Halt! Who goes there? Yes, it is he, King Arthur – son of Uther Pendragon from the castle of Camelot, King of the Britons, defeater of the Saxons, sovereign of all England – who is back with another movie.
You may have heard his story before – about his Knights Of the Round Table (who may or may not dance whenever they’re able), his sword Excalibur, his queen Guinevere, and the mage Merlin.
But chances are you’ve never heard the one where his dad, King Uther (Eric Bana) was overthrown and killed in a coup led by his evil mage brother Vortigen (Jude Law) who then set about making everyone hate and fear him by building a really, really, tall tower that apparently acts as a sort of antenna to draw in magic power (and probably gets really good cable reception too).
Anyway, during the coup, Uther manages to cast his toddler son adrift on a boat, who floats down a river to Londinium, where he is taken in by a group of, er, ladies of the night, and then raised in a brothel.
There, he grows up to become a strapping young man named Arthur (Charlie Hunnam), and the leader of a back-alley gang. As fate would have it, Arthur ends up pulling his dad’s sword from the stone it is stuck in, thus revealing himself to be the true heir of Uther Pendragon.
This of course, brings down all sorts of misery upon him, as well as the burden of being the only one who can defeat Vortigen.
Yeah, Guy Ritchie’s take on the myth isn’t the usual King Arthur story, that’s for sure. Then again, there have been so many previous films about King Arthur that Ritchie’s rock and roll take on the legend really isn’t all that bad.
His entertainingly over-the-top and often bombastic treatment of the myth turns the dial up to 11 from the get-go with a battle sequence featuring massively monstrous elephants tearing down castle walls.
The rest of it plays like an amalgam of a heavy metal music video, Peter Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings (there are giant snakes and bats, and a Sauron-esque tower of flame), Monty Python And The Holy Grail (at one point, Vortigen goes all Tim The Enchanter on us, chucking fireballs at the hero), and, er, The Little Mermaid (one of the villains looks like a live-action version of Ursula, and the mermaid-esque Lady Of the Lake also makes an appearance, though she disappointingly does not throw a sword at Arthur).
While Hunnam seems an unlikely fit for King Arthur at first, once the background of the character is established (in typical Ritchie-style, with a high-speed montage of Arthur’s childhood growing pains and unlawful gains), you start to warm to this rough-around-the-edges version of the legendary king. It also helps that Law hams it up spectacularly as Vortigen, providing a villain you’ll definitely love to hate.
While some parts of the movie tend to be a little TOO over-the-top at times (was that jaunt through the so-called “Darklands” REALLY necessary?), and the plot relies a little too much on The Mage’s (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) magic as a convenient deux ex-machina to move things along, there is enough fun and enjoyable banter in the script to paper over those cracks somewhat.
Once in a lifetime, there comes a motion picture which changes the whole history of motion pictures.
A picture so stunning in its effect, so vast in its impact that it profoundly affects the lives of all who see it. King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword isn’t it. Still, Ritchie’s version of Camelot may be a slightly silly place at times, but hey, at least you’ll have some fun watching it.
King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Jude Law, Eric Bana