UK Release Date: 19th May 2017
Runtime: 126 minutes
Director: Guy Ritchie
Writer: Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram, Joby Harold
Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Eric Bana, Neil Maskell, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Craig McGinlay
Synopsis: When he pulls the legendary sword Excalibur from a stone, a rough young man from the streets of Londinium becomes a wanted fugitive as the tyrannical ruler of the land tries to assert his claim to the throne.
There can be very little doubt that what King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is, what it tries to be and how it fits in with the blockbuster fare around it will be studied one day, but it’s impossible to tell whether that will be with a positive or negative approach because what director Guy Ritchie provides in this fantasy epic is an unrelenting assault on all of your senses.
The dialogue is abrasive and completely unrelated to the movie’s period setting, the action is layered with cuts, effects and motion so extreme you may find yourself feeling a little unwell, and don’t ask me how, but I’m pretty sure this movie would taste and smell of sweat. What viewers may have been able to follow is a reimagination of the story of King Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) and how the tragic events of his youth lead to him growing up as a streetwise extra from Snatch in medieval London. He ultimately returns home to Camelot and pulls a mythical sword from a stone before taking on tyrannical monarch Vortigern (Jude Law).
One thing that can’t be said about King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is that it doesn’t try hard. Each action sequence is unique, its signature Ritchie dialogue is charming in parts but lacking in razzle-dazzle in others. While no character is particularly-well fleshed out, each actor takes on their role with enough commitment and self-awareness that it never feels as if they are out of place.
However where the movie falls down is in its lack of commitment to character, story and ultimately making its action both comprehensible and emotional. So few of the movie’s more interesting elements work in tandem that its easy for the characters to get lost among the effects, the curious soundtrack and the choppy dialogue.
With that in mind you can see how King Arthur fits in with its natural partners in blockbuster action – Suicide Squad, Batman v Superman and Transformers. This is energetic, passionate filmmaking that unfortunately leaves its soul and brain somewhere in the writing room. It’s hard to tell whether this emerging genre of blockbuster action is intentional, or whether it will last very long.
At times, the visual panache of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is enthralling to see, and there are sequences in the film, such as a breathless chase through medieval London, that really do stand out and capture the imagination of what this movie could have been. Unfortunately, they never happen consistently enough to make you think that the film is ever more advanced and coherent than just being a series of things happening in front of you. For while this movie throws everything at the camera, little sticks.
Pop or Poop?
An admirable exuberance on behalf of director Guy Ritchie is not enough to help King Arthur: Legend of the Sword to become a worthy addition to the canon of fantasy action movies. It’s an over-stuffed blockbuster that never fully commits to characterisation, creating a roster of thin Cockney caricatures instead.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.