My, oh my. Where to begin? King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is Guy Ritchie’s attempt to bring the Arthurian legends to the big screen in the style of big fantasy blockbusters like Lord of the Rings. I say ‘in the style of’ as a euphemism for ‘in a garbled butchering of’. The film bounces about between shameless rip-offs of Peter Jackson’s films, or 300, or Gladiator, or Game of Thrones, or, in its most baffling yet entirely expected twist, channelling Ritchie typical geezer flicks.
For those who don’t know, Ritchie is renowned for his spirited crime capers about bunches of lairy lads trying to do jobs for their guv’nor and trying to avoid the rozzers in Lahndan. Such auteur classics as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch make up his golden age before he went onto churning out nauseating nonsense like The Man from UNCLE or bland studio drivel like the Robert Downey Jr. Sherlock Holmes films. At the very least, King Arthur is so much more hilarious than these films for its sheer poor judgement.
Here lies Arthur, a ponce and a stupid film
This film is trying achingly hard to be a TOUGH geezer take on King Arthur. Our once and future king does not rise up under the tutelage of an old wizard as an orphaned squire. No, he grows up in a brothel and has a small gang of loyal fellas who he grows up on the streets of Londinium with. He’s not noble or knowledgeable or crafty or cunning. He’s a street fighter with a heart of gold.
You might think that’s a legitimate angle to go (hardly the assembling of the Knights of the Round Table though, is it?) to update the legend and bring people into to these stories but the naked attempts to channel other films means that it loses any identity beyond its laughable hoodlum aspect. This wants to be as adult as Game of Thrones so hard but – despite casting GoT alumni Aiden Gillen and Michael McElhatton – lacks any of the gratuitous sex and violence or complexity to achieve that. On top of which, the only other elements it introduces are cliched fantasy tropes that have no role in the story. There was apparently a race of mages who were exterminated by the evil King Vortigern because all fantasy worlds must have a dwindling mystical race, but this bastard canon has nothing to do with anything in the (and I am being charitable calling it this) ‘plot’.
You can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you
Even if you could stomach the bland and predictable story which cycles through the hero’s quest about three times before it finally decides to shuffle off, the casting is a joke. Some may have heard of David Beckham’s grossly awful cameo but even without such egregious stinkers, Charlie Hunnam is indisputably awful. I don’t know if years of working on Sons of Anarchy has warped his accent but I have no idea where this Arthur is meant to be from. His cheeky cockney Arthur sounds exactly like the stunted upper-crust officer whom Hunnam played in the Lost City of Z, who didn’t sound British either. Admittedly, the script is a problem, but our dear Charlie does nothing to rescue this monarch from being a smug and unlikable prick. I think the insufferable dialogue is meant to be witty banter but it sadly lacks the qualities of being funny or clever.
For all this though, I feel I can recommend this film to some. I guarantee this will make a great drinking game. Every time they get an element of the legend wrong; every nonsensical editing choice; every inappropriate genre shoved into a fantasy epic; every fight scene that plays out like a bad video game; every rough-and-tumble cockney; every appearance of a GoT actor, etc. You could get bladdered, laughing and drinking your way through this blindly incompetent mess.
Verdict: On second thought, let’s not go to Camelot. It is a silly place.