King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a movie. That I saw. I mean, it wasn’t really awesome, but there wasn’t a whole lot to hate. It was fine. It just sort of exists. It’s pretty forgettable, and to be honest that’s the biggest problem I have with this film: who is really clamouring for a King Arthur movie right now? I mean, it’s fine. It’s not bad. It just doesn’t need to exist. But it does, and with an estimated production budget of $175 million, and after opening with a US Domestic $14 mil, I doubt we’re going to see a sequel. It’s more just a gargantuan waste of millions and millions for Warner Brothers, and that’s what I think is really worth talking about.
So the film itself is pretty straight forward, it’s the story of King Arthur, the one about the sword in the stone. Merlin, Camelot and the Knights of the Round Table are all alluded to in some way or another, I won’t go into too much detail for fear of spoilers, and the screenplay isn’t bad. It just didn’t do anything too extravagant with the story, but then again – is there much else to do with a King Arthur story? Hasn’t it been done to death?
What made King Arthur: Legend of the Sword interesting to walk into, is that Guy Ritchie is directing. Guy Ritchie of Snatch (2000) fame, Guy Ritchie of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998), and of the Robert Downey Junior Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011). So going into this, I wasn’t really sure the snappy, slow-mo then jump paced stylings of a Guy Ritchie movie would meld with a fantastical, Lord of the Rings style world that would be a King Arthur movie. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad. It kind of worked in an odd, tongue-in-cheek, don’t take yourself too seriously sort of action movie. Not all of the jokes landed, and not all of the quick-paced banter worked, but overall the Guy Ritchiness of a Guy Ritchie King Arthur: Legend of the Sword wasn’t too bad. And those elephants from The Lord of the Rings got some more work, good for them!
The performances from the cast were generally fine. Although, I will say, you can probably see them all doing a better job in a fairly similar role, in a much better and interesting project elsewhere. Charlie Hunnam plays a cocky, somewhat reluctant hero in the titular role, but if you want to see him do a better job of that, just re-watch Sons of Anarchy. Jude Law plays an adequate power-hungry villain in charge, but if you want to see a more interesting Jude Law along the same lines, watch HBO’s The Young Pope. Much of the supporting cast do fine jobs, but both Aiden Gillen and Michael McElhatton are much more interesting in Game of Thrones. In fact none of the supporting cast have particularly meaty roles worth sinking anything into, but they’re all just fine. It’s fine, it’s not bad. It’s just leaving me wondering if all that money and talent couldn’t have been better spent elsewhere
The major gripe I have with this movie can be summed up in one very small moment during the pivotal sword-being-pulled-from-stone scene. Guy Ritchie’s Arthur is a cocky, borderline arrogant, but fairly charming Charlie Hunnam, and yes, part of his hero’s journey involves being humbled. But for someone to play a “reluctant hero” you’ve gotta not be a total douche. So when, in a line of hundreds of men all being made to try pulling this sword out, Hunnam/Richie’s Arthur barges in front of a bunch of people, with no substantial reason why, and when questioned as to why he has such a sense of entitlement by the other men in the line, he turns around and just glares – that guy is a douche. A reluctant hero can’t feel a sense of entitlement to barge ahead of everyone else, because then he’s no longer reluctant, or a hero! In many ways, that sums up my problem with Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur. It’s a big, flashy, loud, action set piece with relatively little thought being given to story in order to allow for moments like Hunnam’s glare to take precedent.
The film doesn’t need to be here, and barges ahead with no good reason why. Why, oh why, studio heads, are you sinking $300+ mil of a production and marketing budget into a movie no one is asking for? I mean, come on Warner Brothers! There’s trailers for Wonder Woman and Dunkirk attached to this thing that I’m jumping out of me seat to see! But this? This CGI extravaganza of a montage? This I can live without. And apparently, judging by your box office, so can the rest of the world.