KING ARTHUR: LE­GEND OF THE SWORD

Pull the Uther one…

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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

THE VER­DICT

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

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