Released 18th May (Australia)
Seen 14th November
Directed by Guy Ritchie
Written by Joby Harold, Guy Ritchie & Lionel Wigram
Produced by Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures, Weed Road Pictures, Safehouse Picture, Wigram Productions , RatPac-Dune Entertainment
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law & Astrid Bergès-Frisbey
The tale of King Arthur and the Knights of Camelot is one that has been told hundreds of times throughout the ages. It’s been a musical, a cartoon, a TV series, a Disney Channel Original Movie… hell, it was literally the starting point of the last Transformers movie. Arthurian legend is a tale as old as time and now it’s Guy Ritchie’s turn to have a stab at the well-told tale. Many critics seem to really hate this film… I am not ‘many critics’, despite what my talking scale might tell you.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword tells the story of Arthur (Played by Charlie Hunnam) as he goes from the newly orphaned son of Uther Pendragon (Played by Eric Bana) into a streetwise man who was raised in a brothel and learns that he is actually the rightful heir to a throne that was stolen by his uncle Vortigern (Played by Jude Law). With a plucky band of men who are certainly not as merry as they should be, Arthur goes to save the kingdom and on the way learns about what it means to be a leader.
One of the major things you really need to know about this film before you start watching it is that it’s a Guy Ritchie film made in 2016, it’s not going to be purely historically accurate. This is a film that’s embraced a set of style choices that are normally used for… well, other Guy Ritchie films. It’s not a style that you normally see in an Arthurian epic. Barrages of quick cuts, casual violence, obscenities and camera’s are being strapped to actors while they run around is not something one would first think of when they think of the tales of King Arthur but somehow it works in this film. Some sequences are a bit longer than they need to be (If you took all the slo-mo shots and put them at regular speed you’d cut about 10 minutes off the run time of the film) but at the same time while those sequences can feel a little overdone, there’s enough going on that they’re at least entertaining.
It helps that this film has such a good pair heading it, Charlie Hunnam feels like a natural fit for the part of Arthur and fills it with a blokeish charm that really works and makes you understand why anyone would follow him. His counterpart Jude Law absolutely fills every scene he’s got with a palpable dread and show’s how wicked he truly can be, including one scene right near the end where he makes a horrific choice that is clearly killing him to do, but he does it out of his thirst for power and glory. It’s an incredible twosome that pushes everything forward. Most of the people in Arthur’s gang are also amazingly fun to watch and well performed. The only person who seems a bit more wooden in some scenes than the others is Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as The Mage BUT that being said, while some of her delivery might feel a bit off (There’s a scene with a snake where her and Charlie feel like they’re in two separate) she has an intensity to her during other sequences that makes up for it.
Visually the film has a lot of high points, the opening sequence involves elephants the size of skyscrapers carrying around hotels full of warriors who emerge to lay waste to the castle and it’s so over the top and epic that you can’t help but smile and take in the audacity of it all. Giant battle sequences are this films stock and trade and very often they work wonderfully. This film also uses a lot of CGI and there’s a problem with that, namely this films use of slo-mo shots. A handy hint to filmmakers, if you’re going to use slo-mo shots then you had better make sure that the CGI is photo-realistic to an insane degree because if I have enough time that I can tell “Oh, that person is CGI”, then you’ve got a problem. That slo-mo can make a lot of shots feel less impressive than they would be at normal speed, but when this film has a good action scene to show off it does it well.
I’m honestly stunned at how much I enjoyed this film, I expected it to feel like a boring retread of the same tale that I was once told by Bug Bunny for 2 hours (Anyone else remember Bugs Bunny in King Arthur’s Court? Yeah, let’s not pretend that Arthurian legend is immune from being retold in silly ways) but it didn’t feel like that at all. It was fun, it was just a lot of fun to watch and sometimes, a film just needs to be a lot of fun. Could it have been better? Absolutely, someone could’ve reigned Ritchie in on some of his more extreme impulses and maybe trimmed some of the fat around the edges but what we got is a 2-hour movie that’s entertaining as hell and that’s more than enough for me.