KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD review by Rahul Vedantam – Guy Ritchie gets medieval

KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD review by Rahul Vedantam – Guy Ritchie gets medieval



KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD has a major identity crisis. The film is constantly jumping around with what it wants to be, and nothing ever sticks around long enough for a cohesive story to form. It feels like every 15 minutes of screen time, a new director was brought it and told nothing about what the last guy did. That isn’t to say each scene is bad, as a microcosm they all actually work well, but the script and lack of straightforwardness holds everything down from achieving what is possible. I found myself asking constantly “how did we get here” and “why is this happening” without any real explanation, comedy and stylish directing taking precedent over storytelling. Not that there is much story to tell, clearly the producers were banking on large fight pieces and the summer sun being able to put bodies in seats for the blockbuster. Neither the cast nor story excel to anything beyond average, and are often very disappointing.

The basic story is that after the death of Arthur’s father and the usurpation of the throne by his uncle (Jude Law), Arthur grows up a charming street rat. However, once he pulls sword from stone, his life turns upside down and he becomes a major player in a battle he wants no part of. Beyond that requires intuition that I do not have. There is a sequence dedicated to Arthur’s coming of warrior as he develops himself in “The Dark Lands”, but why he has to go there and only there, why no one can come with him, and why this triggers his memory of his parent’s death is completely unexplained. Things like this happen constantly throughout the film.

At least the director was having fun though. Each sequence feels like it was taken out of a different movie. The beginning war and death is very grand with lots of action and an annoying number of close ups of the mother’s face as if from LORD OF THE RINGS. The immediate next scene is a fun montage a la Vince Gilligan wordlessly super-speeding Arthur to adulthood. And the immediate next scene is a MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE style voice over from future characters telling a comedic story of something that happened before. Nothing sticks and therefore nothing works.

The acting is fine. The only notable performance is Astrid Bergés-Frisbey, but it is sadly noteworthy because of her constantly shifting (rather awful) fake accent. Jude Law is a convincing villain, and Djimon Hounsou is a sight for sore eyes. Hounsou comes in with GAME OF THRONES’ Aiden Gillen for comedic effect, but that role is handled by basically everyone in the movie except Law, whose brooding is quite scary. Neither of them can do anything great without a better script. Charlie Hunnam had a lot of fun being snarky Arthur, and I commend him for getting into that kind of shape for the role, and yes, he is good during the action sequences. He sells the snark and has the comedic chops, but the drama often doesn’t work. I can’t blame that entirely on him though.

The $175 million budget all went to effects, and they work. I appreciate the touch the magic and focus on animals has. Watching the same superheroes fight in the theater over and over has had me craving something a little more fun and fantastic. The score is completely forgettable, and the ever present comedy doesn’t elevate the film but just lends more to the fractured feeling.

In total, a bare bones plot is given many confusing excuses to do something interesting, but this film was made for popcorn breaks, as every scene happens in microcosm, and as a fully fledged film it falls flat.


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