big Hollywood adaptation of the sword in the stone tale. In 2004, Clive Owen starred in King Arthur, a version of the story trying to cement itself in realism. Now, Guy Ritchie is taking a stab at the legend with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, and by legend, this film means hard fantasy and magic. While the 2004 adaptation tried to be real, Ritchie’s film goes the complete opposite direction and goes full board into bringing the King Arthur legend to life in glorious fantasy action.
Charlie Hunnam stars as Arthur, raised in a brothel in Londonium after his uncle betrayed his father Uther and stole the throne. Eric Bana plays King Uther who sets Arthur down the river on a boat before falling in battle against minions of his brother, played by Jude Law. Arthur grows up on the streets of ancient London, learning to fight, survive, and how to protect his friends from the iron fist of King Vortigern’s rule. When Excalibur reveals itself lodged in rock, Arthur pulls the sword from the stone and begins his ascent to becoming a legendary leader.
Hunnam as Arthur is an inspiring choice to play the inevitable king of the round table. Charlie has the chops to be a believable badass fighter and accomplishes the action sequence with ease. Furthermore, Richie’s script and directing give the actor plenty of opportunities to be witty and sharp during his monologs. Hunnam shows he can be more than just an action star, he can be pretty funny too.
Opposing Hunnam is Law as Vortigern. Jude plays a pretty awesome bad guy and gives the evil king plenty of depth his character would otherwise lack. The usurper king sacrifices a lot to take the throne in his pursuit of power. Law does a great job portraying the pain and anguish the character feels. However, his character is never given any real motivation for his actions. Vortigern suffers a lot of personal loss in order to climb the ladder but we never learn the all important why. We are left to assume it’s just your typical second born jealousy.
Where the film really shines is during the incredibly choreographed action scenes. Most notably, is the opening scene of the film. An epic final battle of a long fought war featuring King Uther, the first wielder of Excalibur. It’s too bad this short scene only starts the film. It’s easily the best part and looks to be the climax of a really interesting movie we’ll never see. There are other great sequences of action when Arthur wields the sword. While Arthur is a capable fight in his own regard, Excalibur takes him to another level. The sword gives him lightning fast reflexes and great strength. Furthermore, the scenes where you takes on whole regiments of soldiers are pretty impressive.
Like Excalibur itself, the editing of the film is a double edge sword. The quick cut Ritchie style montages are clever, comedic, and expertly put together. However, as a whole, the film is disjointed. It feels like there are a lot of key moments missing that could have made this a really great movie. There are points in the movie where you could pause and take a bathroom break, come back and press play, and it feels like you kept the movie playing while you were away. The feeling of missing out on important plot points really hurts the film.
The biggest flaws of the film are those lacking moments. I still can’t believe a movie about Arthur and Excalibur doesn’t even really feature Merlin in any form. There are many references to the infamous magician, but he never shows up. The film is obviously well produced and a lot of money was spent creating the large action pieces. However, it could have been a lot better with the obviously missing pieces as part of the final composition. Another twenty to thirty minutes of runtime and the film’s disjointed feelings might have been avoided.
In the end, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a fun and unique take on the sword in the stone story. Ritchie does a decent job creating a fascinating world with interesting characters that you want to see more of. There feels like a trilogy worth of adventure crammed into this film and instead, we only get one flawed and disjointed origin story about King Arthur. Sadly it doesn’t look like this film will be successful enough to warrant a sequel and that is the most disappointing result of this film. It flashes greatness but ultimately cuts out the parts you wish you were able to see.
Supchucks’ Official Grade: C+
After the murder of his father, young Arthur’s power-hungry uncle Vortigern seizes control of the crown. Robbed of his birthright, he grows up the hard way in the back alleys of the city, not knowing who he truly is. When fate leads him to pull the Excalibur sword from stone, Arthur embraces his true destiny to become a legendary fighter and leader.
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Craig McGinlay, Neil Maskell, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Tom Wu, and Eric Bana.
Director(s): Guy Ritchie
Writer(s): Joby Harold & Guy Ritchie & Lionel Wigram
Rating: PG-13 (for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong language)
Runtime: 126 minutes
Studio: Warner Bros.