Reviews: Camelot goes gangsta – King Arthur, Legend of the Sword
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,
Directed by Guy Ritchie,
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Eric Bana, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou
The Arthurian legend comes to the big screen once more, this time with Guy Ritchie behind the camera and on the screen writing duties. Arthur has been raised in a brothel for the majority of his life, he’s grown up hard on the streets of London, and protects those who have protected him. He’s basically a gangster. When the evil king of England wants to remove the famous sword from the stone to complete his rule, he drags all men of Arthur’s age to take a try, with the result … Well, we all know how that goes.
There have been many different versions of this story told on the big screen, some have been more successful than others, but few have set the world alight. Now Guy Ritchie is giving it a go, with probably the biggest budget he’s had ever, and putting his own unique stamp on the whole shebang. For those of you wondering what to expect from the film just think Lord of the Rings meets Snatch. You get the feeling that there is a much longer cut of this film around as the whole mash up of some of the scenes tells you that someone had a field day in the editing suite with a pair of scissors and the film. I’m joking of course as we all know it’s digital now, but those who know the history of film editing will get the joke, I hope.
The film starts when Arthur is but a young lad, a prince of the realm, living in the time where Man and Mage shared the land. His father King Uther, played by Eric Bana, is fighting off the evil Mage trying to take over England with his fantastic beasts. Arthur’s Uncle, played by Jude Law, is waiting for his chance to dethrone his brother and take the kingdom. When the betrayal goes down Arthur is sent down stream like Moses, and winds up in the care of the whores of a London brothel (the ever reliable “tart with a heart” that movies love so much). Then we have a montage of the hard-fought life of Arthur on the rough London Streets, and before we know it we see that he’s grown up to be Pacific Rim’s Charlie Hunnam. When Arthur is taken to see if he can remove the sword in the stone it sets off events that lead him to become the king of legend.
Every thing that Ritchie has done in his career, every trick he knows with storytelling, is used here to the best of his ability. I know that this story is going to annoy some purists out there, as they’ll see this in the same way that they see Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, but it’s damn fine entertainment – once you don’t take it too seriously. As I said before you, do get the feeling that there is either a four hour cut of this film lurking behind the scenes, or that it was originally meant to be two or even three connected films and they decided to squeeze it into one. I would have preferred either over this, but I still sat there like a giddy child watching it. This is the type of film you watch and switch off the world’s problems, which in it’s own way makes it exceptional.
The film is quite effects-heavy in places, and I think it could have used more practical effects rather than the computer ones, which make it feel blocky. There are a few cameos that run through the film and make you laugh. The script is fair, offering Ritchie’s take on the legend, and the cast all do their duties to the film with admirable stances. The nods to Lord of the Rings, and Ritchie’s previous work on films like Lock, Stock and two Smoking Barrel’s, and Snatch, are very clear and if you enjoyed those films you’ll have a great time here. Expect a serious take on the legend and you’re going to be disappointed (Boorman’s Excalibur this is not).
This is entertainment; it’s funny and exciting, it is exactly what you expect of Guy Ritchie going after the legend of King Arthur, and at least for me, that was not a bad thing. The film hints that there could be more to come from this series down the line, but with Ritchie on his way to write and direct Sherlock Holmes 3 I doubt we’ll be seeing it any time soon. This is Summer blockbuster fare, don’t take it seriously and you’ll enjoy the ride; care about facts, care about continuity, that’s when you’re setting yourself up for a fall. Enjoy the film, eat some popcorn, or in my case a whole pheasant, and some ale, and switch off the world for a few hours.