Despite moments of visual splendor, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a generic origin story whose narrative is structurally a mess.
The picture starts off with a great fight scene that is a cross between Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones. We get to see Eric Bana leaping from place to place, slicing up guys and escaping peril at a ridiculous rate. Ritchie includes this extended prologue to provide context for how Arthur’s (Charlie Hunnam) parents were slaughtered and the throne was stolen by Lord Vortigern (Jude Law). Arthur escapes down the river in a baby pram (he is only a few years old in the prologue) and found by some day workers at a local brothel. What transpired after this is a very generic origin story that begins with showing Arthur as a common man and ends with him leading the attack against his parent’s murderer.
The battle sequences at times were visually stunning, and that helped keep my attention when the storyline clearly wasn’t.
Jude Law was a fine choice to play Lord Vortigern. He exhibited just enough virtue, in the beginning, to show he was a once a decent man. What was certainly a departure for Law was seeing him turn into a power hungry fiend who would sacrifice anything for the crown (even if it means murdering his daughter). Perhaps we will see Law take on more roles where he’s the villain down the road.
The sequence that leads to Arthur pulling the sword from the stone was engaging. The build up of other prisoners attempting to pull the mystical sword unsuccessfully only to see this commoner easily remove it from the stone was the film’s most intriguing part.
Aidan Gillen was an excellent choice to play Bill (one of Arthur’s closest friends). Now mind you, Gillen was just playing a slightly different version of Little Finger in the film, but that doesn’t detract from how entertaining he was.
What Did Not Work
I’m not sure why Guy Ritchie felt it was necessary to include extreme closeups of Arthur and others during various chase scenes. It was extremely odd, and it takes you completely out of the narrative.
The 2nd half of the film was a complete mess. We went from a pseudo Game of Thrones narrative to a story involving Arthur becoming the “chosen one.” The “chosen one” storyline doesn’t match with the beginning of the film. Maybe there was a reshoot or perhaps rewrite that cause 1st half of the movie to be so disjointed from the 2nd half.
Charlie Hunnam certainly was in great shape when he stepped into the role of Arthur. However, being in great shape and performing well are two very different things. The former Sons of Anarchy star’s performance is incredibly forgetful in the lead role even bordering on tiresome.
Why did we need to have David Beckham make a cameo?
Paying to see King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a complete waste of time and resources. There is a reason why this film was delayed this long, and it was to postpone the inevitable. Warner Brothers even went so far as to buy out large amounts of theaters to generate buzz for a film they knew was dead on arrival. With so many great options at the box-office, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword should be the furthest from your mind.