King Arthur – The Legend of the Sword – Film Review by Bridget Deevy
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Joby Harold (screenplay), Guy Ritchie (screenplay)
Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Jude Law
Bromancing the Stone
Guy Ritchie’s origin story of the Arthurian legend is everything you would expect from a Guy Ritchie version of the origin story of the Arthurian legend. It’s laddish, frantically paced and laden with East End lingo just shy of a ‘shine ya shoes guv’na?’ It is about as enjoyable as his other films, (which will mean different things to different people), but curiously then the Ritchie formula does not seem to have worked on this occasion. At time of writing, the film has opened poorly in the US and looks set to be a significant financial flop. It could be that while Ritchie has retained and even exaggerated his showboat style, his audience has tired of his hyperactive approach to storytelling.
The film opens with a battle scene worthy of any final act. Ritchie has clearly been keeping a keen eye on the Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones franchises as we encounter fantastical beasts, Goffrey-esque malevolence and magical machinations. In this prologue, we see Arthur’s father, King Uther, (Eric Bana), lose his kingdom to nefarious, dark forces. Before his own demise however, he manages to save little Arthur in Moses-like fashion, by sending him off down the river in a basket, where he eventually washes up in Londinium. Raised in a house of ill repute, a super fast montage shows us young Arthur growing into a rapscallion of Artful Dodger proportions before becoming a fully fledged leader of a motley crew, where honour amongst thieves reigns. Oh and we know Arthur, (Charlie Hunnam), is really good at heart cause he’s nice to the prostitutes who saved and raised him, what a gent.
Meanwhile, back in King’s Landing, I mean the King’s palace, the King’s brother Vortigern, (a suitably sneery Jude Law), has assumed the throne but understandably is a bit paranoid about the rightful heir coming back to claim his birthright. All young men must come to try their hand, literally, at removing Excalibur, the magical sword bound to the King’s bloodline, from where it has been encased in stone since King Uther’s death. Why Vortigern can’t remove it himself is never addressed, as he is of the same bloodline, but how and ever. Arthur is eventually rounded up for his turn and whaddayaknow, turns out he’s The One. Except, Arthur doesn’t want the sword or the responsibility and the rest of the film deals with him coming to terms with his destiny, with the help of a few magical animal wranglers, (mages) and his merry band of bro-friends.
The biggest problem with this film is that there is no room to breathe in it. Ritchie seems to have overcompensated for the lack of proper dramatic scenes and dialogue between characters by throwing everything but the kitchen sink at it. Every line is a quip or a pun and just as soon as he’s ended one action sequence and it looks like there might be some actual acting, we crash pan to a flashback, flashforward or frenetic montage sequence. It’s exhausting and without those quieter moments for the audience to relax and for the film to gather pace again, the bigger set pieces are unfortunately undermined.
King Arthur, The Legend of the Sword is a cockney caricature of a film – full of bravado and banter, overpromising and under delivering and you know in the end it’s putting one over on you, but you don’t really mind, as despite everything, you’ve kind of enjoyed it.