The trailers for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword did very little to capture my interest, in fact I outright disliked the trailers to the point of almost writing off the entire film because of it. Despite all of this I walked into my early screening of this film back on April 27th with a clear and open mind, willing to give the film a chance to impress me. I haven’t been able to speak about it since seeing it until now, due to a review embargo but now that’s been lifted here are my thoughts.
The film follows Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) who is robbed of his birthright at a young age, and is forced to grow up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls sword from stone he must come face to face with his true legacy and overthrow King Vortigern, to take his rightful place upon the throne.
If you went in to watch this film unaware of who wrote and directed it, I believe you’d very quickly begin to realise who is working behind the camera. This is a Guy Ritchie film from start to finish and one of the biggest complements I can give this film is the fact that, he is one of the strongest aspects of the whole film. The style he brings is an eccentric blend of medival fantasy, fused with larger than life creatures and modern dialogue, which for the most part doesn’t hinder the film at all. His signature dialogue, editing and scene structure is all present, and those three things help craft one of the films most memeorable scenes. What makes it work, is the way he makes his characters interact with one another with witty dialogue, whilst giving the audience rapidly edited shots flashing back to the event being discussed, and back forward to the current conversation. It’s very entertaining stuff. There is one sequence though towards the middle of the film that uses a similar scene structure, but on that occasion I would’ve preferred a more conventional structure to the scene. Simply because I wanted to see more from the sequence itself as it was a major part in the development of Arthur as a character, and I feel like the film glossed over the task at hand, too quickly.
Charlie Hunnam was perfectly suitable for this depiction of Arthur, he didn’t bring anything extra to the material he was given. Despite liking him in the role it has to be said, that a myriad of different actors could’ve been cast in the role and would’ve equally done just as well. Jude Law seemed to be having quite a bit of fun with his performance of the films villain, he was particularly entertaining to watch. The rest of the cast were simply fine, not all that memorable because two weeks after seeing the film I can barely remember any of them. But I didn’t walk out of the film thinking anybody was bad.
The musical score stood out to me a great deal during the film, it was the adrenaline that lent energy to many of the films scenes. It is a very unorthodox musical choice for this type of film, but it managed to fit the frenetic style of the film.
As I previously mentioned, there’s a fantasy element to this film. Of course there’s the magic which is a part of the original King Arthur tale, but along with this incarnation comes a level of fantasy that reminded of the 2010 Clash of the Titans film. Whether that’s a good or bad thing, I’ll leave that for you to decide. My only problem with this, is the fact that I feel it’s introduced into this world but not shown enough. The only creature outside of the films opening that we really get a good glimpse of is a giant snake. Other than that, the other creatures only get tiny cameos during a very quick montage sequence.
The thing that really holds this film back is the script and the pacing. Dialogue aside, the actual development of the characters along with the plot feels very inconsistent throughout. I found there to be a frustrating amount of repition regarding certain story beats, such as Arthur having to come to terms with his legacy and learning how to control Excalibur. The first couple times we see him try and fail are fine but that aspect of his arc extends for far too much of the films runtime. As a result of this and the stagnant plot, the films pacing begins to drag massively and it left me checking my watch towards the middle of the film roughly four or five times.
As for the action, there’s a great chase sequence within the film somewhere during the second act. But as for the rest of it, in particularly when Arthur is using Excalibur, the film begins to feel like a video game. This is mainly because of how exagerrated and visual effects heavy the film becomes when he is wielding the sword. I’m pretty certain there are shots and entire sequences fully created from the ground up with visual effects, and that includes CGI character models of Arthur and his enemies. During those moments the visuals didn’t look the standard I expect from a $150 million film in 2017. The climactic action sequence is essientaly a video game boss battle, which don’t get me wrong was somewhat entertaining. The main problem though was the choice to shroud the action in such darkness which made it increasingly difficult to see what was going on.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is nowhere near as awful as I thought it might be judging by the trailer. In fact I wouldn’t say it’s awful at all, basically it’s very mediocre. It’s not offensively bad and because of that, there are still moments to enjoy even if the pacing does drag throughout the middle.
(3 Stars out of 5)
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword; Starring Charlie Hunnam, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Jude Law and Eric Bana.
Directed by Guy Ritchie. Opens in US Cinemas May 12th and UK Cinemas May 19th.