REVIEW: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

10 05 2017

Let’s have a little thought experiment, shall we? Think of an action movie in the last decade or so that you enjoyed. Say, “The Bourne Ultimatum” or “The Lord of the Rings” franchise. How would you like to see that movie … but medieval?!

That’s pretty much the gambit on which Guy Ritchie stakes his entire film “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.” Observers of the director know to expect a certain cheekiness and self-awareness from the rebellious Brit. But here, Ritchie crosses a line. He’s self-aware to an almost Seth MacFarlane-esque self-referential point.

His “Game of Thrones” fan fiction film doubles down on all the worst qualities of his “Sherlock Holmes” films and discards most of the team chemistry that made them great. Ritchie has always been one to show the strings, making you aware of his stylistic baubles every time he brandishes them. Given his post-modern, ironic sensibilities, the aesthetic butts heads with anything set before the mid-20th century. The effect is always one of removal from the film itself, reminding us of the dissonance between the subject and its presentation.

His take on the Camelot myth, pitting a paranoid King Herod-like Vortigern (Jude Law) against a messianic sword-wielding Arthur (Charlie Hunnam), brings little to the round table other than zippy editing and flashy VFX. Hunnam does little to liven up “King Arthur” as well; he looks more likely to be headed to a rugged Scotland-themed GQ shoot than into serious battle. But I don’t mean to reduce the film to mere appearances in order to dismiss it. Let me put it simply: this is the same superhero origin story of dead parents and internal power struggles we’ve been forced to endure for about 15 years now. But medieval. C

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