King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is, first and foremost, great fun. It borrows a lot from elsewhere, it’s sometimes fantastically silly, but it offers fantastic action sequences, laughs and a well-paced plot. You’ll leave the cinema smiling, as long as you get over David Beckham’s ropey cameo.
Followers of Guy Ritchie’s previous work will know that he’s never really equalled his seminal works Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. He’s not changed that with King Arthur, unfortunately. What he has created though is a thoroughly enjoyable fantasy romp.
Ritchie’s version of the Arthurian legend draws heavily on Lord of the Rings, Gladiator and Robin Hood. So heavily one or two scenes are almost re-shoots. Prime examples include the opening battle sequences which, although amazing, features large elephants carrying evil armies, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King anyone? Another sequence sees a courtyard full of gladiators (or at least strange non-descript combatants indiscernible from gladiators) attempt to fend off an attacking army to defend Arthur, a scene so reminiscent of one from Gladiator a copyright claim wouldn’t be a complete shock.
Another facet of the plot which seems to cling to external influences is Jude Law’s character. The evil king Arthur is forced to overthrow ends up being a mish-mash of Macbeth and Joaquin Phoenix’s Emperor Commodus (again, from Gladiator).
Guy Ritchie has a fantastic filmography behind him and King Arthur, while not his best work, does have substance…
All that said- if you are going to steal material, Gladiator and The Lord of the Rings aren’t bad sources.
The story hangs together well and plays out at a gallop thanks to montage sequences and a soundtrack that provides the film with a great momentum. Both are hallmarks of Ritchie’s directorial style.
Charlie Hunnam makes a good, if unorthodox Arthur. His cockney swagger and street urchin stylings draw on Guy Ritchie’s London crime films and can’t help but remind audiences, just a little, of Heath Ledger in A Knights Tale. Sometimes Hunnam’s Arthur feels ridiculous. Sometimes he’s perfect. If you can reconcile yourself with this interpretation of Britain’s oldest hero then you’ll enjoy the film but for some audiences it may grate a little.
At one point Hunnam’s Arthur actually wanders into Green Street territory and instructs a follower to “round up the lads”, as if what was planned was a football bust-up rather than a full-scale siege of Camelot. Thankfully moments as cringing as that are few and far between, one of the only other notable cringes is David Beckham’s unfortunate cameo role. He looks the part, but let’s say his acting ability is not comparable with his ability to cross a football.
There is another, more favourable Green Street crossover comparison to be made, as both Hunnam himself and Geoff Bell appeared as hooligans in Green Street and carry some of those intimidating stylings into their King Arthur performances. They do so well too, it has to be said.
The overall impression of the film is that it is, purely and simply, great fun. It would be overly disparaging though to say that that’s all it is, Guy Ritchie has a fantastic filmography behind him and King Arthur, while not his best work, does have substance. The production value is great, it’s funny and the action is gripping. It’s well worth watching and guaranteed to put a smile on your face.
By George Storr
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