KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD
Pull the Uther one…
Guy Ritchie’s Britain’s Hardest Monarchs.
Telescopic crash-zooms, freeze frames, supporting geezers named Kung Fu Georgie, Mike the Spike and Goosefat Bill… If there were any doubt that this is Guy Ritchie’s fast, loose take on the King Arthur legend, then having the natural-born monarch address a fellow rapscallion as “honey tits” clears the matter up.
Ritchie’s flippant folklore flimflam opens with Mordred’s (Rob Knighton) army marching on Camelot, the ground shuddering under the feet of elephants so enormous they could gobble Peter Jackson’s oliphants as bar snacks.
Not that this CG prologue leaves much of an imprint, playing out like Zack Snyder’s offcuts as it moves the pieces into place: the king, Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana), is struck down, and his brother, Vortigern (Jude Law), embarks upon a reign of fear. One problem: Pendragon’s baby son, the rightful king, has been sneaked to safety. A machine-gun montage shows him growing up on the streets of Londinium and, not long after he’s filled out, beautifully, into Charlie Hunnam, a scar-faced David Beckham orders him to free the sword Excalibur. He succeeds, is identified as Vortigern’s enemy, and is sentenced to death. Then shit proper kicks off...
Painted in the same blue-grey palette as Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies and similarly eager to jazz everything up, King Arthur: LOTS is not without its moments, many of them involving the director’s old mucker Law giving a supersized sneer. Arthur plunging alone into the Darklands to harness Excalibur’s power is like Luke visiting Dagobah. A guerrilla attempt on Vortigern’s life, meanwhile, flaunts the geographical range, eye-in-sky choreography and ground-level torque that distinguished The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ s madcap climactic chase.
Mainly, though, this is a tonal misfire, its characters cut down by a blitzkrieg of whip pans, CGI and thunderous percussion. And with Ritchie again rummaging in his increasingly threadbare bag of tricks, the result is a movie more jaundiced than jaunty. There’s a thin line between visionary and hodgepodge, and it’s a line King Arthur crosses and re-crosses with an abandon that rivals Hunnam’s wandering Cockney/Californian accent.
The plan is to make six King Arthur movies, with Warner Bros. hoping for a fantasy epic to rival The Lord Of The Rings, Game Of Thrones, the Marvel Cinematic Universe and its own Harry Potter/Fantastic Beasts franchise. This wobbly start suggests there needs to be plenty of meetings round tables to ensure a second instalment is forged stronger and sharper. Jamie Graham
Hunnam handles the fist fights better than the accent in a medieval mishmash that’s rarely magic.
Charlie always steps up when it’s Sunday roast carving time. Certificate 12A Director Guy Ritchie Starring Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Eric Bana, Aidan Gillen, Djimon Hounsou Screenplay Joby Harold, Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram Distributor Warner Bros. Running time 126 mins