Running at 126 minutes, director Guy Richie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is suffering the slings and arrows from critics and, more importantly, is absolutely bombing at the box office. I checked out the film this morning at a bargain matinee (shelled out $7.75!!) and I wasn’t disappointed. Before you throw me a Jessica Chastain eye roll, let me explain below!!!
If you love the boys club camaraderie behind Ritchie’s “Snatch” and “Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels,” “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” doesn’t disappoint. It’s the origin story of Arthur (Charlie Hunnam), and this time out our hero is raised in the poorest part of town by prostitutes after the murder of his parents (Eric Bana plays Arthur’s poppa, aka King Uther).
The film begins with King Uther vanquishing a seemingly all-powerful evildoer named Modred (Rob Knighton), but this victory is short-lived after the King is betrayed by his power hungry brother Vortigern (Jude Law, giving the film’s best, and most colorful performance).
Years later Uther’s sword Excalibur, crafted by the Michael Jordan of all mages (Merlin), resurfaces and is stuck to a stone. Being the natural heir to the throne, Arthur is the only person (now that his father’s dead) who will remove the sword and save the kingdom from Vortigern’s tyranny.
That’s the basic premise of the film, as we see Arthur’s journey from a young man to becoming, as TH White’s classic novel suggests, “the once and future king.”
The film’s detractors will point to Ritchie’s seemingly haphazard, flashy, ADD driven editing as a major reason to skip the movie, and if quick cuts and frantic pacing isn’t your type of storytelling, then stay away from King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Although Law is wonderful as the villain and the square jawed Hunnam does an admirable job as the lead (he does a variation of Sons of Anarchy’s Jax Teller – both Jax and Arthur are reluctant leaders), Guy Ritchie is the film’s true star.
Ritchie’s often jarring approach to storytelling enables a great deal of Arthur’s story to be told without the narrative feeling too bogged down in exposition. Meticulously composed, slow moving cinematic visuals are rarely found within his body of work. Instead, Ritchie wants to cram as much story down an audience member’s throat as possible while throwing, at least with this movie, a ton of CGI driven spectacle into the movie’s overflowing pot.
I was never bored during 126 minutes, as the flick’s briskly paced story kept me engaged all the way up to its memorable ending (though it’s an obvious final shot, I still dug it).
Though the movie appealed to me on a visceral level, there’s just a smattering of emotional resonance to the project. One sequence, as Arthur’s men and colleagues prove that they are willing to die for their prospective king, is beautifully executed. For several seconds, there is actually a touching moment within the narrative. But those instances are few and far between.
Another problem lies in the top-heaviness of the story – Ritchie is focused on Arthur’s journey and gives little room for little side stories to blossom along the way. The film, which co-stars Djimon Hounsou and Aidan Gillan (Littlefeather from Game of Thrones) as Arthur’s fellow warriors and Astrid Berges-Frisbey as a mage who has a way with animals (that sounded funny), doesn’t give a ton of depth to its supporting actors (Arthur and Vortigern are the only characters who are fleshed out). Some viewers may complain that the CGI detracts from the overall power of the movie, but aside from a giant snake sequence, I was totally fine with the special effects.
Overall I’m giving King Arthur: Legend of the Sword 3.5 out of 5 stars for sheer entertainment value – this is a popcorn driven film that delivers the goods. Since this movie is probably going to be one of this year’s biggest bombs, I doubt there will be a proposed sequel for the film. That’s a shame, especially since Ritchie gives us a highly energized take on the King Arthur legend.
Have you guys seen King Arthur: Legend of the Sword? Will you at least give the movie a chance when it hits streaming or Blu-ray? Is this a movie our buddy Anderson Cowan would love? Feel free to comment below!!!