Movie Review: King Arthur Legend of the Sword
Magic Returns to the Arthurian Legend, and That’s Not Such a Bad Thing
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a film released by Warner Bros. Studios and directed by Guy Ritchie. It stars Charlie Hunnam, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Jude Law, and Eric Bana.
When a mystical force murders the family of young Arthur, his power-hungry uncle Vortigern takes control of Camelot. Spirited away in the night and robbed of his birthright, Arthur grows up on the rough streets and back alleys of the city not knowing his true lineage. When the mystical sword Excalibur reveals itself fate draws the two together, and Arthur is forced to embrace his destiny and decide if he wants to become a legendary leader.
Before I get too far into this review there is one thing that needs to be understood; this not your father’s Arthurian legend. Most of the characters you’d expect to see are in this movie, but they’re shuffled around a bit. This story mixing is most prominent in the role of Uther Pendragon. In the classic lore, Uther is a character that is clouded by his passions and with the help of Merlin, tricks another man’s wife into sleeping with him; producing Arthur. In this movie, Uther is the hero-king and first wielder of Excalibur, and he dies defending his family. I didn’t mind the new take on the Arthurian story, I found it refreshing, and in most cases, I liked the choices the writers made.
Both Jude Law and Charlie Hunnam both gave great performances as Vortigern and Arthur. They elevated the material and made the struggles interesting. Especially Hunnam’s Arthur; he sold me on the street-level would-be king, and was both charming and had a commanding presence.
I was also glad to see the reintroduction of magic. Mages, magic and mystical creatures play a relatively significant role in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. This inclusion was a relief to me and made the mythical origins of Excalibur that much more satisfying. It’s been a minute since we had an Arthur movie that wasn’t afraid to veer into fantasy, and the outcome was fun.
Although I like the acting of the two leads, Vortigern’s motives weren’t ever quite clear. Is he only craving power, and wanting to be king? Does he want to be a badass sorcerer? He also has the weakest backstory. At some point, he made a deal with some mysterious characters, but again what’s the point of it? What do they get out of it? It’s never really made clear, and the answers we do get are thin.
The cinematography in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was a big miss for me as well. The action scenes were hard to follow at times and relied too heavily on CGI which was noticeable at times, and took me out of the movie. Some of Arthur’s scenes wielding Excalibur feel almost as if you’re in a video game; you nearly expect there to be a combo meter in the upper corner. I was also not a fan of the giant elephants, snakes, rats, and any other enormous animal that had a cameo in King Arthur. They weren’t integral to the plot, felt contrived, and again; the CGI was bad so they hardly had the impact these larger than life creatures should have had. Another thing this film did that was annoying to me are the montages. Guy Ritchie uses them a few times in the movie to quickly show the passage of time. The first one highlights Arthur growing up and the second is covering one of his trials to learn the power of Excalibur. They’re both a little choppy, and I would like to have spent more time in these sequences; especially the second one where he is on an adventure.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a good popcorn flick; if you are a fan of fantasy movies and don’t mind a tweaked version Arthurian Legend then you should enjoy this film. I found myself enjoying the story, and this compensated for many of the flaws I found in the movie. I’d like to see more from Arthur and know where his next journey takes him.