It’s been almost a week since King Arthur: Legend of the Sword released to lackluster box office and critical performance. The newest film from director/producer/writer Guy Ritchie had a budget of $175M and was slated to be the first in a series of six films from Warner Bros. Now, it looks like those plans are dead; the King Arthur has managed to pull in only $46M to date.
Don’t feel too bad for Ritchie; he’s set to helm the live-action Aladdin movie for Disney, and of course, there’s the third Sherlock Holmes film. Still, a flop this big is never good. However, there’s another Warner Bros. blockbuster that would benefit from Ritchie’s unique hand: The magical world of the extended Harry Potter franchise. Now before you click out in utter disbelief, hear me out: Ritchie might just be a perfect fit for WB’s renewed cash cow.
*Minor spoilers ahead for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and the Harry Potter franchise*
Demon Elephants and Bringing Magic to Life
The MFR review for King Arthur hit the nail on the head: “Despite moments of visual splendor, King Arthur…is structurally a mess.” Ritchie set out to start a six-film franchise based on a legend that does not have a mutually agreed upon canon and has been told a dozen different ways already. Oh, and he’s mainly known for gritty, focused crime films with intense and unique action sequences. This is to say that a truly massive blockbuster like King Arthur may have been doomed to start.
Except for those visuals. There quite a few moments throughout King Arthur that leave the viewer in awe, if for no other reason than the sheer audacity of what is bring presented. The opening sequence is the best example: fireballs are being shot out of pyramids on the back of giant demon elephants, as they assault the walls of Camelot, only to be solely defeated by an Excalibur-wielding Eric Bana. As ridiculous as it sounds, it works. Ritchie used excellent CGI to bring the magic of Arthurian legend to life.
And that’s exactly what Harry Potter films need: magic. This seems like a no-brainer, but starting with Alfonso Cuarón’s Prisoner of Azkaban, most of the magic used in the HP movies consisted of various types of balls of light. The good guys shot white lights or turned into white smoke. The bad guys threw black and green lights or turned into black smoke. And that’s just how it was for six films.
With Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, there was once again the chance to show off the power of modern computer generated imagery, and wow audiences with what could seem, just maybe, like real magic. Instead, it was filled with creatures whose animation was no better than 2007’s The Golden Compass, and more light-flashing magic. There were few, if any, moments of “wow.”
The magic in King Arthur, far more sparse and less expected than in a Harry Potter film, was still more satisfying. Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as “The Mage” possessing various creatures while trying to eat Jude Law was both delightful, and terrifying. The magical was palpable, visceral, real. A viewer should not be more convinced of the realism of pyramid-clad demon elephants than bowtruckles. Ritchie is just the director to make that correction.
An Identity Problem
At this point, you might be thinking, “I haven’t seen King Arthur, so all of this is fairly meaningless to me.” Fair enough. Even if you haven’t seen Sherlock Holmes or one of his handful of British crime films, you’ve likely been exposed to his unique style. His movies are whimsically dark, often reliant on non-linear editing and unreliable voice over, and feature hard-hitting, close focused action. The most common description is “__ meets Rock n’ Roll.” The result are movies that are undeniably different. They stand out in the crowd, even if they aren’t received well. Watch this trailer for King Arthur; the pacing and music are exactly that of the film and gives a good sense of Ritchie’s style.
Now imagine Fantastic Beasts but with loud, quick-fire wand duels. Close up city-spanning chases that bring to life the inhabitants of the magic world. A percussive and contemporary soundtrack. Deplorably charismatic villains. It would give the new HP cinematic world exactly what it needs: an identity. As it stands, Fantastic Beasts was fairly typical modern blockbuster fare. The cinematography, the CGI, and the music were all fairly vanilla.
If there’s one thing Ritchie is not, it’s typical. The chance to have a highly-stylized WWII-set Harry Potter film? It’s almost too good to pass up.
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