Guy Ritchie is still one of my favourite directors and I’m not backing up on that statement any time soon. Sure, love for him stems deeply from adoring Snatch, but his directing style is still something I enjoy despite his latest movies not being perfect. So yes, I think his style is still on point in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, despite the movie lacking instant appeal and uniqueness. And while I will always have nostalgic appreciation towards Ritchie, for me, this mythical block buster felt flat and empty, even though it tried hard to hit all the right marks.
Minor spoilers ahead in regards to the well known legend of King Arthur.
I’m always surprised when Guy Ritchie takes on a new project because he seems to be going further and further away from movies that brought him fame and recognition. And it’s a shame Man From Uncle did so poorly because it was actually a step back to his strengths. Meaning, I don’t think his re-imaginative world of Sherlock Holmes and now King Arthur is effective enough. Maybe it’s the size of the world that is difficult to create because I felt like, despite the size of King Arthur, the world around it, felt extremely small. Being a fan of fantasy and a fan of Ritchie, it’s a little bit disappointing for me to admit that the film lacked imagination in its many aspects. Most importantly, the magic elements it introduced and the most magical character it had.
The timeline of the movie starts from the past, where during a war the king’s brother deceives him in order to get the crown. Among the chaos the king manages to save his son Arthur and we see this son end up in the slums. There is a pretty cool sequence of Arthur growing up but the movie is already lacking in suspense. It’s because we know what will happen that is keeping the suspense levels low, and the fact that the outcome will be obvious, is making the movie seem a little dull. We know who Arthur is, we know he will pull out the sword so even the moments of thrill don’t save the movie from being predictable and boring.
There are a few cool scenes that sort of make the movie more interesting but it is a shame that there are not many of them there. For a moment, right after Arthur is all grown up, the movie almost feels like a crime movie during the Dark Ages and part of me wishes that would have been the route Ritchie had taken. A different take on a so well known story, rather than the same old story done in a more flashier way. Anyway, I’m getting off track here, I want to say that there are great moments in the first half of the movie where one would almost think that King Arthur will succeed but then things start to go down the hill, and fast.
My biggest problem with the movie is its take on the most infamous moment in the King Arthur legend – the pulling of the sword. Now, I don’t care if it has been done many many times. I don’t care how many other things might have happened in King Arthur’s legend. I care about that single moment when a man, who thought himself to be a simple farm boy, pulled out a sword meant for a king. And what did Ritchie do? First of all, he made it look like there were a bunch of guys waiting in line for a concert. Where, by the way, Arthur ended up at so randomly that I don’t even want to get into it. And secondly, the way the movie played the scene, let it unravel and then having no big consequences, made it seem like the sword didn’t matter. If I were Jude Law, the evil brother, I would have had orders to kill the man who pulled out the sword on the spot. Why would I have him arrested, talk to him, and only then send him to be killed? It’s just stupid.
I guess that’s where I started to feel like the movie was simply telling the story by adding a few fancy elements to it all. The plot didn’t feel suspenseful, like I already mentioned, most of the characters where simply added and not utilised at all. Take, for instance, Astrid Bergés-Frisbey as The Mage, she was so boring I was trying not to yawn every time she opened her mouth! Not only did she look boring, she had boring abilities, considering the fact that all her “skills” seemed dated and not to mention, had some really questionable CGI. And then there’s our main character, Arthur, played by Charie Hunnam, who clearly wasn’t trying to please no one. Which, sure, was probably part of his character he and Ritchie tried to create, but there’s no fun in rooting for someone who acts like a douche. And I’m all for bad guys, I like bad guys, I sometimes even love the bad guys, but man, it was pretty much impossible to cheer for Arthur.
Finally, I also think, even though it made for nice visuals, that the sword was a bit too much. Like, I get it, it’s a magic sword.. but it felt like a superhero movie where Arthur’s sword was like his spider bite or something. It didn’t fit the theme, even though Ritchie was trying to make it into one, because I wanted something simpler. I guess I wanted the story to be suspenseful and interesting, despite it being such a well known story. And I think that’s the problem with these movies that try to re-imagine something that’s already been done – they forget the purpose of the story. The legend of King Arthur for me is realising one’s power and ability beyond their expectations. But King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword was about a cocky man, who got a mighty sword, and pissed everyone off.