King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Review

Worth seeing: to see Guy Ritchie imprint his over-the-top personality on Arthurian legend
Director:Guy Ritchie
Featuring:Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Aiden Gillen, Annabelle Wallis, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Bleu Landau, Craig McGinlay, David Beckham, Djimon Hounsou, Eric Bana, Freddie Fox, Geoff Bell, Jacqui Ainsley, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Michael Hadley, Neil Maskell, Nicola Wren, Poppy Delevingne, Rob Knighton, Tom Wu
Length:126 minutes
Certificate:12A
Country:US
Released:19th May 2017

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

When King Uther (Eric Bana) is violently overthrown in a revolt led by his brother Vortigern (Jude Law), his young son Arthur is sent to Londinium so that he can remain hidden from the new monarch.

The young boy is brought up by a group of prostitutes in a brothel and by the time he’s a young adult (Charlie Hunnam), he’s become a highly respected wheeler-dealer, protecting the women, keeping local criminals in check and curbing the powers of the king’s local henchmen.

But when Vortigern’s soothsayers warn him that the born-king could threaten his reign, he rounds up all the young men in the kingdom to try to find his brother’s heir – he’ll be the only man who can pull Uther’s sword from he stone.

Arthur isn’t interested in being a hero or reclaiming his rightful throne – even after finding out his true identity. But the righteous powers of good – comprising local magicians and rebel fighters – are persuasive enough to get him on side to lead their attempt to overthrow the ruthless Vortigern, who’ll stop at nothing to preserve his power.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

Anyone who’s seen a Guy Ritchie film – think Lock Stock, think Sherlock Holmes  – and has a rough recollection of the legend of King Arthur will have a pretty good idea of what to expect here. Regardless of whether you have high hopes or can’t think of anything worse, your expectations will be met, because it so accurately sticks to the formula of “Guy Ritchie does King Arthur.”

With gritty fights in grimy locations, presented using tricksy editing techniques – such as speeding up or slowing down action sequences or intercutting non-contemporaneous scenes – this film has the words “Guy Ritchie” stamped through the middle, as if I were a stick of rock.

Similarly, as you might expect, there’s over-acting, some dubious accents, anachronistic dialogue and plot-points that are disappointingly arch and unlikely, even within the rules of his wold.

Charlie Hunnam  often comes across as rather petulant while Jude Law hams it up and too many of the others just play it surprisingly straight.

Some will love its shameless exuberance, others will hate its predictable plot, disastrous dialogue and erroneous editing. But others will simply find it disarmingly average.

It’s not pretending to be an original story, so you wouldn’t expect it to be bursting with new ideas and it can’t really be criticised for feeling familiar, but that’s not an excuse to wheel out cliché after cliché with no sense of irony. From the evil usurping king who bargains just a little too much for his power, to the rightful heir growing up in a brothel before discovering his destiny and vowing to avenge his father, to the cheeky cockneys and mysterious mages, Ritchie is using “pret-a-porter” characters to tell a familiar story in a more grandiose but less satisfying way than many will have seen it before.