Reviewed: King Arthur-Legend of the Sword (Guy Ritchie, 2017)

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Director: Guy Ritchie

Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Aiden Gillan, Eric Bana, Djimon Hounsou, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey

Studio: Warner Brothers

Straying massively from the source material, King Arthur Legend of the Sword differentiates its premise from past iterations of the myth with a quick whit and stylised aesthetic. This may not seem as surprising an occurrence given Guy Ritchie’s previous output, but still feels at odds with regard the marketing of a fantasy epic carrying the Arthurian mantle. With no Merlin, Lancelot or Morgana present within this film, Ritchie opts to replace these elements with a rags to riches tale that is oddly scripted and massively disjointed from what would be deemed standard for this genre. Coming across as an odd fusion of fantasy and football hooliganism, Legend of the Sword attempts to breed a new type of film. In doing so however,  it fails to form a coherent whole.

With a screen play that utilised contemporary discourse, the film struggles to establish its historical setting. With the resulting conversation of its characters becoming muddled in fitting a particular style, Ritchie’s production fails to achieve the grandeur it so obviously desired.

With a strange and disjointed premise, King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword opts to present the arthurian legend as a Mediocre good vs evil narrative. Working as muscle for a brothel, this versions’ Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is a typical Ritchie hard man – quick witted and quicker to the punch. That is before destiny is thrust upon him, forcing the mischievous petty crook to become saviour of the kingdom. Opposed to the tyrannic reign of his uncle Vortigan (Jude Law), Arthur with help from a small band of rebellious Knights, wields the enchanted sword excalibur and fights back against the malicious forces ruling his kingdom.

With some stand out set pieces, Legend of the Sword is not a complete train wreck of a production. It most definitely is overly ambitious in what it aims to achieve, with some poor filmmaking decisions plaguing its credibility as a worthwhile film. One such decision is the over-reliance of a particular flashback that is played repeatedly throughout the film, so as to hint at a hidden context that is only revealed within the final third act. Through repeating this particular scene a number of times, the power of its development is lost with the end result bordering on a dullness whenever it appears.

Charlie Hunnam brings a lot of enthusiasm to the role. This enthusiasm – its been reported – was  present before the production started filming, and is present in every scene that the actor appears. However, he is never given a chance to differentiate himself from past iterations within the script, instead relying on the scripts cockney slur to present a uniqueness to the character. Jude Law struggles also within this film, with his malicious tyrant given very little to do and very little motive to do it. Prowling around with stylised guy liner, his Vortigan portrays never poses the threat required to escalate the consequence of a failed narrative. Miscast and miscommunicated to audience, Law never manages to bring the personality of the role into any aspect other than a greed for power. With multiple supporting roles present within the film, it disappoints to find that no character has a lasting impression upon the development of the story other than the two leads, with most consigned to a one act gag that never fully pays off.

Guy Ritchie brings his usual aesthetic to Legend of the Sword, but struggles to blend it within the narrative. Some moments wow, others woe and through never finding a consistency in its production, the film falls short of the genre epics that have come before. Through a stodgy script, and some poor decisions, Legend of the Sword is never anything more than a stylised mess. 

Plot – 2

Acting – 2

Direction -3

Retrospect – 2

Overall – 2

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