King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Runtime 128 minutes
Not for children
Thomas Malory, who first published his Le Morte D’Arthur in 1485 bringing together the French legends from the 14th century that comprise the story, would not recognize this fantasy that more resembles fantasies like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings than the Arthurian legend.
Don’t get me wrong—the story of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table and Guinevere and Lancelot is pure fantasy. There’s no evidence anywhere that people like this ever existed in England or anywhere else. But what this new film does is tell a totally different story about Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) than that to which we have been accustomed; a new prequel if you will.
Writer-director Guy Ritchie doesn’t come to this game of putting his own spin on hallowed literature as a virgin. He did the same thing with Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and I loathed each of those films, almost as much as I loathed this one. (Incidentally, Jude Law was an accomplice in the Holmes butcheries and he’s here in this one, too, as the evil Vortigen). The reason a legend like that of King Arthur has resonated for 700 years is that it’s a rollicking good story that has appealed to millions of people across 21 generations. When you tinker with that, you had better have something good.
Well, Ritchie doesn’t have something good here.
The new take on Arthur, that he is a street ruffian, raised in a brothel, and living on the streets by his wits, is interesting and might have worked. Because, let’s face it, Malory and his legends do not really provide any clue as to how the person of King Arthur came about, at least none that I remember. So this story is just as good as any. Since there’s no romance here (the legend of King Arthur is first and foremost a romance!), they apparently cast Hunnan (who is totally ripped) so the women in the audience will have something to look at.
But what fouls it up is the videogame-like appearance of animals that never existed, along with unbelievably absurd fight and battle scenes. These have become so de rigueur in action films that there’s no tension in them and they are actually soporific if not comical. But they do apparently appeal to the young naïve male adult mentality of today.
It is not just the story and the silly fight scenes that don’t work. Right at the beginning there is some dialogue with quick cuts from one character to another, each dropping one-liners that are supposed to be witty. Not! They’re just enormously annoying.
From a dismal start, it doesn’t improve and it’s easy to see why this film has taken so long to hit the theaters. It’s rumored that the original cut of well over 2 1/2 hours has been tinkered with for more than a year, and finally trimmed to this, which is still so jumbled and incoherent that it’s little more than regurgitated nonsense that should appeal solely to teenaged males.