Director: Guy Ritchie
Writers: Joby Harold, Guy Ritchie
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Jude Law
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong language
Run time: 2hr. 6 min.
Trailer: Click Here!
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword starring Charlie Hunnam and directed by Guy Ritchie is essentially a high octane retelling of how Arthur became King Arthur. The movie also stars Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Aiden Gillen, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, and randomly enough British soccer icon David Beckham.
I absolutely love the fantasy genre. Ever since I was a kid; give me a story with knights, magic, heroes, and monsters and I’m happy. This movie did a great job of retelling a story that everyone has heard several times, and still managing to make it feel fresh and entertaining. Part of that is due to the directing style of Guy Ritchie. He has a characteristic cinematic style running through most of his movies which includes high energy action scenes and fast paced quick cut sequences. This movie had plenty of both.
These quick cuts are montages that show multiple scenes in rapid succession. These scenes serve to share plot information with viewers in a compressed and stylized sequence. There are a couple of these sequences throughout the movie, and are a lot of fun to watch. The only downside was that one scene in particular, which I’ll talk about in the spoiler section, was a little too abridged. While it served it’s purpose effectively, it was an interesting part of the movie and I think worth exploring further. There are actually a few scenes that leave you wanting more, and I think most movie goers wouldn’t have complained about an extra 30 min run time to go into them more…I know I wouldn’t.
Charlie Hunnam’s performance was surprisingly decent. He brings a “bad boy” vibe to the character which fits the style of the movie, while also driving women crazy. He’s not known for being the best actor, but he was a convincing Arthur and looked very capable during fight scenes. For the most part he felt like a good choice for the part and fit the style of the movie well. The biggest negative, and also an interesting topic in and of itself, is his accent.
Hunnam is originally from the UK, however listening to his lines, he sounds like an American failing miserably at faking an English accent. After a little research I discovered that the reason for this is he’s lived in the States for so long that he’s lost any trace of his accent. He even hired a coach to help him dial in a proper accent for the movie .
Jude Law’s performance had a lot of depth and was fun to watch. While his character’s motivations as the movie’s villain were typical and unoriginal, his methods to achieve his goals felt fresh. His need to maintain his power and control drive him to make some ruthless decisions.
The rest of the cast had solid performances. Watching Djimon Hounsou, known most recently for his roles in The Fate of The Furious and the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, I realized this might be the first movie I’ve seen him play a good guy instead of a villain. Aiden Gillen, better known as “Littlefinger” on the HBO show Game of Thrones, played “Goosefat Bill.” Maybe he likes playing characters with unusual names? This time around he’s an archer with skills that would put Robin Hood to shame. David Beckham surprisingly has a short cameo as a soldier in the scene where Arthur pulls the sword from the stone. He doesn’t have many lines so it’s hard to judge how he did…I didn’t realize it was him at first and thought he did fine at playing an asshole guard.
The CGI effects were great for the most part, but there were a couple scenes that were noticeably sub par. One fight scene in particular comes to mind with Arthur vs the king’s guard. There were times Hunnam was completely CGI and there’s no other way to say it: it looked bad.
The ending definitely leaves room for a sequel, and I think it deserves one. I genuinely had fun throughout the entire movie and want to see more adventures in this world. The movie was also entertaining enough for multiple viewings, so I will definitely be buying a copy on bluray. Hopefully the movie will make enough money to green light it. Early projections are not looking good for Warner Bros to recoup the pricey $175 million production cost.
SPOILERS SECTION BELOW!!
Go watch the movie then come back.
Magic and Monsters
One thing that wasn’t really overtly advertised about this movie is how much magic plays a role in the movie. Which, on one hand should be obvious given the story, however there have been attempts to make more realistic versions of King Arthur in the past. I loved it and thought it was incorporated well. There’s so many creatures and monsters in this movie that aren’t really explained; they are just there. More background information would have rounded out the world even more. Another thing is I don’t remember Excalibur having quite the level of magical ability as it does in this movie, but it worked. Arthur can’t even control it fully until later on in the movie, but when he does he wreaks some serious havoc.
CGI: Hit or Miss But Still A Great Time
The CGI effects for this movie were hit or miss. I would say the majority of the time they were a hit, but the one or two misses stand out like a sore thumb. The best scene would be the opening battle scene, which makes sense. The opening scene needs to be the best to pull your audience in. There were giant elephants causing massive destruction that make the ones from Lord of the Rings look like chumps. Soldiers were getting vaporized by magic…it was a grand time. This was your standard fantasy movie battle scene and I loved it.
Eric Bana, who plays Arthur’s father, King Uther was a bad ass in his own right, making his way through the enemy ranks all the way to the evil sorcerer with a funny hat. There’s a great moment that’s easy to miss where The King and the sorcerer are starring each other down and you see the kings armor start to glow red; exactly what happened to a group of soldiers earlier before they were vaporized with magic. Bana raises Excalibur, his eyes turn blue from the magic of the sword, and the red glow disappears. It’s a great unspoken “I don’t think so” moment. I do feel, to keep the movie on schedule, Bana took the sorcerer out way too easily, even with Excalibur. Great scene though.
The absolute worst CGI scene was much later into the movie. Arthur has finally learned to control Excalibur’s magic and he’s taking on a group of guards. Basically whenever Arthur uses both hands on the hilt of the sword he gains heightened senses; he can move and think faster than his opponents which basically makes him untouchable to the everyday foe. If you grew up watching the cartoon He-man, it’s a similar concept. When Arthur starts laying waste to the army are when things get bad. Hunnam is 100% CGI through most of the scene and he looks horrible. It kind of ruins the moment because it’s all you can pay attention to. It reminded me of the second Matrix movie when Neo fights the copies of agent Smith. Yup. That bad. The problem is at least the Matrix came out around a decade ago. CGI is much more advanced now. This must have been a scene that was constructed towards the end of the movie’s budget, as there were other, more complex scenes, that looked much better. The final battle in the movie looks fantastic, so at least they were strategic: if the last fight had looked as bad as the earlier one, it would leave a bad taste coming out of the movie. This is quickly forgotten, however.
The Final Boss Battle
I loved the final battle between Vortegern and Arthur. It felt very much like a boss battle in a video game. Again Hunnam goes all CGI, however it looks much better this time. Vortegern’s double scythe weapon looks brutal: his entire super charged design is menacingly perfect. Again, it could have been a little longer and would have been fine. However, as fantasy magic final confrontations go, it was great.
Quick Cut Sequences
As I mentioned above, one of Guy Ritchie’s signatures are quick cut sequences and this movie has two or three. The most entertaining of these sequences is when Arthur has to travel through the “darklands” on a quest to touch Excalibur to a tomb. Why? No one knows. It’s magic, don’t ask questions. What follows is a montage of Arthur encountering various monsters, most of which kick his ass. It’s a fun scene to watch, and for the gamers out there, it was similar to what happens in an RPG if you enter a section of the game with enemies at a much higher skill level than you are. It’s a great scene that balances themes of action, adventure, and humor well. The only downside is that I wanted a much longer cut of this sequence: extended fight scenes with the creatures Arthur encountered.
Jude Law’s Evil King Jerk: Vortegern
I found Vortegern to be an interesting villain, even if his motivation is not. Vortegern is brother to the rightful King (Eric Bana). His entire arc revolves around killing his brother to become king and then doing whatever is necessary to maintain his power. This guy, like any evil king worth his salt, really gets off on the power. There’s even a moment when he says that knowing that people fear you is the best feeling anyone can know. This dude is sadistic, which is awesome for the movie. He also has a weird fetish for slicing the throats of Arthur’s friends in front of him.
One of the most interesting things about Vortegern is the utterly heartless deal he makes with the octopus ladies that live in the water surrounding the castle. In exchange for killing “someone he loves” and floating their body in the water for the octopus ladies to take, they grant him the power to turn into a mix between Skelator and that guy from Willow with the skull mask. He doesn’t just get muscles though. He also is granted some degree of magical ability – although it’s never really expounded upon.
There are so many questions left unanswered in this arrangement: Who are the “octo-ladies”? Why does he have to kill someone he loves? What’s done with the bodies? Where do they get the power to turn Vortegern into the Hulk with a skull mask? Why is the transformation temporary? I wish these scenes had been extended a little more to answer these questions. I did like that he was hesitant (a little) to kill his wife and daughter, and that he screamed out loud after killing his daughter. It helped to make the situation more believable and that he was torn between his family and his love of power. Regardless, it’s brutal imagery that show’s Vortegern won’t let anyone or anything stand in his way of keeping control.
Arthur’s Band of Merry Men…And a Mage
The group of supporting cast around Arthur are fine. They serve the role they are supposed to effectively, but I wanted more background. A few of them die along the way, and even though you know that these people mean something to Arthur, they don’t really matter to you, the viewer. We never even find out the mage’s name, only that the call her “The Mage.” Most of these characters are from the original stories, so it’s not like they are throw away characters. Maybe it’s a clever way to try to get people to go read a book?
Ending and Sequel Setup
The movie ends with Arthur newly crowned as king. He’s making changes immediately including the knighting of his companions in arms and construction of the famous round table. Thus King Arthur and his knights of the round table are born,
There is also a scene with vikings which are seen earlier in the movie. They request Arthur to deliver on the cruel agreement they made with his uncle and Arthur makes it very clear his reign will be much different. He basically gives the vikings an ultimatum to either kneel in allegiance or suffer the consequences. They all take a knee and then Arthur says essentially Good. “Now let’s eat.” I thought this was an interesting attitude. I was actually waiting for Arthur to throw the group out.
8 Guy Ritchie montages out of 10.
This movie needs an extended cut, as there are several scenes that leave you wanting more. I would say an extra 30-45mins overall would be perfect. This movie is far from perfect, but I would argue it’s the type of movie that you don’t expect to be perfect and that’s ok. It succeeds at being a fun and entertaining ride.