King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is ridiculously, laughably bad
The only thing memorable about King Arthur is how forgettable it is.
Here is everything you need to know about King Arthur: Legend of the Sword in one sentence: It is a bloody mess.
The movie opens with an incomprehensible supernatural conflict that results in Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) losing his royal parents in tragic circumstances and being forced to grow up on the rough streets of Londinium.
Through a sequence of a dull fast-paced montage, we see Arthur grow up on the streets from a scruffy little boy raised by prostitutes into an enterprising and formidable young man, oblivious of his heritage as the heir to the throne that is occupied by his blood-thirsty uncle, Vortigern (Jude Law).
The movie finally starts to weave together meaningfully when the Excalibur sword emerges stuck in stone, and Arthur crosses paths with Vortigern’s soldiers who ship him to Camelot.
King Arthur doesn’t just feel underwhelming because it suffers from a particular problem, it does because it suffers from too many.
The movie relies heavily on the use of flashbacks, montages and an inordinate amount of cuts between scenes to aid its narration.
The problem with this is that it drastically lessens the impact of the actions that happen in these scenes, and there are quite a few examples of when this choice backfires.
The montage bits are even worse because one of them involves what is supposed to be the character-defining stage of the titular character, and the movie breezes through it like it’s a meaningless distraction it couldn’t wait to get out of the way.
The movie is unwilling to show the audience anything narratively-edifying; Ritchie is rather interested in telling you about it.
Again, the problem with this is that when the movie’s most pivotal moment finally arrives, the audience doesn’t care anymore and just wants the movie to end, even though it's only halfway through its runtime.
From this point, the only thought that makes anything that happens in King Arthur tolerable is that it will eventually end and you won’t have to endure the torture forever.
The little saving grace in the movie is that it tries its best to be funny, and while it is surprisingly entertaining sometimes, it still fails to distract you from the abomination that is playing out.
Hunnam is at his best when he’s cracking jokes that are sometimes funny only because they are ridiculous and over the top.
When he’s trying to be the character that the audience should care for, you don’t understand what to feel because the movie has tried its best to make sure you don’t connect with him.
For some reason, Ritchie manages to deny the audience the emotional experience of Arthur's trials which you sense is a big deal, as it helps you get a better sense of the character and helps you connect and care about him.
The movie hopes you’d connect with him without actually putting in any meaningful work to make that pipe dream happen.
Ritchie does his best, unintentionally, to make Arthur hard to root for.
Arthur is backed by a ragtag group of companions, most notable of them being the mysterious magical Mage (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) who is apparently an apprentice of Merlin.
She serves as Arthur’s convenient get-out-of-jail plot device as they navigate the dangers of going up against Vortigern.
Arthur’s campaign against his uncle is also aided by Sir Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and his band of Resistance fighters, his street crew, as well as a kung-fu gang headed by Kung Fu George (Tom Wu).
There is no real personality to the characters past the snappy banter they exchange and all the running and dispirited fighting they do together.
Jude Law is underserved by Ritchie's script in his role as the villainous uncle. Law has just the right amount of appeal to be a memorable villain but he ends up as nothing more than a cardboard cutout to serve as a backdrop to Ritchie's uniquely confusing fantasy-land.
This is mainly a consequence of Ritchie’s tendency to favour style over equally important elements like narrative substance, and character development. It’s all just mostly lazy and loud and empty.
The uninspired action sequences in the movie can mostly be blamed on the indiscriminate cuts of the camera angles that are just as good sometimes as they are ridiculous at others.
At important points of the movie's conflict, Ritchie uses the heist movie style of narration where you see characters performing an action while explaining the plan in voice over and cuts between scenes. This feels out of place for the movie and it’s just another problem it could have done without.
Most times, you get the feeling that something more exciting should be happening, but it feels like nothing ever actually does.
Guy Ritchie’s reinvention of the popular tale is not just dumb because it’s different, it's dumb because it plays dangerously close to being silly.
Retired English footballer, David Beckham makes an ill-advised cameo at a significant point in the story and you almost feel sorry to see his stunt casting be wasted in that manner. It gets a cheer, but it also makes you cringe.
As the movie plods to an unfortunate end, it starts to feel like a video game and you could be forgiven for thinking you have been dropped into some simulation with a giant snake and a skeleton on fire. It’s not what you signed up for, but you know you can no longer escape at this point.
The strongest feeling King Arthur will evoke is embarrassment, for the waste of opportunity to make a decent big-budget story about one of the most popular literary subjects of all time.
What a mess.
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