That headline is really negative, isn’t it?
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword made me grunt and turned me off from the moment I saw its first trailer. For some reason, there was a light of hope in my gut that director Guy Ritchie would bake moviegoers a treat and add his signature touch to the age-old tale.
Well, this film has its fair share of Ritchie moments, but it isn’t enough to save the film from being anything but mediocre.
Charlie Hunnam has become a real likable actor in Hollywood as of late, especially with his role in The Lost City of Z that’s being touted as career-defining. Hunnam’s role in King Arthur has him staring as the titular character, a direct contrast of Jude Law‘s role as Vortigern, the irate king of the Blacklegs. Both can carry their own when they’re not on-screen together, but I think Hunnam outshines Law in this one. That’s not saying much, however, amidst a relatively lackluster supporting cast that includes the scene-squasher Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, who plays the Mage and consistently fails on her line delivery.
King Arthur begins as a story we’re not exactly unfamiliar with: King Uther (Eric Bana) is seen fighting mages alongside his brother, Vortigern, in an effort to protect his kingdom. The action on display is OK, but I feel the fighting is much cleaner and ages better with time. Uther and his wife are seen risking their lives for their son when Arthur is put on a boat that eventually ends up at a brothel in Londinium. This is when fans get their first taste of Ritchie’s touch on the fabled tale.
Ritchie isn’t the only one leaving a lasting impression on moments in this film, though, as cinematographer John Mathieson (Gladiator, X-Men: First Class, Kingdom of Heaven) delivers on delightful, sometimes even breathtaking, visuals that really immerse the viewer.
During the opening credits, a quick montage of events take place (Ritchie moments!), and it’s … a headache, honestly. I welcome the witty narration tracked over past events in this film, a la Sherlock Holmes, but an annoying choice of music over events that quickly depicted Arthur’s upbringing was two minutes too long. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the only instance of poor music, as the lead-up to the big battle was squandered by a terrible remix of Sam Lee’s The Wild Wild Berry.
You’re strapped in for the long run, though, so giving this a chance to at least produce a bit of fun is all you can do as a moviegoer. Luckily, the second act of the film really does provide King Arthur‘s best moments. There are unique camera angles during fight sequences, attention to detail during chaotic moments of battle and a clean Daniel Pemberton score. If only the second act were embodied by the rest of the two-hour film, I think it would be put over the mediocre mark.
The film’s latter half suffered from borderline terrible CGI I figured would get better with time, as the action did. When a film on an estimated $102 million budget cannot render a realistic-looking vulture, or even make ripples in a cup of mead look like actual ripples, you have an issue. When a film cuts corners on visual effects and pours money into a sword, large elephants and snakes, you get relatively crummy CGI found in King Arthur. And, please, don’t get me started on CGI Hunnam during the first of many fight scenes with his sword, Excalibur.
If it were not for Hunnam and welcoming cameos that end up being lasting characters, such as Aidan Gillen and Djimon Hounsou (who turned out decent performances themselves), this film would’ve made me a lot more disappointed. Alas, I can’t recommend practically anyone to see this film outside of a cheap matinee showing or a rental when the time comes.
But, hey, at least Hunnam is beginning to prove himself as a worthy and likable lead in films. I’m looking at you, Lost City of Z. Not you, Pacific Rim. Sit down.
I was treated to an early screening and thank Warner Bros. for the opportunity. ❤
‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ has a PG-13 rating (yes, it uses the F-word once) and a runtime of two hours and six minutes.
It releases in North America on May 12, 2017.