King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

May 13, 2017

Dark and gloomy relieved by occasional humor. Arthur would not approve.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Image courtesy of IMDb.

Grade: C

Director: Guy Ritchie (Snatch)

Screenplay: Ritchie, Joby Harold (Awake), Lionel Wigram (Sherlock Holmes)

Cast: Charlie Hunnam (The Lost City of Z), Jude Law (Dom Hemingway)

Rating: PG-13

Runtime: 2 hr 6 min

by John DeSando

“I'm not getting drawn into this mess!” Arthur (Charlie Hunnam)

Along with Arthur, we are drawn into the hot mess of a film, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Being a Guy-Ritchie-directed adventure, stylized fighting abounds with only an occasional instance of important dialogue. Although there are moments of humor, mostly it’s a dreary reimagining of the Arthurian legend, pre-Richard Burton glamour.

Ritchie uses some of the techniques he employed in Sherlock Holmes: montage, expository montage, and anachronistic quips (Arthur calling a female “honey tits”), not that the last is a negative, just historically distracting. The opening battle scene is blue-grey palette, the castle is grey, and the film is often awash in low-key, grey lighting. Most of all, character development is lost in honor of explosions and more explosions, fighting and more fighting, phallic and more phallic (sword, tower, etc.).

The story is as much of Excalibur, Arthur’s magical sword, as it is about Arthur’s defeat of his uber-evil uncle, Vortigern (Jude Law, always a good bad boy). A salutary twist but a cliché is Arthur’s unwillingness to take the crown (remember Joseph Campbell’s heroes) and his temporary paralysis of the mind about wielding the sword. This hesitancy done well is what we need to see more of and his relationship with The Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), a young woman of magic and no little charm.

I report back to you nothing of dramatic import, except that this is nothing like the Broadway production, nor does Ritchie have Burton singing about Camelot as only the frequently cheesy director might do. 

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at