Guy Ritchie gives the old tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Tables a cheery twist in this rip-roaring epic. At times too over the top for its own good, it is nonetheless a fun take on an old tale: something old, something new, and mostly something Guy Ritchie. You may be familiar with the term ‘sword and sandal’ movie; this is more like ‘sword and slang’, with Ritchie’s signature style of dialogue giving if a geezery twist.
In case you don’t know the tale already: as a young boy, Arthur is stripped of his birthright by his evil uncle Vortigern. When Vortigern (played by Jude Law, with all but a twirl of a moustache) usurps the throne by killing his brother Uther, baby Arthur is sent away in a basket down a river which leads him straight into Londinum. It is here that we are treated to a signature, hyper-quick Guy Ritchie montage showing Arthur’s growth from boy to man on the mean streets of Londinium. He becomes the leader of a motley crew of likeable ratbags, and is basically head of security of the brothel where he was raised, which is populated solely by hooker-with-a-heart types (Guy Ritchie is not known for nuance). When he is forced to take part in the sword-removing ritual (Excalibur, stone), it becomes clear that he is the rightful King of England, and therefore the target of the evil King Vortigern’s wrath.
Charlie Hunnam does a refreshing take on Arthur, embodying a happy medium between the side-grinning anti-hero which has become part of Ritchie’s signature style, and the matinee-idol charm required of blockbuster movie lead. He has an easy charm, looks like he could throw a punch, and delivers some of the sillier pieces of dialogue with relative ease. The supporting cast features Game of Thrones star Aiden Gillan doing what he does best – namely, being super dubious- as well as Djimon Hounsou and Eric Bana, who is a welcome presence as Arthur’s deceased father Uther. The one cast member who I was totally puzzled by was Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, who spent the entire film looking and sounding annoyed. To be fair, she and all other female characters are woefully underwritten.
The dialogue, fight scenes and pace of editing is exactly what you’d expect from a Guy Ritchie film, but you could almost see the traces of an epic battle between the director and the studio. The chase sequences and music are all signature Guy Ritchie and a lot of fun to watch, but some of the edginess is dulled down by overblown CGI and battle sequences which are way too long.This film is at its best when there’s quippy dialogue being brandished about, and Charlie Hunnam is using his charm and resourcefulness to get out of tricky situations.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is good fun, especially when it focusses on the dialogue and the relationships between the future Knights of the Round Table, Guy Ritchie is allowed to show his Guy Ritchie-ness. If a sequel is made, one can only hope that the CGI reigned in and those relationships are allowed to flourish.