King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is utterly ridiculous but doesn’t allow itself to cross the line where that ridiculousness could be charming.
Director: Guy Ritchie
Summary: Robbed of his birthright, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy – whether he likes it or not.
Ever since Mystery Science Theater 3000 became a thing the public has had an open place in their hearts for movies that are so bad they are good. There are plenty of infamous movies that walk this line and they are usually a lot of fun. The problem is a lot of them are unintentional and are made without anyone meaning to. The Sharknado movie is a prime example of this. These types of movies tend to come when they are attacked by slightly crazy people with specific visions and director Guy Ritchie does have a very specific vision. However, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword feels like it is very much a Ritchie production that is straining from being as crazy or weird as it could be. It’s a movie that begins with giant monster elephants the size of a castle shooting fire out of magical pyramids on the top of them. It’s insane but the movie never seems to embrace how insane it all is.
There is also a lot going on during this movie. Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) appears to be some sort of mash-up of Aladdin and Robin Hood with the added backstory of being raised in a brothel like Don Draper from Mad Men. Arthur also seems to jump from three different personality types from headcase, to flirt, to suave dangerous man, to leader depending on what the scene is. There is also a resistance because, of course there is; Merlin is around but never seen; there is a mage (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) who is maybe Guinevere but she is never given a name so we don’t know and some crazy monsters and magic. It’s almost impossible to keep the plot straight let alone for it all to make sense by the end. Bergès-Frisbey is playing the mage so flat and emotionless that it is almost comical to hear her speak. There are also a strange amount of montages and weird musical cues to the sound of breathing that make the entire experience uncomfortable to watch.
The movie isn’t all bad, though and the moments where it really cuts loose are the best. The opening scene is just as bonkers as it sounds and if the movie had kept up that weirdness for the entire production it would have been better. The idea of Excalibur and the powers it gives register as a sword version of bullet time that mostly looks good despite some dodgy CGI at times. The ending features such things as a cape made of flames and a giant snake but it’s just a shame that the middle is so full of basic sword fights and not much else. Jude Law is clearly having fun in the role of Vortigern who goes to a much darker place that doesn’t quite mesh with the rest of the movie. Game of Thrones fans will be happy to see Aidan Gillen in a fun supporting role and Djimon Hounsou has such a commanding screen presence he threatens to run away with the movie every time he’s on screen.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword seems to jump from high fantasy insanity to gritty reboot and can’t find a consistent tone. It feels like the movie is fighting against itself and while there are plenty of pieces that work they don’t form a cohesive whole. There was potential here and it’s a shame we likely won’t see if it can get better since this isn’t getting any sequels.
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