‘King Arthur : Legend of The Sword’
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aiden Gillen, Katie McGrath, Eric Bana, Annabelle Wallis, Mikael Persbrandt
Director: Guy Ritchie
A hard-bitten take on the ancient legend of ‘King Arthur,’ this Guy Ritchie film tries so hard to be distinctive from the earlier versions of the tale that it almost loses the plot along the way. It’s not quite ‘Excalibur, Camelot, The Sword and the Stone or First Knight.’ Here the focus is entirely on creating a frenetic relentless world of magic and mayhem that overwhelms with it’s dark dominion, in a fashion that leaves you feeling breathless and unhinged.
Ritchie’s ‘King Arthur’ is weaned and tempered in a bordello. He is low class tough(Charlie Hunnam) in ancient Londinium who, following the deaths of his foster family and friends finds a reason to seek revenge from his power hungry uncle Vortigern (Jude Law) and vicious turncoats from his father, then reigning King Uther Pendragon’s (Eric Bana) time.
It’s a rush through as pounding music heralds Uther’s betrayal by his brother Vortigern and the spiriting away of the sole legal heir in a boat that leads him to a band of whores.
Ritchie creates a racy, descriptive and thunderous world of blood and spectacle that is quite impressive in it’s vision but also heavily schizoid in it’s narration. The frequently frenetic back and forth in the pre-interval half leaves you feeling quite distended and it’s only when the story takes a decisive turn that you begin to feel it’s visceral exultance. The film is impressively mounted and feels like it borrows it’s fantastical moorings from ‘Games of Thrones.’ The heavy dose of cockney and frequent use of post-modern ‘isms’ doesn’t quite sit well in the ominously imagined royal set-up. Ritchie also dips generously into ancient Irish and Scottish lore for his intriguing approach to Maze and Merlin. He doesn’t seem interested in establishing any coherence or developing sentiment. Giant snakes, eagles, Octopuses, Elephants, bats serve their purpose in this vulgar expression of brutality and bravado that never quite finds it’s way into your heart. There’s absolutely no romance here, emotions are sacrificed at the altar of power and fires of sorcery are as scorching as the fires that embolden the belief in ancient lore.
As far as narrative craft is concerned, Ritchie follows in his ‘Sherlock Holmes’ approach with a fast paced slide-over from present to past and back, conveying as much information/back story as possible , in the process. The humour might have been more energising if it did not come and go as quick as the blink of an eye. Hunnam fits in well with his toughened physique and rugged outlook, Law makes diabolic look trendy while Bana earns respect for his charismatic intransigence. The visual effects are quite impressive for most of the assay. It’s only when the climactic battle comes into play that it starts to feel like a video game is underway. Ritchie’s regimented style of narration, fortified over the years with a few middling successes, doesn’t quite suit this mythic historical and that’s something that drains the film of colour and any possible empathetic attachment. You might marvel at the technique and visual affect here but the lack of attachment as you leave the theatres is far more telling!
Watch the trailer of ‘King Arthur : Legend of The Sword’: