Review - 'King Arthur: Legend of the Sword'
Is there some unspoken war against fantasy films? I just don't understand what about these types of movies is rubbing critics the wrong way. That, or maybe being born and raised with an IV pumping liquid mithril into my veins has just buttered me up enough to the point where I enjoy just about everything the fantasy genre has to offer. Then again, I didn't much care for Duncan Jones' Warcraft, Sergei Bodrov's Seventh Son, Brett Rattner's Hercules or Bryan Singer's Jack the Giant Slayer...So I guess I'm back to square one. Either way, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a rollicking good time, even if it has some severe cracks in its armor.
Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword strays far from the classic text it is based upon. This update sees Arthur Pendragon (Charlie Hunnam) as more of a rapscallion, but still a man-of-the-people...basically Robin Hood. Arthur is brought forth to his evil uncle, Lord Vortigen (Jude Law) after he pulls his father's sword from a stone. After a group of people foil his planned execution, he learns from them that he is the only one who can stand up to Vortigen, otherwise the land will be plunged into complete darkness and despair. Arthur reluctantly accepts and sets out on a journey to reclaim the throne.
From the moment this film started, I knew it was going to be different. King Arthur has a certain swagger to it that I don't think has ever been realized in a medieval fantasy movie before. This is most certainly due to the film's director, Guy Ritchie. This man has such a distinctive style, so distinctive that I worried that it wouldn't transfer well to a film about mages, round tables and noble knights, but he totally makes it his own. Right out of the gate Ritchie hits you with stunning visuals depicting fantastical action on an epic scale accompanied catchy and percussive music and then chases it all with some clever, spit-fire dialogue.
Unfortunately, Guy Ritchie is a bit of a double-edged sword here. While I loved how snappy the film was with its dialogue and action, there were definitely times where it was a bit much. I like my movies edited in a way where you always know what is happening, where it's happening and why. There were at least three times in this film where the film lost me. Ritchie has a tendency to jump forward and backward in time during moments of exposition to try and spice it up. For me, these moments just ended up being confusing and left me questioning whether or not any of it actually made any sense.
I also have serious issues with the pacing in this film, especially in its midsection. There are whole sequences that are glossed over with montages that don't really convey any sort of message or have any emotional affect. There's one sequence in particular where Arthur is adamantly against doing something, but in the very next scene he's doing it without an explanation of why he changed his mind. The only thing holding these jumbled plot progressions together is the charisma of the actors.
Charlie Hunnam isn't the best King Arthur, but he gets the job done and delivers his lines well and knows his way around an action scene. While he's not exactly that likable, I did end up rooting for him in the end and wanted to see him succeed against the insanely evil Vortigen. Jude Law plays Vortigen, the evil uncle to Arthur, and boy does he seem to be having fun playing a bad guy. Sometimes his performance is a little over-the-top, but he has conviction and you truly despise him for some of the atrocities he commits. The rest of the cast is for the most part good, particularly Djimon Hounsou as Sir Bedivire.
Surprisingly, what really gives this film vitality is its exceptional musical score. Daniel Pemberton kept me consistently invested in the film. He also tries some techniques that I really haven't heard performed in a score before, such as using human breath-sounds as a beat to keep the action moving. Without the score, I really don't know how much punch this film would have, it's truly the heartbeat of this film. I also loved the visuals and the cinematography, sure, there's some noticeable CGI, but in the spectrum of realistic effects, this leans much closer to The Lord of the Rings than something like Warcraft or Clash of the Titans.
Though King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has some shoddy editing and some serious problems with pacing, it makes up for it with enjoyable performances, entertaining action and appealing aesthetics. If you dig the fantasy genre and like Guy Ritchie's style, this movie should be right down your alley.