‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ — Come and See the Violence Inherent in the Studio System

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Everything old is new again. While there is an audience that is hungry for nostalgic fare, it’s a business decision by the studios hungry for blockbuster franchises that so many old properties are returning to the big screen in new forms. If you’re familiar with a property before it has appeared before the cameras, the marketing departments have a head start in trying to sell the movie. It’s also why so few blockbusters are based on original ideas – it’s just harder and riskier to sell something unknown to the public. The latest in the long line of revived properties is King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Ritchie injects a fair amount of wit in his blockbuster revitalization of the legendary tale but the film simply can’t escape its restricting framework of being the origin story for a would-be franchise hoping to capitalize on the popularity of medieval fantasy in the wake of Game of Thrones.

Before Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) can ascend to the throne, King Arthur opens with a wild, insane prologue that sets the stage for what’s to come. King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) is leading his army in a battle against the Mages, who summon massive beasts – elephants so large they could stomp all over King Kong – that wreak havoc upon the kingdom. With his mighty sword Excalibur, King Uther is able to slay the leader of the Mages and save his kingdom. However, his brother Vortigern (Jude Law) has a lust for power and stages a coup to displace his brother and ascend to the throne. While trying to make their escape, King Uther and his wife are slain before their young child, who successfully boards a small boat and makes his way to Londinium where he rescued and raised in a local brothel.

The prologue to King Arthur doesn’t always make sense at first as it takes a bit of time for the film to establish exactly what kind of mystical elements are at play. Once that prologue has been handled, Ritchie allows his opening credits to serve as a form of montage that establishes the rise of Vortigern’s evil empire and Arthur’s ambitious youth as both a training warrior and brothel employee.

The waters surrounding Vortigen’s fortress begin to recede and display Excalibur firmly wedged within the stone. The mystical creatures beneath the castle inform Vortigen that only the son of Uther can remove the powerful blade from the stone and only upon his death can Vortigen wield the power of Excalibur. Elsewhere in the kingdom, Arthur and his cohorts have run into trouble with the authorities for a confrontation with some Vikings. This presents another one of Ritchie’s most electrifying sequences of King Arthur, as the story is constantly interrupted and told in an unusual sequence of events. It’s a scene that is practically pulled out of Ritchie’s earlier crime pictures and transposed into Medieval England.

Arthur is eventually captured by the Vortigern’s men who transport him with thousands of other young men in the region to try his hand at removing the sword in the stone only to surprise everyone and himself by being successful. He’s quickly captured and sentenced to death, where he’ll be beheaded in the public square. Before the axe can remove his head, a rescue party led by The Mage (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) free Arthur from his shackles and take him to a secluded spot in the woods where Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and Bill (Aidan Gillen) are leading a resistance. With a bit of training, some planning, and the mystical guidance of The Mage, Arthur can defeat Vortigern before his dark powers grow too strong and assume the throne of England thus freeing his people.

King Arthur works best when Guy Ritchie is eschewing standard blockbuster protocol and playing with cinematic form. Unfortunately, that’s not often enough, as most of the time King Arthur feels like a mashup of Batman Begins, 300, and Game of Thrones in an attempt to establish a sprawling mythology that will run for many, many more sequels. The action of the film is slathered in CGI and often doesn’t provide the oohs and ahhs that it’s aiming for, but Ritchie does sneak in a couple of impressive moments in the action. No matter how good certain moments are, King Arthur can’t escape the trappings of being a franchise starter, teasing characters that are intended to appear in sequels and a climax free of suspense because it’s all preordained to continue.

There are so many supporting characters that just don’t have much screen time that it becomes difficult to remember who is who, leaving me to believe that many of these characters’ moments were left on the cutting room floor. Whether it’s Arthur’s cohorts in his days in the brothel (played by Kingsley Ben-Adir and Neil Maskell) or George (Tom Wu), the Asian guru who taught Arthur martial arts (I’m not kidding and expect a certain level of backlash), there’s a real lacking depth to the people that surround Arthur in his quest for the throne. It’s simply a case of a movie trying to establish too much in a two-hour movie at the expense of the story being told.

After delivering a career-best performance earlier this year in The Lost City of Z, Charlie Hunnam continues to be emerging from the wooden shell that has prevented the hunky leading man from superstardom. He’s not consistently excellent in King Arthur, but it’s his best leading performance in a blockbuster of this scale at this point in his career. Sadly, the screenplay by Ritchie, Joby Harold, and Lionel Wigram (from a story by Harold and David Dobkin) fails to give its leading a man anything resembling a character arc. The entire journey for Arthur is to simply claim a birthright and never does this adventure seem too daunting for the hero.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is neither a triumph nor a disaster, though it has elements that resemble both extremes of the spectrum. For everything that is bold and inventive about King Arthur there’s something equally generic for a blockbuster origin story. The forces that are driving this new King Arthur are simply that of business and not entirely artistic. Despite that fact, there are slivers of artistry in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. It’s not particularly good, but at least it’s not an absolute mess.

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

One Response

  1. John May 9, 2017 Reply

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
Riley Keough
Riley Keough Explains Her Revved Up Work in Steven Soderbergh’s ‘Logan Lucky’

Over the past few years, few actors have had such a...

Brett Gelman Janicza Bravo
Brett Gelman and Janicza Bravo Discuss the Off-Putting Humor Behind ‘Lemon’

The new film Lemon from director Janicza Bravo and co-writer and...

‘Baywatch’ Washes Ashore August 29th

The movie adaptation of Baywatch had everything going for it…casting-wise. You...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
This Week In Gaming News August 12th to 18th 2017

Gaming News will be streamlined into a weekly piece starting next...

Telltale's Batman: The Enemy Within
Telltale’s Batman: The Enemy Within Episode One Available Now

Define your own Bruce Wayne and reshape The Joker in the...

atgames
AtGames Announces Pre-orders for New Atari 2600 and Sega Genesis

Pre-orders started for the new Atari Flashback 8 Gold and Sega...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
viz
VIZ Media Announces New Digital Manga Content For August Update

VIZ Media details digital manga updates for August highlighted by the...

viz
VIZ Media Announces New Manga and Literary Acquisitions At Anime Expo

VIZ Media, LLC (VIZ Media), a premier company in the fields of...

9.0/10
Supergirl Makes Contact in ‘Supergirl Being Super’

Title: Supergirl Being Super #4 Writer: Mariko Tamaki Artist: Joelle Jones...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
Ay Caramba!Penny Skateboards Join Up with The Simpson’s

After 30 years, 618 episodes (and counting), 32 Emmy Awards, and...

Sensei 310
SteelSeries Sensei 310 and Rival 310 Gaming Mice

SteelSeries Unveils the First, True 1-to-1 Esports Gaming Mouse Sensor Exclusively...

Alter Ego Release Groot and Deadpool for SDCC

From Alter Ego – Cary, NC: Florida based lifestyle accessories company,...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Mayweather and McGregor Previous Fights Now On Demand on Cable, Plus Interviews, Workouts and More

From iN DEMAND – New York, Aug. 17 – Before the...

Rumble on the Water 2 Delivers Punching Power

July 29, 2017 – Long Beach, CA – The Queen Mary...

UFC Star Jon ‘Bones’ Jones Releases Emoji App – BonesMoji

From BonesMoji – Los Angeles, CA., July 27, 2017 – One...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
CULTURAL JUNK DRAWER SDCC 2017 86.3% TRUE RECAP!

A totally true recap of the most important geek cultural even...

Comics on the Can: Schick Hydrobot and the Transformers

Written by John Barber, Pencils by Steve Kurth, Inks by Juan...

Star Wars Themed Lands Will be the Perfect Safe House for the Rebellion and the First Order

Disney’s D23 Expo has revealed a lot of what is to...

Event News Event Reviews
The Third Annual ‘BeerX’ from 91X in San Diego Featured Sunburns and Beer Goggles

This past Saturday, I attended the 3rd annual BeerX, presented by...

anime film festival
LA-Anime Film Festival Kicks Off to Celebrate 100 Years of Anime Films

Los Angeles Anime Film Festival (LA-AFF), presented by international creative company...

stan lee
Extraordinary: Stan Lee at The Saban Theatre

Comedian, Nerdist CEO, and podcast extraordinaire Chris Hardwick will lead a roster of...

Gaming Uncensored Toon-In-Talk
Gaming Uncensored: Year in Review 2016

A look back at the year in gaming.

Gaming Uncensored Roundtable: December 2016

December’s roundtable discusses story in games with Chad, Josh, and Spencer....

Gaming Uncensored: Podcast #349

Jamie reflects on some of his time with the HTC Vive....

Music Interviews Music News Music Reviews
Lahna Turner’s ‘Limeade’ is a Hilariously Haunting Comedy Album

Many people are roll their eyes at the idea of musical...

Prince’s ‘Deliverance’ Reminds Us of Who We Lost

On Friday, April 21st, it will be one year since we...

Sabroso Fest, How can you go Wrong with Beer, Tacos and Lucha Libre!?!(Photo Gallery)

The Sabroso Craft Beer, Taco and Music Festival sponsored by 95.5...