Thursday, 7 September 2017

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword ★★☆☆☆

Well, let’s get this over with…

When it was announced that Guy Ritchie would be helming King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, it left many excited for a unique twist on the classic tale. What’s more, the preceding trailers helped ramp up expectations for a high-budget, visually stunning popcorn flick. With that in mind, let’s take a look at whether the film lives up to that early promise.

The Good

Truthfully, there wasn’t a lot, however it would be remisced of me not to mention the few things that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword had going for it. 

Firstly, the film’s opening battle is objectively visually stunning; I defy even the most curmudgeonly viewer not to enjoy oversized war elephants wreaking computer generated havoc! In fact, with written plot exposition introducing the scene, one could even draw parallels with the iconic commencement of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. Indeed, if this review was based solely upon the first ten minutes of the film, I would consider it nothing short of flawless.

Furthermore, director Guy Ritchie’s take on Arthurian lore had a lot of potential, and on many occasions was executed with great aplomb. His trademark use of humourous British quips added a layer of humanity and relatability that’s vital for an effective bildungsroman, particularly one focusing on such legendary figures.

The Bad

While it can be argued that the Ritchie-esque take on King Arthur is the film’s greatest strength, it could also be considered its most fatal flaw. This is epitomised in the inclusion of none other than David Beckham (a close friend of the director) in a surprisingly prominent acting capacity. Now celebrity cameos can be jarring at the best of times (see Ed Sheeran in the recent series of Game of Thrones), but Beckham’s comes just as Arthur is about to pull Excalibur out of the stone. As a result, rather than watching in awe at this defining moment in the narrative, we’re left reeling/laughing/gagging at ol’ Beck’s failed attempt to act his way out of a paper bag.

However Beckham isn’t the only one at fault in the acting department, as Charlie Hunnam’s portrayal of the titular character is as wooden as they come. It’s never a good sign when you’re left rooting for the antagonist over the hero, but that’s exactly the case with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, as Jude Law’s performance as the villainous Vortigern is infinitely more charming and interesting as a character than Arthur. Moreover, it’s especially damning that I couldn’t recall the name of a single character other than the protagonist, highlighting just how weak and forgettable the majority of the plot and cast were.

The Verdict

Original takes on classic cinematic genres can be fun and refreshing (see Inglorious Basterds), but only when they have the charm, originality and likeability that makes them enjoyable and on occasion revolutionary. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has none of these things. Even with Excalibur in hand, this was a swing and a miss.

Sir Thomas Baker

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword at CeX

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