A Very Black Knight
♦Tripwire’s editor-in-chief JOEL MEADOWS was tasked with the job of reviewing Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of The Sword…
King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword
Director: Guy Ritchie
Stars: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Astrid Berges-Frisbey
The story of King Arthur is one that has fascinated writers and filmmakers for decades. Every ten years or so, some director decides that it’s time to dust off the Arthurian legends for another punt. Last time it was 2004’s King Arthur with Clive Owen and Stephen Dillane. King Arthur: Legend of The Sword is directed by Guy Ritchie, best known as the former Mr Madonna or the director responsible for those Lawndahn crime films that were popular fifteen years ago or so like Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.
He has made films in the past which have been entertaining. Snatch was a decent British gangster film, the two Sherlock Holmes films with Robert Downey Jr weren’t bad and even The Man From U.N.C.L.E wasn’t totally devoid of charm. With King Arthur: The Legend of The Sword however, he has reached a new nadir in filmmaking. His king Arthur (Hunnam) is a cockney tearaway, the orphan of Uther who is forced to live in a brothel after his father and mother are killed at the beginning of the film. Uther is played by Eric Bana, who looks like he is considering firing his agent in the few scenes he is in. The villain of the piece is Uther’s brother, Vortigern, Jude Law, who takes over the running of the kingdom after Uther is bumped off. Most of the Arthurian legend is ditched by Ritchie except for the idea that Arthur is the son of the true king, who will one day come to adulthood and claim the kingdom with the sword Excalibur.
Arthur lives in Londinium with his coterie of wisecracking East End wide boys, Chinese martial arts expert George (Tom Wu) and Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou). He falls foul of Vortigern when he manages to pull the sword from the stone in a scene that has an excruciatingly awful cameo from David Beckham as one of Vortigern’s bully boys, Trigger. So armed with the sword, Arfur and his gang of gormless morons set about trying to defeat his uncle and restore the kingdom to the rightful heir.
It is hard to know where to start when identifying the problems of King Arthur: Legend of The Sword. The script is shockingly bad with the dialogue throughout sounding like rejected lines from an episode of EastEnders. The acting is equally terrible too with pretty much every member of the cast embarrassing themselves with their lack of ability. They aren’t helped obviously by such an atrocious script.
The plot is fairly idiotic too. Merlin has been replaced by a female mage, the ridiculously named Astrid Berges-Frisbey, known rather imaginatively as The Mage. The story of Arthur, Merlin and co has survived for centuries because there is a timeless quality to it. You can play with it a little bit but once you start making changes for totally arbitrary reasons, then it all falls to pieces.
The direction is fairly wretched too. It opens with one of the most badly orchestrated battles I have seen in quite some time, filled with annoying jump cuts and overly swift editing so it is impossible to tell what is really going on.
The look of the film is all over the place too. Some of the art direction isn’t bad with a few nice ideas on the screen for Londoninium and Vortigern’s castle but you do despair having to watch Hunnam’s Arfur wander round in a white bomber jacket that looks like he’s just popped down to Camden market in his lunch break. This laddish bollocks infects the whole film with Arthur and his knights coming across like a few lads out on the lash in Shoreditch rather than mythical figures.
King Arthur cost a reported $175m and it’s just a shame that none of that was spent on a decent script. It has already tanked at the US box office and sometimes the filmgoing public get things right. This is one of those occasions. One star for the odd moment of inspiration visually.
King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword is out now in UK and US cinemas