So a lot of early buzz surrounding this flick is indicating that it’s bad. Even some reviewers that I like have labeled this as a contender for one of the worst movies of the year. But… man, I gotta ask, how? I mean, I’m going into this movie expecting a meat-head fest with over-the-top acting from both Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law, who both look like they’re going to chew the scenery. I won’t say that this movie looks good, per se, but one of the worst movies of the year? Damn, son…
Well, here’s the cast. Starring, we obviously have Hunnam (THE LOST CITY OF Z , THE LEDGE , and CHILDREN OF MEN ) and Law (SPY , SLEUTH , TV show THE YOUNG POPE, and upcoming films FANTASTIC BEASTS: THE CRIMES OF GRINDELWALD  and SHERLOCK HOLMES 3 due out… who knows when). In support, we have Djimon Hounsou (THE LEGEND OF TARZAN , FURIOUS 7 , GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY , and the upcoming HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 3 ), Eric Bana (THE FINEST HOURS , HANNA , and STAR TREK ), Aidan Gillen (THE LOVERS , THE DARK KNIGHT RISES , and SHANGHAI KNIGHTS ), Katie McGrath (JURASSIC WORLD , and TV shows SUPERGIRL and MERLIN), and Poppy Delevingne (ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS: THE MOVIE , ELVIS & NIXON , PIRATE RADIO , and the upcoming KINGSMAN: THE GOLDEN CIRCLE ), who is indeed related to Cara Delevingne; older sister.
Now for the crew. Directing and co-writing is Guy Ritchie, known for THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (2015), SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009), LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS (1998), and upcoming films ALADDIN and SHERLOCK HOLMES 3, both due out… your guess is as good as mine. Ritchie’s partners-in-pen are Joby Harold (AWAKE , and upcoming films ROBIN HOOD  and FLASHPOINT ) and Lionel Wigram (THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.). Composing the score is Daniel Pemberton, known for GOLD (2017), STEVE JOBS (2015), and video game LITTLEBIGPLANET. Finally, the cinematographer is John Mathieson, known for LOGAN (2017), X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011), and MATCHSTICK MEN (2003).
Overall, I won’t pretend to be ecstatic or anything for this, but I am hoping to be entertained enough.
This is my honest opinion of: KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD
Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) was once the son of the great King Uther (Eric Bana), a war hero against a rebel mage that threatened his kingdom. But jealousy of power caused Uther’s brother Vortigern (Jude Law) to rally a coup against the king, had him and his queen killed, while Arthur was sent away into the kingdom to be raised in a brothel. Since then, Arthur grew up to be a street urchin, a talented fighter, a guardian of the women who raised him, and something of a gangster to keep everyone fairly compensated. Of course, his actions of beating up the wrong person, an ally of the now-King Vortigern, and seeks to bring Arthur in for his crimes. He is brought forward to attempt to pull the recently revealed Excalibur, Uther’s magical sword, lodged in stone and is the only one to successfully pull it out. He is taken to the dungeon an is about to be executed, but Vortigern reveals Arthur’s true heritage. And just before Arthur is executed, former allies of Uther, and a talented mage (Astrid Bergés-Frisbey) free him and attempt to guide him into taking his place as the rightful king back from his evil uncle.
I think the critics were being a little harsh on this one. Oh, I’ll be the last person to say that this was a good movie. In fact, of my co-workers that I went and saw this movie with, I’m pretty sure I liked it the least, but it was entertaining enough for me to say that I had fun.
Right off the bat, I can tell where this movie lost a lot of people. It opens on a giant fortress getting rampaged by giant elephants with bad guys on them causing problems for our good guy army. Hmm… a medieval fantasy setting with an epic battle taking place involving giant elephants and a king with a famous sword cutting down ridiculous amounts of enemies. Gee, I feel like there was a movie that did this before, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. It was about… lords and rings, and the returning of kings, I think. What was that movie called? Ah phooey, I’m sure it’ll hit me. But all sarcasm aside, I feel like it would have been so much cooler just to see a standard army of knights battling an army of mages. That was what the battle was essentially about, but they opted for a standard sword on sword battle, which doesn’t feel very fresh. And the constant shots of bad guys falling off a bridge over and over doesn’t get any cooler as the sequence progresses.
Then it took it’s sweet time to setting up that Vortigern is going to steal the throne from his brother by having him murder his wife, and a grim reaper type dude kill Arthur’s mom and defeats Uther, and sending Arthur on his way from the carnage. And then BOOM, after fifteen minutes, the movie decides to flash its title at you. And throughout the opening titles, we have a montage, one of many, that go through Arthur’s childhood all through to his adulthood faster than a bullet going through wet tissue, with a misplaced location subtext shoved in the middle of the entire thing, it’s a mess.
Folks, all I did was talk about the first fifteen, twenty minutes. Everything you can imagine through my descriptions is exactly the kind of movie you’ll be in for.
But for real, what’s good about the movie? Well… the acting is fine. I don’t think this will be considered a great Hunnam performance, but he’s pretty solid and has some very entertaining moments. The man definitely has some good comedic timing. There’s a bit where a royal guard is questioning Arthur about an incident that happened earlier in the story, explained via montage of course. While I couldn’t quote anything for the life of me, Hunnam knows how to fast-talk with the pacing of the scene and keep you engaged in all the banter that you can’t keep up with. In short, good actor.
And I was thoroughly happy with Law in the picture. From the moment I saw him in the trailer, he looked like he was going to ham it up and really own the scenes where he’s raising his arms to be ogled over by thousands of his subjects. Plus, he is a legitimately intimidating bad guy. Yes, he does the standard “kill innocent people” to get his way, but he murders his own wife to obtain power, murders his King-brother and his Queen, actively spends time trying to find his nephew to murder him, and at the end, murders his daughter in an attempt to keep his power… which ultimately fails.
I also like what happens when Arthur manages to use the sword. Everything goes slow-mo and he starts moving super fast, cutting down anyone in his path, and can even go full Sauron (Yes, more shameless Lord of the Rings rip-offs) and hurls the blade at air, throwing groups of bad guys several dozen feet back. It’s ridiculous as hell, but it was still a fun watch. It also made me realize that if this movie was a video game, I’d play the fuck out of it. Like if it had a gameplay style like the Batman: Arkham games. Eh, just spit-ballin’ here.
But for all the entertainment provided, it’s time to call this movie out on its negatives.
I wouldn’t know how to explain this, but Ritchie’s movies always have fast-talking characters that explain lengthy exposition in just a few seconds right? Thing is, all of those characters are in modern times, or at least in a modern-ish time frame that makes sense for those types of characters. However, these characters feel like they were written for modern times, not medieval. I get it, it’s a fantasy. This movie has giant snakes, bats, elephants, magic swords, and grim reapers with dual-bladed scythes running around. The fast-talking characters really shouldn’t be the biggest issue for me. So, settle down, it’s not, but it is a distraction and takes me out of the moment.
Most of the side characters aren’t that memorable either. Funny enough, only one name sticks out. Wet Stick (Kingsley Ben-Adir). Yes, there is a character named Wet Stick in this damn movie. The dude’s name is more memorable than the character. Another character has a son… and he’s fat and reminds me of Ricky Gervais. But that’s about it. Most of characters, you can’t even remember their names. Technically, I still can’t remember Vortigern’s name. I have to keep looking it up on IMDb to remind myself. This is incredibly odd because I usually excel at remembering names from sci-fi and fantasy worlds. But this one had me just pointing and saying, “that guy.”
However, I will complain that the montage, fast-talking exposition scenes are needlessly complicated and unnecessarily long. The first scene I’m talking about is when Arthur is talking to the royal guard dude. Arthur punches a Viking who was a guest of King Vortigern. Why in hell did we need a lengthy explanation as to how those events happened? In fact, most of the montage scenes are poorly utilized, revealing an aggravating amount of junk information, like an assassination attempt on the King, or blazing through a section of the story that might actually need some development, such as when Arthur was sent into the Blacklands to learn how to control the power of Excalibur. Hell, all the giant monster encounters he has amounted to nothing considering that his sole purpose there was to learn revealing information.
There’s also some poorly executed scenes of big moments for characters. The biggest one that comes to my mind is after the assassination of Vortigern fails and Backlack is killed. Arthur’s had enough and no longer wants anything to do with this conflict. In a final act of hand-washing of the situation, he throws Excalibur into a nearby lake and attempts to run away. But then he dramatically goes down on his knees and the Lady of the Lake drags him into the mud, shows him a vision of the bleak future, and then emerges back into the real world with Excalibur. Hmm… so… this is basically how the sequence pans out: “Oh god, my best friend was killed! Screw this, I’m out of here! Whoa! Pretty lake lady’s telling me to nut up and go kick some ass. TIME TO GO KICK SOME ASS!!!” Yup, that’s pretty much it. Best friend dead, orphaning his son… all the motivation Arthur needed to turn his back on the cause. And all it took to kick him back into gear was a quick, “Dude, look at this shit,” and Arthur is waiting on his crew to join him in a fight. Jesus, for such a dramatic turn, it’s given no time to develop and establish proper motivation.
The editing in this movie is beyond obnoxious. You know how in MEMENTO (2000) where the editing is choppy for a reason? Well here, it’s trying to do that by revealing snippets of what the battle between Uther and the Blackland reaper dude really was about. That footage is played over and over throughout the course of the film, but by the time it reveals that the reaper was Vortigern the whole time. First off, this isn’t clever. Maybe if the reaper wasn’t shown again after that first encounter in the beginning of the film, this reveal would have been a little more shocking if it wasn’t hammered in. By showing that monster over and over, it’s like the movie was annoyingly declaring, “Pay attention to this guy! Pay attention! He’s important!” By that point, I was already sarcastically calling out that it was Vortigern. So when the reveal came along, I wasn’t the least bit surprised. But what do I know, right? Let’s pretend nobody else saw that twist coming. Vortigern is still the guy that betrayed his brother for the crown and set in motion events that got his family killed. Is it really such a stretch of the imagination that the reaper was Vortigern the whole time?
Overall, as many problems as there are, I still can’t say I didn’t enjoy the film. No, I don’t think it’s good, but I definitely don’t think this movie deserves the critical thrashing it’s getting. It’s a passable enough movie to worth entertainment value. Is it one of Ritchie’s better movies? No. But will you be bored? Mostly no. Just go in accepting that it’s going to be an over-the-top fantasy adventure and I think you’ll enjoy it just fine. I might recommend a matinee showing if you’re interested, definitely a rental, but if you just can’t see yourself seeing this movie at all, you won’t miss too much. It’ll be forgotten in the grand scheme of things by the end of the year, so I wouldn’t stress too much. I sure don’t see myself revisiting it any time soon. Well… maybe the action scenes with Arthur and Excalibur. Those were fun as hell.
My honest rating for KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD: 3/5, 4/5 for entertainment value