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[Movie Review] King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

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Plot Summary: 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.

Director: Guy Ritchie

Writers: Joby Harold (screenplay), Guy Ritchie (screenplay)

Runtime: 2h 6min

Main Cast:

  • Charlie Hunnam as Arthur
  • Astrid Bergès as The Mage
  • Jude Law as Vortigern
  • Djimon Houson as Bedivere
  • Eric Bana as Uther
  • Aidan Gillen as Bill

Review: by Chris

King Arthur, a legendary tale in its own right, has never had a definitive film vision. There's no "absolute" film to stand as an example of how to handle the franchise. It allows flexibility with the source and many different interpretations. After hearing Ritchie would be handling King Arthur I was torn. Part of me expected a Sherlock Holmes situation where Guy Ritchie takes his rough London aesthetic and applying it to the character while keeping the main elements that are core to Holmes. In those movies the balance between what's clearly Ritchie and what is vintage Sherlock works, there is never too much of either and they blend in an interesting way. The other part of me expected a messy blend of the 2 without said balance. The final film is an interesting mix of both, but thankfully has more of the former.

What I Liked:

After an odd title summary and a kinda long cold open, I was kinda skeptical. This scene is weird, in that sets up the main conflict and is a giant action sequence. It’s complete with giant elephants and magic and all the good knights and swords stuff, and it’s handled surprisingly well. Nice set up for another epic sword in the stone story, however, we segue right into your average Guy Ritchie movie. Young London (Londania in the film, clever) bloke, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam), works his way through beatings and moves up in the seedy underworld through a speedy montage. This introduction is everything Ritchie does well. Snappy dialogue, stylish editing, and that good ole London grit, and it’s entertaining stuff. Laughs are in abundance and Hunnam plays a solid rough and tumble young man. This is when the film is at its best. The writing is good and seeing all the secondary characters and side plots work around in the background of this larger film works well. Once the prophecy of Arthur and the sword comes up things kinda suffer in that we lose some of that grit and fun of the London story.

The cast all works well enough for their respective roles during this segment, with some veterans stepping in as support roles. Djimon Houson and Aidan Gillen play well against Hunnams more douchey demeanor and we get some nice dialogue between them. Many of Arthur’s cohorts from London also play their roles very well, offering a diverse group of people to join his cause. As good as they are some other supporting characters don’t do much outside of what the plot needs them too. Astrid Bergès plays both pseudo love interest and magical guide and is serviceable to a point…she’s just there when she’s needed. Jude Law does his best as Vortigan, the big bad, but he doesn’t seem to be enjoying himself. Besides chewing some scenery and wearing cool armor, he just walks around in pain twirling his mustache.

The movie is also consistently funny. I didn’t expect to laugh this much in this film, let alone have a few genuinely hilarious moments. Most of this comes with Arthur and his street sensibility dealing with the more mystical accounts of the born king legend.

What I Didn’t Like:

The pacing and story in this movie are kinda all over the place. It wants to be a sweeping magical epic and a gritty crime story all at the same time. A major part of Arthur’s journey is told through a montage. Though well made, the scene is jarring as it cuts from the action to characters TALKING about the action. It’s only 1 of 3 different flashback/montage scenes done in Ritchie’s signature flashy edit style, but it clashes heavy with the tone of the scene and what the viewer is seeing.

This segues into another small nitpick is the use of the CG. Being that Arthur’s tale is one of a magical nature there are tons of creatures and monsters for Arthur to tangle with. However much of the CG is very noticeable and jarring. Specifically, the effect when Arthur “uses” his sword. It’s very much the speed up to slow motion style of movies like 300, yet not nearly as clean. It’s obvious Hunnam and his enemies are all computer generated and it makes those scenes hard to follow. This happens again in the final climatic fight scene which lessens its impact.

Once the film moves from London Grit to getting Arthur ready to fight with Vortigan, the film has trouble finding its footing. The second act and beyond move at a quicker pace slowing down some of the nice character interactions we got during the first London segments. Characters kinda show up and die to give you an idea of how bad Vortigan is, but we never get to really see how bad this King has become. But it comes around closer to the end, with some well-made scenes leading to that final battle.

Images Courtesy of IMDB

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