I’ve seen quite a few Guy Ritchie movies, and the ones I’ve seen I’ve mostly liked. Snatch was pure awesome, Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels was fun, the first Sherlock Holmes was alright, and I was one of the few that saw and liked The Man from U.N.C.L.E. And now he’s been announced to direct the live action Aladdin movie, and I dunno. I know he’s capable of great work, but he’s never hit the heights of Snatch.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is directed by Guy Ritchie and comes from a screenplay by five people, which is a bad sign. The movie begins in the mythical kingdom of Camelot in the olden times where the evil sorcerer Mordred is attacking with his evil soldiers, magic fireballs, and giant elephants. But luckily King Uther (Eric Bana) is able to defeat Mordred and save the kingdom, essentially single handedly, due to his magical sword Excalibur, which powers are never well defined.
Soon enough, he is betrayed by his brother Vortigern (a mincing Jude Law) with evil magic, and only his young son Arthur escapes. Through some decent, if clichéd montages, we see Arthur grow up into Charlie Hunnam. This begins the short period where the film is a lot of fun, as we see Arthur and his band of cockney criminals in Londinium evade the law and trade witty barbs. Unfortunately, the fun is not to last, as Arthur soon becomes enmeshed in a rebellion against Vortigern, led by a few people, like former king’s guard Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and guy with Irish accent Bill (Aidan Gillen).
Of course, there’s magic too, with the simply named “Mage,” played by Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, who is mysterious and creepy, and with powers unclearly defined. The second half of the movie is more typical fantasy knights rebellion sort of thing, getting away from the gonzo silliness of the beginning. We do get a bit more crazy magic later on, but it’s not enough. The movie unfortunately stays a bit more clichéd later on; it moves from the sort of interesting aesthetic into a more typical, normally competent minor epic sort of feel.
The story should’ve been more fun, instead of too dramatic, which didn’t really work at the long periods of Arthur trying to accept his sword. We already know he’ll be King Arthur with a Round Table, so it feels a bit contrived. That all said, I like most of the characters. Charlie Hunnam was quite good, charismatic and subtle, kinetic in his actions scenes too. Astrid Bergès-Frisbey was delightfully creepy if not particularly good at complex dialogue, Eric Bana was the perfectly wise old guy, and Jude Law doesn’t phone anything in.
But Djimon Hounsou’s character feels stereotypical and clichéd, and his delivery stilted and off. There’s a Chinese martial artist guy named George that was also stereotypical, and I think it was done poorly. I feel like the movie is at war with itself, like it wants to be fun but also “serious action.” The serious action is fine, but the rules of magic are weird and confusing, and the connection to King Arthur tenuous at best.
The story ultimately didn’t go past purely average, and although I liked much of the start and some of the montages, it was too convoluted to be anything other than just an average movie.
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