It seems like every ten years or so Hollywood decides to take another go at the Arthurian legends and hope it will be successful enough to merit a franchise. This time around it’s Guy Ritchie’s turn to try in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Set right before the demise of Uther Pendragon, Legend of the Sword opens with the evil sorcerer Mordred attacking the kingdom as Uther tries to fend him off. Uther’s fate is sealed when he is betrayed by his brother Vortigern, who not only kills Uther but makes a pact with Mordred, effectively taking a part of the dying sorcerer into himself (I guess like a horcrux?) and ushering in a cruel reign of terror over the land and its people. There’s only one problem for King Vortigern; Uther’s son and rightful heir managed to escape that fateful night and is coming back to retake the kingdom….with a vengeance! Sorry, I couldn’t help it.
So let’s start with the good. Jude Law’s performance as the evil, snide, and smarmy King Vortigern is pretty great. It actually reminded me a lot of Joaquin Phoenix’s infamous jerk emperor, Commodus, in the film Gladiator (2000). You actually enjoy disliking the character and I love those kind of villains.
The film also succeeds in being pretty steadily entertaining from the beginning to the end of its 206 minute running time. It’s frantic pace keeps your attention throughout and it boasts some moments of truly beautiful cinematography, when they aren’t impaired by the excessive use of CGI that permeates the film. It’s this tendency toward excess that really undermines the film in the long run.
When Arthur must venture into the Dark lands, the film has the opportunity to present us with an epic mini quest rife with other worldly creatures and challenges. The quest through the Dark Lands could have been really cool, instead, Ritchie rushes through it with a frantic 2 minute montage that ends before you can really take anything in, other than the idea that that dark lands contain monsters. It kind of feels like being a kid driving past Disneyland for the first time but you’re parents are taking you somewhere else. “Wait, what was that? Can we go back?” No. No, we can’t.
And this lack of restraint transitions us into the bad things about the film. This is a Guy Ritchie film. That’s the problem. It’s way too Guy Ritchie for a movie (loosely) based on the Arthurian legends. It’s far too stylized and it’s hard to marry the idea of King Arthur to the frenetic editing strategy. There are too many speedy hard jump cuts, CGI is used in excess, and a surplus of distracting sound strategies that take you out of the moment entirely. His style of film making just doesn’t work well when it’s combined with a set of mythologies that have remained exceedingly popular since before the middle ages. Additionally, it’s also really hard to like Guy Ritchie’s cocky, strutting, and condescending Arthur (Charlie Hunnam). He comes off like a two dimensional frat guy trying desperately to convince everyone around him that he’s cool by acting like a jerk. He’s just too much of a “cool guy” for my taste as Arthur.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is an entertaining enough film for a one time viewing on the couch, but I have significant doubts that it will usher in the six part series that the studio intends.
|King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)|
|Release Date:||May 12, 2017|