I was recently invited to an advanced screening of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. I was hesitant to go for two reasons: 1) The previews didn’t look particularly good and 2) King Arthur-based films in the past haven’t been the best, let’s be honest about that. You can defend First Knight all you want, but it really wasn’t a good film.
I talked myself into going since I would be with a friend and figured that even a bad movie would still be somewhat entertaining. We were given baseball hats with a crown symbol on them and were bombarded by people asking us to take pictures wearing them to help advertise the film. Normally this is a bad sign as they obviously know the film isn’t good enough to sell itself, so they use us to advertise, giving people the idea that we enjoyed the film despite the fact that we haven’t even watched it yet. I began to dread my decision to come. Then the film started and that dread just sort of faded away.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword opens with Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) engaging in war against the mages. With his handy sword, Excalibur, he is able to defeat the evil and keep the Pendragon name in high respect. After the war, Uther is betrayed by his brother, Vortigern (Jude Law) and killed, but not before Uther is able to save his son Arthur by setting him off down the river in boat. Arthur is then taken in by local prostitutes where he grows to be their pimp, keeping them safe as they did for him as a child.
When Arthur reaches adulthood, the tide washes out, revealing Excalibur in a stone. Vortigern, knowing the only way he can truly rule the land is to kill his heir, sends his men out to find every man around the age Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) would now be and has them brought to pull the sword from the stone. Well, you know how the story goes from here.
The film has those typical Guy Ritchie aspects that we have grown to love: the fast paced montages, the witty one liners, the plotting that we get to see play out as they are talking about it, and, of course, the extreme violence. These are the parts of the film that make it fun to watch. This being said, they are like shiny objects dangling in your face to distract you from the fact that the plot is slow and lazy and the CGI effects are cheap and plentiful. For example, the main villain looks like a combination of General Kael from Willow and a early 90’s computer game demon.
Charlie Hunnam was surprisingly excellent as Arthur. I expected him to be there simply for the purpose of being shirtless, which does happen more than once, but he fit so well into the character, delivering Ritchie’s quick witted lines effortlessly and really driving his quickly (through montage) developed character home.
The supporting characters were mostly perfection as well. Astrid Berges-Frisbey as the Mage, Djimon Hounsou as Bedivere, Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones) as Goosefat Bill, Neil Maskell as Back Lack and Kingsley Ben-Adir as Wet Stick prove that the right casting makes all the difference. The only lackluster performance in the entire film, in my opinion, was by Jude Law, who just doesn’t have what it takes to play a truly evil villain. Perhaps that is why they had to make him a CGI demon when it really counted, which, by the way, really leaves you unfulfilled in the end.
Overall the film was much better than I expected it would be. It wasn’t perfect and it certainly was no Snatch, but its a fun time in the theater for sure.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword comes to a theater near you on May 12