‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ brings Guy Ritchie’s spin on the Arthurian legend (review)

I’m going to be honest: my amount of knowledge of the King Arthur legend isn’t all that long. In fact, I think most of my knowledge that I had prior to the film was based around another film: Disney’s The Sword in the Stone.

But trust me when I say don’t let the lack of knowledge you may have about the lore of the once famous King keep you from seeing this film. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword does not skimp out on any bit of action it can give, while still having a decent story structure to accompany it. All this is only intensified when it’s processed through the eyes of one of the most unique directors in cinema: Guy Ritchie.

After the murder of his father, young Arthur’s (Charlie Hunaam) power-hungry uncle Vortigern (Jude Law) seizes control of the crown. Robbed of his birthright, he grows up the hard way in the back alleys of the city, not knowing who he truly is. When fate leads him to pull the Excalibur sword from stone, Arthur embraces his true destiny to become a legendary fighter and leader.

King Arthur is one of those types of films that many would say has been done over and over. In fact, the story has had over 60 different cinematic adaptations, not including several television series and video games. Despite all this, Ritchie’s film still feels fresh and unique. With the use of several trademarks that have become synonymous with the director, the film held a certain atmosphere throughout its entirety.

One of those incredible quirks that Ritchie has in each of his films resulted in one of my favorite scenes in the film. Your typical Ritchie-ism, if you will, where we have a group of men reiterating their story of the events that occurred earlier that day. Normally, this would result in a very quick and simple scene, but not for Ritchie. This scene lays out like a surgeon’s movements, carefully placing key words in parts of the conversation to not contradict itself. Simultaneously, the conversation also lends to the humor of the filmmaker, being sly en0ugh to fit jabs here and there, but not so that it’s standing in front of you beckoning you to notice it. The scene plays out beautifully, with every bit of finesse and charisma that one would come to expect from someone like Ritchie.

Amidst the great direction are the great characters, and the cast who played them. Was I the only one who thought that having Jude Law play the big baddie was a perfect fit? I’ve always thought Jude Law looked villainous, so I guess it was time for him to fill those shoes. His performance as the power-hungry Vortigern was chilling. Not because of how evil he seemed, but as to how natural it seemed to look on the man. Let me just say that I don’t want to be caught in a dark alley with this man.

Another key role was that of Arthur, played by Charlie Hunaam. I never really saw Sons of Anarchy (yes, it’s on my to-do list), but I was an immediate fan after seeing his performance in 2013’s Pacific Rim. Who knew that his versatility and range were bigger than just biker shows and Kaiju flicks? The man brought to life a variation of King Arthur that was fresh and new, giving a newfound respect to the actor. Hunaam’s on-screen physical presence brought as much authority as his ability to deliver his lines.

Djimon Hounsou is always a sure bet on being able to exude greatness in any role he takes. As Bedivere, he joins the ranks, however, as yet again another follower, and not a leader. In all the roles he’s excelled in, I have yet to see him once give a disappointing performance. I hoping one day we can see Hounsou given the chance to stand out as a lead character, and not be given another supporting role.

Now despite these great aspects of the film, there were some issues that one can’t escape without seeing. The majority are minor but noticeable, however there’s one major issue that almost seems inexcusable: the use of CG. Mind you, Ritchie’s never been shy of using a bit of CG to showcase his signature slow-motion scenes, most recently with his Sherlock Holmes films. Sadly, this was not done well, and completely throws you out of the film. The idea of using CG in a live-action film is to give fans an opportunity to see something they wouldn’t normally see, without giving up the magic that it was done by computers. This, however, looks completely like it belongs in a video game. Going from an actual fight, to what could possibly be worse than The Matrix Reloaded‘s infamous CG battle. Yes, it’s that bad.

All in all, the film isn’t all bad. The CG scene, although ridiculous and improbable, isn’t a total derailment of the story. The film has a ton of other fun parts that help push the story in the Guy Ritchie fashion he has come to be known for. If you can push past this third act disaster, the film rounds out to be a tale that makes for what could be a fun franchise…if corrected. As long as Ritchie learns from his mistakes, and doesn’t try to attempt what ever he tried to do in this last film, there’s hope.

The film in total is a fun thrill ride back in time, where King Arthur’s tale begins not in a castle, but a brothel. A story that shows King Arthur’s inadequacies more than his ability to lead. A possible franchise that could take the Arthurian legend in a whole new direction. And I’m totally down for that. Let’s hope, however, that the next time we see Arthur, he’s not caught in the middle of playing Dark Souls again, and then, we can really see what he and Excalibur can really do. Here’s to hoping.

Rating: 3/5 Atoms

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