Guy Ritchie’s ‘King Arthur’ (Legend of the Sword) opens today. Film critic Jeanne Powell has a first look review for Stark Insider.
The new Warner Brothers film based on the legend of King Arthur has potential to be a blockbuster this summer. Directed by Guy Ritchie, the picture clearly targets the millennial generation with its 3-D glasses, lengthy battle scenes, and snarky dialogue.
We first see young Arthur at the age of three, during a horrific struggle between his father Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) and the Pendragon’s evil brother Vortigern (Jude Law). Featuring briefly cut scenes, the director takes us through an unorthodox childhood created by Guy Ritchie and his fellow writers – Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram.
The intriguing part is that Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) has no idea of his heritage, has no ambition and knows only that he experiences violent dreams which wake him in the middle of the night.
Borrowing here and there from Sir Thomas Malory (Le’ Morte d’Arthur) and Christopher Marlowe (Dr. Faustus), Ritchie gives us a modern street tough Arthur whose life is upended when king Vortigern becomes obsessed with finding someone who can free Uther Pendragon’s legendary sword – Excalibur – from the stone where it is imprisoned.
No match for king Vortigern in his present state, Arthur is spirited away by Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou), who was the Pendragon’s trusted knight back in the day. Helping to free him from king Vortigern’s grip is a fascinating shaman, the protégé of the wizard Merlin himself.
Astrid Berges-Frisbey plays the shaman Mage to perfection. Walking with the authority of a master magician, Mage stalks into Arthur’s life and has to spend a considerable amount of time explaining why he matters to so many people. She studies this rebellious youth, she ponders and then she conjures to get Arthur past his cynicism, his ignorance and his fear of the childhood traumas which haunt his sleep.
In this film there are startling moments, since key characters are from a blue collar background and not the ruling class of knights and kings, with names like Bill and George, Wet Stick and Back Lack, Dan Clan and Low Rent. Modern haircuts and workingclass English slang are challenges as well.
Not Oscar material, except for the special effects, but entertaining.
Two female characters are interesting – both the heroic shaman Mage and the striking “syren” monster: syren 1 (Lorraine Bruce), syren 2 (Eline Powell) and syren 3 (Hermoine Corfield). In contrast the royal women – Arthur’s mother, Vortigern’s wives and daughters — have no character development at all.
Battle scenes are too long, and the final confrontation between an awakened Arthur and a bitter king Vortigern is not necessary. But if the goal is to create an Arthur Pendragon for our fractured political times, then perhaps Ritchie is not so far off the mark. Not Oscar material, except for the special effects, but entertaining.