A modern retelling of the Arthurian legend, King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword is a by-the-numbers film that sticks closely to the traditional Hero’s Journey rags-to-riches original. Unfortunately its frenetically paced, under-developed retelling of the legend fails to live up to its predecessors that have done the same thing with more flair.
The film starts in the midst of a battle. A giant elephant smashes a bridge to pieces and clouds of dust act like mist, blanketing a vast army. Amongst the anarchy is betrayal and Arthur, still a child, is robbed of his birthright as rightful King and forced to live his life in the back alleys. By order of the new King who originally stole Arthur’s place, Vortigern (Jude Law), calls forth Arthur to pull the sword Excalibur from the stone. When he achieves this, Arthur is forced into a world where he must acknowledge his true legacy and fight off his inner demons that prevent him from achieving his destiny.
Despite knowing fragments of the original story, I did think Director Guy Ritchie did a good job of setting the scene early with a large battle and quick pace, crafting a story that did remain relatively faithful to the original tale. The issue, however, is that the fast pace never slows enough for us to really get to know the characters and most are simply along for the ride making it difficult to empathize with them or see them as anything more than two dimensional people.
Technically though, the film is gorgeous. The fight scenes are good and well choreographed and there are some really great camera shots nestled throughout. A particular chase scene through the claustrophobic, choked back alleys of a city have some close-up shoulder cams and the way the camera pans out to show what’s happening around them just after this was really nicely done. There are plenty of moments like this but there are other times where the technicality of the film works against them.
The tone of the film does feel a little all over the place as well which isn’t helped by the quick-cut editing. The humour sometimes feels a little too overbearing and coupled with the strange quick-cut flashbacks, it actually make the film feel quicker to the point where I wanted to try and slow the film to catch a breath. Those expecting a slow-burn or a quietly paced character drama will not find that her. For all its faults though, King Arthur is still a fun ride with some good stuff to enjoy here.
It feels like a film that’s cherry-picked from a number of different sources. Its dialogue feels like its plucked straight from a British Gangster movie at times, its sweeping vista shots feel like Lord Of The Rings and its quick-paced, guitar heavy music and creature design feel like they’ve been ripped straight from The Witcher games. That’s not always a bad thing but together it does feel disjointed and to me, it really did stand out.
Overall then, King Arthur is simply okay in my eyes. There’s a lot to like but also a lot not to. In many ways the issues the film faces is like the sword in the stone itself. It run deep, straight to the foundation of the film and when pried and pulled, it feels in danger of crumbling. Its unique style is both its biggest obstacle and its greatest strength and consequently, King Arthur never feels as memorable as the original story.