King Arthur: Legend of the Sword movie review — This film is all that's wrong with Guy Ritchie's cinema
With his trademark flashy whiz bang busy editing style of filmmaking, Guy Ritchie a few years ago turned Sherlock Holmes into a fun action hero in two very entertaining movies. Ritchie attempts the same formula by turning the story of King Arthur into a medieval set fantasy epic action adventure, but unfortunately stumbles over, hard.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a stark display of everything wrong with Ritchie’s hyperactive process of cinema. It’s his least interesting movie since Swept Away, and at least that movie had some unintentional hilarity for entertainment. This one is a tiring slog with unimpressively staged action and insipid characters.
Borrowing from the original story we’re introduced to King Uther (Eric Bana) who strives to protect his kingdom of Camelot with his Excalibur sword, but is killed by his villainous brother Vortigern (Jude Law). Uther’s son who escapes Vortigern’s wrath grows up years later to be a strong young man named Arthur (Charlie Hunnam). The Excalibur sword is discovered and with the help of Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and The Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) Arthur begins a journey to fight Vortigern and reclaim his throne.
The problem is Ritchie’s wiseass Snatch style characters don’t really fit into this medieval and magical setting, and it feels like the film is trying to be too smart for its own good.
The first moment you hear a medieval King talk in a post modern Cockney accent it’s funny, but it gets old really fast. After a while the film merely becomes an exhausting nudge-nudge wink-wink exercise to showcase how everything in the film is old yet new.
The people in the film, who are supposed to take up this challenge of modernising an old tale are not charming like in Sherlock Holmes but mostly irritating, beginning with the unlikable protagonist and boring side characters. Hunnam, who was barely enjoyable in Pacific Rim, is even less effective in the film. He’s a great action hero to look at, but flat at everything else, so it’s hard to root for him when he goes in to fight the far more interesting villain.
To compensate for these oddities there’s plenty of mystic magic and CGI – including elephants the size of buildings, sirens and a tentacled witch in the sea. There are giant sized battles with typically Ritchie style blaring music and flashily cut scenes. But the product feels stale rather than energetic, and the onslaught of CGI towards the end makes you wonder if a smaller scale film that focused on improving the character dynamics would have been more enjoyable. It’s also annoying that the film is blatantly executed, at every turn, to be a franchise starter.
In the messy filmmaking process the focus seems to have been lost that if the audience is supposed to wait for the second film the first one better be bloody good.
It tries too hard to be funny and epic, and in the process fails to show us what is actually happening on the screen. If there are magical monsters in the film, we need to see them and enjoy the film rather than forcibly applaud lopsided British wisecracks.