I really find myself in a paradox with King Arthur. I love the story, or stories as it were. It’s full of heroism and noble righteousness, as all good medieval fantasies should be. But it also has some warped and twisted, and even sick at times, elements to it; again as all good medieval fantasies should. So, yes I do really like the Arthurian legends. But, I have not liked a single film based on the legend. Not one. I know John Boorman’s Excalibur is seen as a fantasy classic, and is a pretty loved film all in all, but I was never impressed by it. Mostly in a “not my cuppa tea” way. So, it pleases me to say that Snatch director Guy Ritchie has finally…continued that tradition of underwhelming Arthur films.
The legend of King Arthur is a rich banquet of great stories and grand ideas. So, of course it only makes sense that this film takes these qualities and throws them out of the nearest window. Yep, we have completely abandoned all the intrigue and classic legend for a much more straight forward evil uncle fable. Although this one does have elephants big enough to make Godzilla feel inadequate. So there’s that I suppose. Basically, King Uther is betrayed and killed by his evil brother Jude Law, and Arthur escapes to Londinium to be raised in a brothel. A few years later, the cockney accent develops and Arthur figures that it’s time to get “the lads” together, find his father’s magical sword and put an end to his uncle’s tyranny. And thus, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is born.
My God, what to say about this one? I didn’t expect this to be a good film. No one who saw that trailer could ever think this would be a good film. But I had no idea how bad this was going to be. I am a bit of a cinema masochist; I love watching bad films. Partly because I enjoy them, and partly because they make me appreciate good films even more. But sometimes bad films really do surprise me, like this one did. The thing is though, this was bad in ways I didn’t expect.
King Arthur doesn’t feel like a film. It feels like a two-hour long montage. Remember those training montages from the Rocky films? Well that’s what this whole film basically is. The cinematography and editing are so obnoxiously quick and chaotic that it gave me an actual headache! The beginning was fine, if a little CGI heavy. The ending was way too CGI heavy but still okay. There was just this whole chunk in the middle that was so chaotic and nonsensical that I gave up even attempting to follow what was going on.
The focus is definitely on the characters on this one. But, with the exception of the villain none of them stood out at all. And the film making actually had me either forgetting who a character was altogether, or more often than not, had me mixing them up. I remember that the film attempted to make them memorable by giving them the stupidest names; but it failed because I can’t remember their names at all. Outside of their stupidity at least. And the actors, again with the exception of the villain, are all very talented but completely wasted on this film. Charlie Hunnam as Arthur might sound like a decent choice, but I don’t think I’ve come across a more bland hero all year. He’s not bad, but he’s not good either…he’s inoffensively okay. The rest of the cast is just full of those “ooh, what’s that person been in” actors. There’s Maximus’ friend from Gladiator and Littlefinger from Game of Thrones, and ironically the woman who played Morgana in TV’s Merlin at one point. Oh, and David Beckham, lest we forget. To be fair, the only one who was bad was the lead woman. But wow she was bad! I mean Sharknado couldn’t-care-less bad!
I know, this is a Guy Ritchie film. The man has made himself a staple with his style of film making. But it really feels out of place here, and it’s just too much. It wasn’t bad in those Sherlock Holmes films, but here Ritchie could very well leave you feeling physically sick. Between the camera work, the editing and the ear-assaulting soundtrack he’s made an almost completely insufferable film. This has got to be the worst, most out of place soundtrack I have heard since The Amazing Spiderman 2. And then we have gargantuan elephants and snakes and so much more in-between all of that. I really cannot work out what anyone was thinking with this film. How did anyone look at this and think it was a finished film?
But, believe it or not, King Arthur isn’t all bad. The special effect, despite one or two noticeably bad examples, we actually surprisingly good. When the camera stays still for long enough, you can see that it is a nice looking film. The make-up is pretty spectacular too. Numerous times we see someone with a broken lip or swollen eye after a fight, and it’s completely convincing. There’s this really cool octopus monster that reminded me a little bit of Ursula from The Little Mermaid, and that was really great to see. But my biggest praise goes to Jude Law as the villain. I thought that I was going to get the big, shouting, hamming it up performance with this one. But no, Law actually plays the character extremely well. And to top that he’s well written. He’s a good and interesting character. He’s smart. And the chaotic film making calms down whenever he’s on screen. This guy could fit into Game of Thrones perfectly, and it is such a shame that such a great villain (possibly one of the best of the year) is wasted in such an awful film.
Basically, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword would make a great video-game, like God of War or something. But as a film it’s just a complete failure. It has some applaud worthy elements to it, most certainly, but they can’t save it. It is fascinatingly bad. You can find yourself pretty entertained in trying to find out what happened to make this end product. But it’s still not worth it for that. I’m glad I saw the villain. But everything else is just nausea-inducing.
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