Written By: Nick Poulimenakos
I have never been a fan of Arthurian legend. King Arthur, the knights of the roundtable, Lancelot; it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Then Guy Ritchie came along and announces that he’s directing a new King Arthur story. One that still stays true to the setting and time of the tale (the 5th century or something like that) but puts a modern and magical spin on it. He announces a start studded cast that includes Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law in the lead roles. Now I’m intrigued. Two of my favourite actors bringing a story I initially found dull to life peaked my interest. So, how did the film turn out? Well, the short version is, fairly average. However, since this is a movie review, here’s the long version!
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword puts a new spin on the age old Arthurian tale. After his power hungry uncle murders his father, a young Arthur is forced onto the streets where he grows up the hard way. Arthur, robbed of his royal birthright, eventually comes across the sword in stone, Excalibur and pulls it from the rubble. With this new found power, Arthur must decide whether or not he actually wants to embrace his true identity and become the legendary fighter and famed king.
Charlie Hunnam has been one of my personal favourite actors ever since Sons of Anarchy. So, naturally, when he was cast in the titular role, I was excited. Hunnam is great as the born king. His performance as Arthur was stunning and he delivers all the charm and charisma one would expect from a leading man. He’s able to portray comedy, action, internal struggle and pack a serious emotional punch in his scenes with ease. The real show-stealer however is Jude Law as the mad-king Vortigern. His portrayal of the villain is devilishly evil and has the viewer on the edge of their seat every time he appears on screen.
The rest of the cast however was a letdown. Legend of the Sword is rounded out by impressive actors and actresses like Aiden Gillen, Djimon Hounsou, Eric Bana and Astrid Berges-Frisbey. The movie did nothing to make me care about the characters that were assisting Arthur in this new found quest. The dialogue was below-average, the performances were lackluster and nothing about this film made me want to see these characters on screen again.
Through and through, this is a Guy Ritchie film. I say that in the sense that Guy Ritchie has his own style of filmmaking. In Ritchie’s mind, 5th century townsfolk have thick cockney accents reminiscent of hsi earlier crime films. Legend of the Sword relies heavily on its non-stop pace as scene after scene, there’s another big moment or action sequence happening. Now, this is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s that, if you’re not a fan of Guy Ritchie going into this film, chances are you are not going to like King Arthur or you are going to be shocked at Richie’s unique style of filming.
Which leads me to my next point. This film is a lot of fun. Most of it is mindless fun thanks to its massive amount of action but, fun is fun. Legend of the Sword does not give its audience a moment to rest. The film is so outrageous in its spectacle that, at times, you won’t even know what just transpired on screen. Again, this could be considered a good and bad thing. For me, it was a good thing because I turned my brain off for two hours and watched Charlie Hunnam and his knights go up against Jude Law and his gigantic elephants.
Legend of the Sword, while being a fun action film, has several glaring negatives. This seems like a common problem among recent films but editing was a major issue for this film. There were sections of the movie that were definitely cut and it is evident. The second act especially felt very choppy in its execution, jumping from scene to scene, character to character without a hesitation. Many action scenes seemed to be cut in a sense that the audience would only need to focus for seconds at a time. While most of the CGI in the film was seamless, there were times when it wasn’t and you knew it. Various scenes where characters used magic were done rather poorly and can only be compared to the CGI scene in X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Remember those horrible CGI claws? Well that’s what some of the magic in Legend of the Sword looked like. I don’t know if this counts as a spoiler but David Beckham appears in the film. He has a cameo and it’s a short one but it has got to be one of the worst cameos in the history of filmmaking. It baffles me that this scene was shown in an editing room and the film crew said “yeah this cameo rocks, keep it in the film.”
Where Legend of the Sword really succeeds however is in the cinematography. John Mathieson, who was the director of photography on films such as Logan and X-Men: First Class, is the cinematographer for this film and he absolutely kills it. 5th century England never looked this good. From the wide angle scenery shots to the countless action sequences, Mathieson proves once again that he is one of the best D.O.P’s working today.
Daniel Pemberton, who previously scored Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E and Steve Jobs, was selected to score this film and his music is probably the best part of the whole film. From start to finish, Pemberton’s mix of medieval melodies infused with rock ‘n’ roll had me constantly bobbing my head in the theatre. His score is thunderous, enticing and the definitive effect is more adrenaline-charged that wearing.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword attempts to show the age old story in a new light. One that blends modern and medieval concepts together for one outrageous action film. Does it succeed? In some aspects, yes. In a lot of others, it doesn’t. Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law were great in their respective roles but the rest of the cast was lackluster in comparison. For the most part, Legend of the Sword is a blast to watch, giving viewer’s numerous action scenes but, after a while, this could prove to be tiresome. This is not a film that will have you saying “we have the next Lord of the Rings on our hands with this fantasy/action film” when you leave the theatre. It will probably leave you satisfied enough to say “yeah that was fine.” You’ll be questioning everything that happened on screen because you probably won’t be able to keep up with the story but, like I said above, fun is fun right?
Nick’s Score – 6.7/10
Artur’s Score – 5/10
Mathew’s Score – 3.3/10
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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword fights its way into theatres on May 12, 2017