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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Review


While I never really saw the appeal of Arthurian legend, Hollywood loves itself a good tale of brave kings and ancient prophecies, adapting the folklore every decade since the 60’s. The time has come once more in the form of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, which sees Guy Ritchie apply the anachronistic veneer that worked so well with Sherlock Holmes to the popular legend. The movie finally reaches Irish shores after a woeful opening weekend in the American box office, grossing a paltry $15 million of its $174 million budget, but is it as bad as everyone says?

Playing fast and loose with the legends, things kick off with an opening that lays out for us a world where mankind is in heated battle with the magic-wielding mages, with King of the Britons, Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana), ultimately proving victorious. There is so much set up going on in this Return of the King inspired prologue (right down to gigantic battle elephants), that trying to recap it all would probably take up the entire review. The basic gist is Uther’s brother Vortigern (Jude Law) takes the throne out of jealousy, Arthur is whisked away and raised by prostitutes until he grows into Charlie Hunnam and is prophesied to retake the seat of power. The basic details of the legend are peppered throughout, from Excalibur to Merlin to the Lady of the Lake, but ultimately feel tacked on and out of place (especially the aforementioned aquatic damsel, who really serves zero purpose). And that’s Legend of the Sword’s biggest problem, it doesn’t work as a fantasy movie. Ritchie has constructed a rollicking adventure movie, but all the mystical mumbo jumbo that surrounds it seriously hurts the finished product. The narrative is all over the place, with events happening for the sake of happening, the major players conveniently appearing where they need to be at the drop of a hat, and characters you never even paid attention to suddenly finding themselves internal to the story in the third act.

But the most fun, and you will fun with Legend of the Sword, is when Guy Ritchie lets loose and goes full Guy Ritchie. There is touch of Lock, Stock and Snatch to his version of ancient Londinium, and for the most part, the movie pops with a berserk energy (only stopping when the narrative grinds everything to a halt), and while there may be a certain amount of grittiness about the whole affair, the movie’s tone is one of self aware ridiculousness. The action comes thick and fast, and is helped immensely by some impressive frenetic editing, and a particularly game cast. Hunnam makes for a cheeky, easy to get behind protagonist, possessing a down to Earth charm that makes the mystical guff he’s forced to say that bit easier to swallow. Law’s Vortigern is really that compelling a villain, really only existing because movies like this need bad guys, but he does a good job with what he’s given. The supporting players all play their roles to a tee, even if Aiden Gillan is still stuck in Little Finger mode. All except for Àstrid Bergès-Frisbeys charisma vacuum. Unnamed throughout, but clearly cast as Guinevere (the movie touches on every aspect of the legend that leaving this major detail out would be a major oversight), she adds absolutely nothing to the movie, spitting out her lines with an unenthusiastic demeanour that could rival Adam Sandler.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword can be genuinely entertaining at times, but for every hyper kinetic set piece we have three scenes of people standing around spouting mystical nonsense, sucking all the energy out of the story. Sadly, I think Ritchie’s planned six movie series begins and ends with this one.


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The Movie Bit: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Review
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Review
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