King Arthur movie review: God save the king from Guy Ritchie’s idea of Arthurian legend
Guy Ritchie’s new film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword just doesn’t work -- plot defies logic, performances are below par and several bad directorial decisions sink the period drama so deep that even a seething Jude Law can’t lift it up.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Eric Bana
Does an army of clumsy Stormtroopers stand a chance against Thor, a Warg, Legolas and Bruce Lee? As far as King Arthur: Legend of the Sword goes, we’d say director Guy Ritchie will definitely bet on the Stormtroopers.
His latest retelling of one of the best known legends -- of King Arthur -- may be a brave step considering many filmmakers have already had a go at it. But, Ritchie’s is definitely not a good one.
The film just doesn’t wash. The plot defies logic, performances are below par and several bad directorial decisions sink the period drama so deep that even a seething Jude Law can’t lift it up.
Don’t be fooled by the glossy leather pants and the goatees because you are being taken back to the fifth century. England is gloomier and darker than we’ve ever seen it or maybe it is just shoddy 3D.
Once you are in that colourless city, you meet King Uther (Eric Bana) and Vortigern (Jude Law). Law is Prince Harry to Bana’s Prince William but soon turns Scar to his Mufasa. He murders his brother and usurps the throne. Uther’s son Simba flees the clutches of his evil uncle and is found by Timon and some Pumbaas, who are prostitutes.
Simba grows up to be Arthur, who grows up to be Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hardy’s love child we otherwise call Charlie Hunnam.
Arthur goes about his life. Gets bullied as a kid, learns martial arts from a Chinese guy in the neighbourhood and saves the prostitutes from violent clients who refuse to pay.
Then, a prophecy raises its head and his father’s magical sword, the mighty Excalibur, resurfaces, jammed in a large boulder. Vortigen, eager to find and kill the true heir who will extract the sword, gets all men from the kingdom to try their luck. Arthur, obviously, is the one to dislodge it. He now has to keep the evil Vortigen away from the sword and also learn to use it.
I could give you a link to download the PDF version of King Arthur’s legend instead of wasting 250 words on explaining the plot but then it wouldn’t mention CGI eagles, elephants and anacondas or swords that turn their master’s eyes blue and slow down time.
With King Arthur, Ritchie seems to be only flexing his style-muscles we have already seen, several times over. There are the slow-motion fight scenes that we have seen in Sherlock Holmes and the snappy dialogues and all too familiar confused, directionless storytelling.
But some of these tricks were there for a reason -- like slow motion in Sherlock Holmes to illustrate the goings-on in the head of the famous 221b Baker Street resident -- in King Arthur, they are there only to remind the viewer that Ritchie still hasn’t forgotten the technique.
The fact that he is doing it in a medieval England makes matters worse.
The few things that aren’t totally frustrating about the film are the actors. Charlie Hunnam is charming and confident as the young king. He is bestowed with a great power and it shows in his moments of self-doubt. He is also witty and can deliver a humorous line or two with as much ease as he lands some mighty punches on the villain.
Jude Law again shows how good he is at being bad. If anyone had a doubt about his dark side after The Young Pope, he casts them aside in this outing, playing the nefarious, jealous king who wouldn’t even blink before murdering his family.
Astrid Bergès-Frisbey plays the only female character to not get her throat slit in the movie. Perhaps that is why she finds mention second only to Charlie Hunnam in the opening credits.
She plays Mage, a woman with supernatural powers that allow her to control eagles and two-storey high snakes but still ends up getting kidnapped, conveniently, only to be saved by the hero. This, however, isn’t the only problem with the film’s all-over-the-place plot.
There is a Chinese man teaching kung fu to the English in the fifth century and is rewarded with a knighthood. Really?
Arthur can kill scores of men with a single swift movement of his sword but still decides it is better to run away? Mage can turn into a massive snake but doesn’t until the very last moment? And why does Hunnam have the millennial jock-style combed-back hair with trimmed sides if he is King Arthur?
And then there is David Beckham’s cameo. What in the world can explain that disaster?
You may think reviewers being unduly harsh and exaggerating in saying how bad his acting debut is but trust me, each and every word is true.
So if there is one reason to watch this film, it is Beckham. Yes, Beckham. Someday, you will tell your children you watched one of the biggest footballers of all times make a miserable fool of himself on the silver screen.
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Soumya Srivastava tweets @soumya1405