Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Review of KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD: Reimagined Royal

July 4, 2017

King Arthur is a very popular legendary character in many films. They came in different forms like elaborate costume drama like "Knights of the Round Table" (1953), Disney animation like "The Sword in the Stone" (1963), a romantic musical like "Camelot" (1967) and even high farce like "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" (1975). 

In 2004, there was a film called "King Arthur" by Antoine Fuqua that presented Arthur (played by Clive Owen) as a Roman officer, supposedly a more accurate historical interpretation of Arthurian legends. Only this year, the latest "Transformers" movie by Michael Bay called "The Last Knight" also prominently featured King Arthur as one angle in its convoluted plot. In the same summer, director Guy Ritchie also released his newest, most fantastical re-imagining of King Arthur.

Briton king Uther Pendragon killed the sorcerer Mordred and saves Camelot. However, Uther's own brother Vortigern treacherously usurps his throne. Before he was killed, Uther was able to put his son Arthur on a boat and the baby boy survived the massacre on his family. He was brought up in a brothel among whores and he grew up a streetsmart urchin. 

When he was already a strapping young man, Arthur was somehow able to pull a magic sword out of a stone, signifying that he was the "born king" of Britain. Feeling threatened, Vortigern orders Arthur's arrest and execution. A mysterious woman calling herself the Mage calls on her magical powers to make sure Arthur achieves his destiny.

Guy Ritchie's young Arthur with his cohorts reminded me of the ruffians in Ritchie's previous films like "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" (1998) or "Snatch" (2000). Those scenes of the gang in the brothel went on and on with rapid-fire, smart-alecky dialogue which frankly just went over my head, just like they did in the two previous films mentioned. I got a sense of what was happening, but not exactly what they were saying.

The whole movie really reminded me of the period sets and visual effects used in the HBO TV series "Game of Thrones". All those castles, courtyards, cobblestone streets, even the brothel, as well as the forests and the lakes, all looked like they could have been locations of the acclaimed TV series. In one key fight scene, Vortigern's henchmen, the Blacklegs wore capes and masks when they ganged up on Arthur, and looked like they were the Sons of the Harpy when they ganged up on Danaerys in GOT. The presence of Aiden Gillen (who was Petyr Baelish or Littlefinger on GOT) added to the unavoidable comparison.

Charlie Hunnam would not really be the first actor I would think of to portray King Arthur. While he did relatively well as the wisecracking scoundrel Arthur in the beginning, he felt lacking in regal presence as the King Arthur himself. He did not possess the kingly charisma that could convincingly lead a revolution and reunite a kingdom, a quality that his co-stars Eric Bana and Jude Law had.

Veteran actors like Bana (as the noble Uther), Law (who played Vortigern with evil relish), Gillen (as Goosefat Bill), and Djimon Hounsou (as as the loyal Bedivere) all do well in their respective roles as expected. Caught David Beckham in there as the soldier who ordered "stupid" Arthur to pull the sword out of the stone. 

Among all this testosterone, there were some female parts of note. Astrid Berges-Frisbey had a rather feeble screen presence as the supposedly powerful Mage. Faring better was Jacqui Ainsley as the ethereal Lady of the Lake, with the beautiful watery visual effect enhancing her appearance. Annabelle Wallis was the bold beautiful spy, maid Maggie.

The critics have not been kind to this film so I watched it with low expectations. I thought it was not really as dismal as the initial reviews would have you believe. Interesting how Arthurian characters like Uther, Mordred, Tristan, Percival, etc. had different backstories going for them that what we know. This was just like how Guy Ritchie played with the Sherlock Holmes canon. Curious that Merlin did not show up. Guinevere and Lancelot were not even mentioned yet. Maybe they are planning for sequels? I'm game for that just to see where else Ritchie takes the legend.  6/10. 


  1. I would be interested in watching this movie, especially that I just returned from a Game of Thrones trip through Northern Ireland. I like castles and that kind of medieval atmosphere in movies.

  2. I`m not usually into these types of movies. There seems to be many elements that a viewer must know or be aware of, or they won`t fully understand the story. However, the plot makes me curious.

    ❀ Grace ❀

  3. I heard bad reviews too. It would be nice to relive the story of Arthur and the rest of the mythology.

  4. I have heard some not so good things about this film. But I love the story of arthur and this actor so I think I will still check it out.

  5. I skipped this film because of the poor online reviews. I was too caught up with work and had little time and patience for mediocre work :/

  6. I like period or historical inspired movies. But this doesn't sound very impressive. Pulling the sword out of the throne - where have I seen that scene already??!!!