Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is another realization of the story that has been told several times in the past, most notably in John Boorman’s Excaliber (the sword of Arthur) from 1981. For me that has been the standard by which other films about King Arthur have been measured. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword seems more like a long music video than anything else and surprisingly, it worked for me, more or less. I would not look to this version to be anything more than a fun, escapist romp.
Charlie Hunnam is Arthur and in this version of the film, Arthur is a bit of a malcontent. Robbing, stealing, along with his fellow conmen, he lives in a brothel as he stacks up his gold coins from day one. It is a nifty little montage set to Daniel Pemberton’s outstanding score. When the Blacklegs (the king’s personal security force) come knocking looking for a young man Arthur’s age and fitting Arthur’s description who may or may not be able to wield Excaliber, it sets rebellion in motion and gives birth to the legend and the outlaw who would eventually become king. Since we all pretty much know the basics of King Arthur, I have spoiled nothing.
Guy Ritchie is able to tell a story within a story and he does it with high energy in King Arthur. He employs a lot of quick cuts of editing and snappy dialogue which gives certain scenes a flow and they help propel this film in its plot. It has all been done before, but Ritchie does not seem to care. His style of direction used in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, is put to good use, here and he seems to be enjoying how he says things, rather than what is said. Charlie Hunnam, gives a rather good performance as Arthur. He is brash, arrogant and is a self-driven man. He is always trying to prove something and his potential purpose is finally revealed when Vortigern (Jude Law) starts to make life miserable for Arthur.
Law’s performance is fine and he does what is required for the role, but there is not much required of him except to snarl and look mean. For this film, that is enough. Hunnam who has not impressed me, thus far with his acting does do some of his best acting to date as Arthur and he pretty much carries this film. Astrid Berges-Frisbey is The Mage, a sorceress of sorts who is drawn to Arthur but is all about defeating the Vortigern, first. Her performance is interesting and ads a layer of mystery which I found interesting. Djimon Hounsou plays Bedivere who is dubious of Arthur, at first but signs on when he sees what Arthur can do. Hounsou seems destined to play these same types of roles as he did in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator, The Four Feathers, Eragon and Seventh Son. One more time in King Arthur doesn’t hurt his career but his character is pretty standard.
Most of these characters have been played before so there is no new ground being broken here. But, they do justice to the story and it all works. If I had any complaints with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is that it settles into a bit of predictability and the story seems to be on auto-pilot up until the final battle with Vortigern. But at the forefront is Hunnam’s performance, Ritchie’s energized direction and Daniel Pemberton’s score, which I highly recommend. The important thing to remember about King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is that it is big, flashy entertainment. This is an example of style over substance and while that may be a bad thing for some films and it does hurt this film to a point, I had fun, regardless. This is an amiable and interesting take on the legend.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – *** out of 5
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Rated PG-13 for language, violence, sexual and adult situations
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Run Time is 126 minutes
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is now playing in theaters. Check your local listings for times and locations in your area.