I suppose the legend of King Arthur is the hero story of all hero stories. Arthurian tales wobble on the line of believable because the events within those myths are so grounded in intrigue. However, this also makes it the framework for many ‘becoming a hero’ stories, so when I see another rendition of King Arthur’s legend I admittedly and instantaneously think that film studios are being cheap and cheat their way to a box office success. But I was willing to give this film an exception as it was being trusted with household name Guy Ritchie.
So, did this exception pay off? The answer is very half and half. First, I didn’t enjoy Guy Ritchie’s rendition of Sherlock Holmes because I thought it clashed with his typical directing style, though in the case of King Arthur, it received the Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels treatment that gained him notoriety. I kid you not, the film had a very cockney vibe about it, but ignoring that amusing thought, I enjoyed the rough approach to this tale, it didn’t necessarily work all the time but for the moments it did work, it was a route that no other director could have though off.
The roughness of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword comes from a very rough style of cinematography, you could imagine the cinematographer gripping the camera tightly, shoving it around it a stop start type of camera movement, like children fighting over a new toy. In the case of King Arthur, style trumps presentation, there are some scenes that given the wrong portrayal and performances from actors would be laughably hilarious, however because of the roughness of the film they fit comfortably into the chain of events.
As performances go, Jude Law’s performance as the evil king Vortigern stood out the most. He delivers an evil that isn’t too over the top and more like a silent evil, he doesn’t even have to say anything and his face will tell you all you need to know, that the talent that Jude Law provides to this film. Charlie Hunnam plays Arthur in a very determined roll. According to sources Charlie Hunnam wanted the role of Arthur so badly he was willing to fight Henry Cavill and Jai Courtney, the other two actors considered for the role. His determination certainly come out of the silver screen but the execution is a little on the weak side therefore making the character of Arthur a very bog-standard hero to be.
Now what didn’t work for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Well with an action-packed story, the film seems to be embarrassed about its own action sequences and tries to hide them under a blanket of fast cuts and high paced shots. In one fight scene, the film even used the dirt from the ground as a kind of smokescreen for the bad guys, however placing the camera inside the smokescreen obscures the images and it’s difficult to see who is hitting who.
Next is the sound design, I swear there are a few scenes that use the same sound bite repeatedly such as a scream and the films score is achingly painful and does not fit the scale of epic that the score is trying to imply. Whilst watching the film, the music is screeching and assaulting, it’s difficult to focus on the action when your ears are being attacked by loud bass symphonic score.
I must mention the many flashbacks in King Arthur: Legend of the sword. While needed, they are constructed in a very weird way. the dialogue doesn’t flow like normal flashbacks, each cut to a past event is followed by the last word of dialogue from the films present day. This dialogue structure break the flow of events massively, it not the case of playing catch up but rather the film taking steps back in its narrative structure. Also, the pacing during the flashbacks is very different from the rest of the film, it seems to fix on a more stylistic approach rather than piecing together a flashback that audiences can keep up with.
With a tale as well-known as King Arthur is it honestly necessary that the film requires a heavy amount of exposition? Especially with a depiction of Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone? It’s the most universally known story of the entire King Arthur mythology, even the 1963 Disney animated film never relied heavily on historical exposition.
King Arthur has been used in film countless time since the animated Disney film, and it’s baffling that no director has been able to present a grounded and enjoyable live action depiction of said character. Guy Ritchie’s take is quite simply an odd idea that got even odder. Interestingly this is not the end of King Arthur as there are five more films planned in the works. If Guy Ritchie is going to follow through with this, a new direction and a new way of presenting the story and characters is urgently needed.
Final Result: 3/10 – Poor
Have you seen King Arthur: Legend of the Sword? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales