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Classic SFF Review


King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Movie Review

King Arthur (movie poster)You know, it’s always struck me as rather odd that, despite there being dozens of amazing stories about King Arthur and his Round Table out there, there’s never really been a truly iconic cinematic movie about the legend. Certainly, there have been plenty of movies made about King Arthur, some of which are even fairly good, like Camelot or Excalibur. But ultimately, the most well-known Arthurian movie in the public eye is the one with coconuts and a killer rabbit.

This time, however, it’s famed director Guy Ritchie taking a shot at the legend, having already left his stamp on a similar iconic figure with Sherlock Holmes (you know, the one with Robert Downey Jr punching stuff?). So, as I walked into the theatre for this movie, I couldn’t help but wonder. Would this be the one? The adaptation that defines the story for this generation? Was this one that would finally get it right?

Short answer? No.

Long answer? Noooooooooo.

King Arthur (movie poster 2)Okay, I’ll begin by saying, if you’re going into this movie for the Arthurian lore, you’re probably going to be fairly disappointed. Most of the major figures aren’t in this movie. No Lancelot. No Galahad. No Morgan le Fay. Barely any Merlin. Aside from a few character nods here and there, the only real major element it carries from the myths is the whole ‘Sword in the Stone’ thing. I don’t know whether the other stuff was being saved for sequels (as is so often the case these days), but style and tone-wise, it’s clearly aiming to copy Game of Thrones more than the Arthurian knightly legends.

But that doesn’t necessarily make a movie bad, does it? If it wants to do its own thing and/or try to tell the Arthurian tales in a different light, then that’s perfectly fine. The problem is, though, that the movie has a serious ‘Style over Substance’ problem. Or, to be more precise, ‘Style over Story Coherency’.

See, if you’re familiar with director Guy Ritchie’s previous works, both good and bad, you’ll know that he has a very distinct style in his movies. Lots of montages with quick cuts and Cockney stylings. Personally, for me, I’ve always loved that style, but it’s taken up to 11 in this movie and really not for the better. The movie is chock full of fast-paced moments and montages covering even the most nothing of scenes and never gives you slow moment or scene to catch your breath. As a result, rather than keep you engaged, it just makes you exhausted and it’s a struggle to stay invested to the very end.

King Arthur (movie poster 3)It doesn’t help that the story is all over the place. I mentioned Game of Thrones earlier, which is an apt comparison. Not because this movie has deep characters and interesting political/fantasy intrigue like that show does, but because said movie feels like it tried to jam an entire TV series worth of story into its run time. We skip from episodic subplot to episodic subplot with clumsy transition and little set-up and the story never gives each subplot time to breathe or be properly explored. One character is revealed to have a major grudge against another, one that was never mentioned before, only introduced when it became relevant, never properly explained and then completely forgotten about once the scene is over.

This also works against a lot of the characters, because we never really get the time to properly know them. Arthur, for example, had a great montage at the beginning establishing how he grew up and what drove him and doing a lot of solid foundation work laying his character. But once the movie itself starts, he’s just thrown from crisis to crisis and we never really get to see his character shine or show why he’s so worthy to be king. Sure, he theoretically has an emotional arc, but it’s incredibly muddled and nonsensical and it’s hard to tell which bits are actually important.

I will say, on a positive note, the acting is good all around. Charlie Hunnam may be a bit ‘generic white lead protagonist’ but he pulls his weight. Jude Law makes a decent antagonist and it’s always nice to see Djimon Houson in more roles. Game of Thrones alumni Aidan Gillian, is even there, playing Goosefat Bill (who is totally not Littlefinger, guys. Really, he has a different name and everything).

King Arthur (movie poster 4)Also, on the positive, assuming you haven’t been exhausting by the constant fast-paced montages, the action is also fairly solid. There’s a neat action scene at the very beginning involving giant elephants (who totally aren’t the giant elephants from Lord of the Rings, guys) and every time Arthur gets to let loose with the full power of Excalibur, it’s always fun to watch.

Ultimately, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, is sadly not a very good movie. The story is muddled, the characters are flat and it’s exhausting to watch in all the wrong ways. However, if you’re a big fan of Guy Ritchie, you might well find something to enjoy. There are a few good sequences and action scenes in there (like the aforementioned ‘Arthur growing up’ montage). But if you’re on the fence about watching it, I’d probably save my money or wait for it to come out on Netflix or something.


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