Preview: ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’

What with the atmosphere of medieval-style fantasy hanging in the air after Game of Thrones season 6 finale, the time seems ripe for another instalment of movie adapted Arthurian legend. And who better than director Guy Ritchie to take up the challenge of pulling the metaphorical sword from the stone.

Although we all know the tale of King Arthur, or at least are aware of it, there have been few truly successful modern adaptations to crown the silver screen. Perhaps the medieval legend is a particularly difficult story to portray on film, attempting to maintain the classic elements of knights’, dragons and princesses without being clichéd or over reliant on CGI is a big ask. But from the trailer released recently by Warner Bros. at San Diego Comic-Con for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Ritchie seems to have attempted something quite unique.

“I think where the pitfall has often been is trying to make King Arthur bland and nice.” Guy Ritchie

The trailer shows us a fast paced, action packed, atmospheric epic combined with the classic Ritchie twist of sharp characterisation and snappy storytelling. He cleverly grounds the legend in the two elements that are often forgotten, Arthurs background of growing up on the streets unaware of his destiny, and the fact that this is a story, a tale, with emphasis on the fact that it has been told orally for centuries. And thus is open to interpretation, re-examination and reconstruction.

The success of this film does now rest predominantly on this alternative characterisation of King Arthur. Ritchie said, at SDCC; “I think where the pitfall has often been is trying to make King Arthur bland and nice, and nice and bland. The two qualities make rather compatible bed companions. Unfortunately, they’re not interesting to watch”.

Recently Ritchie has been on a quest to find  a different genre to apply his style to…

To combat ‘bland’ portrayals of Arthur elsewhere, Ritchie has given us a hard-core, bad-boy king reminiscent of his well-loved gangsters from the likes of RocknRolla. Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy), who is new to working with Ritchie and a relatively fresh face, takes the title role. The film also features Aidan Gillen, Annabelle Wallis, Tom Wu, Djimon Hounsou, Eric Bana and notably, Jude Law.

King Arthur

With the unusual characterisation of the fair and legendary King Arthur being counterintuitively full of attitude and swagger Ritchie could be taking a gamble. Indeed, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword could turn out to be a gamble altogether. Mixing medieval historical adventure with the sort of witty backstreets action that Ritchie usually delivers; the films’ setting takes a step out of Ritchie’s comfort zone, but he’s more than capable of pulling this off.

His signature quirky storytelling focusing on London gangsters in complicated and highly humorous jams was criticised for being unoriginal after his fourth and (currently) last film of this ilk, RocknRolla. Recently Ritchie has been on a quest to find a different genre to apply his style to, hitting on the action-mystery genre in the Sherlock Holmes films and exploring the spy genre with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The legend of Sherlock Holmes however, was arguably not a demanding far cry from Ritchie’s gangster outings, given his love of dark alleyways, pre-emptive narration and London centred action. How will his style fare with the grand scale of the legend of King Arthur?

He also chooses to combine medieval England with modern cinematographic techniques such as Go-Pro camera work.

Now Ritchie must reckon with full scale armies, magic forces, lashings of kingly destiny and a relatively simple plot, (as opposed to the twists and turns he delivered in the likes of Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels). He also chooses to combine medieval England with modern cinematographic techniques such as Go-Pro camera work, seen in the opening of the trailer, and highly stylised costume which is arguably yet another risk, how the combination of old and new works out remains to be seen.

This branching out of style and genre is, no doubt, an exciting prospect for Ritchie fans, who will be watching in anticipation as he grasps this legend by the hilt and pulls!

By Anna Whealing

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