Robbed of his birthright, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy – whether he likes it or not.
The legend of ‘King Arthur’ has been told on screen many times before, on both TV and film, and it falls to Guy Ritchie as the latest man to tackle the story with his own distinctive style. On paper Ritchie seems a natural fit for a different spin on the legend, based on his work on the recent ‘Sherlock Holmes’ films (more enjoyable than the overrated TV series IMO), which blended a period setting with the kinetic editing and snappy dialogue he’d became known for in his strongest films like ‘Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels’ and ‘Snatch’. Transporting Ritchie’s style to the middle ages doesn’t work nearly as well in ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’, a tone-deaf outing that manages to be utterly ridiculous and overblown, yet monstrously dull at the same time.
The warning signs are there from the outset with a CGI laden frenzy of action culminating in a gigantic elephant attacking a castle (a very suitable metaphor for the film’s lack of subtlety in all regards), before settling down to follow young Arthur who is now living in a brothel in ‘Londinium’. We’re introduced to Charlie Hunnam’s Arthur and his cheeky band of bandits (insert a pun on ‘Lock, Stock’s title here!), who march around the city defending prostitutes, making Vikings pay their dues and undertaking all sorts of illicit activities, with a cheeky smile of course. Meanwhile, Arthur’s evil Uncle (played by Jude Law) is trying to track down the man who can pull the famous sword Excalibur from the stone with the help of a band of rogues led by David Beckham, in a completely incomprehensible cameo that takes you completely out the setting. This brings Arthur back into his Uncle’s crosshairs and the two face off over the remainder of the runtime, aided by a series of ridiculously named henchmen (Goose Fat Bill is particularly hard to beat in this regard).
Hunnam’s a solid enough actor in search of a decent role, but he doesn’t find it here, and it will take someone with far greater ability to sell the terrible dialogue he’s expected to deliver. I did enjoy Jude Law’s villainous turn and he at least seems to be enjoying himself, with many of the other actors not sure whether to play the material straight or to embrace the ridiculousness. The flashy, effects driven approach was barely successful in covering for the lacklustre story and dull characters, and I hated the frenetic editing that made many of the action scenes hard to follow. This is supposed to be the first of six films in a series, and this shares many of the issues that plague films that are set up as franchise-starters as opposed to quality films in their own right. Thankfully, this dud is likely to prevent these sequels from coming to pass and I’d recommend giving this film a miss to help ensure that is the case!
Directed By: Guy Ritchie
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Jude Law, Aidan Gillen, Neil Maskell, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Tom Wu, Freddie Fox, Annabelle Wallis, Bleu Landua, Mikael Persbrandt, Michael McElhatton, David Beckham and Eric Bana