King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is the new adaptation of the classic British legend surrounding the mythical King Arthur, and his pulling the sword Excalibur from the stone it was ensconced in. Apart from that it doesn’t have too much in common with the classic story that most people would know, with director Guy Ritchie instead forging his own fantasy epic.
In many ways Ritchie’s script with Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram actually hits a lot of the generic clichés of fantasy films, particularly surrounding Jude Law’s villain, Vortigern. His motivations for being evil in the film essentially boil down to a list for power and nothing more, which is a shame, as you’re never going to get a great villain with such a basic and uninteresting drive. This is particularly disappointing when there could have been an interesting story surround the slaughter of the Kingdom’s mages, but alas this is never expanded upon. That said whilst the story itself is nothing new, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword actually manages to stand above the majority of generic fantasy films, purely because of how out there the film is.
And it is because of how out there the fantasy elements are, that King Arthur manages to feel anything but generic. Some of the imagery is incredibly striking and exceptionally beautiful. The fantasy creatures, such as the giant Elephants or animals in the Blacklands bring a lot of the awesome fantastical moments. When this is coupled with Guy Ritchie’s distinctive directorial style King Arthur becomes an incredible weird and entertaining film. It is a little too overloaded with Ritchie’s directorial flair at times. Long sequences of slow motion do become a little tiresome at times, but for the most part it is something different to the generic fantasy fair.
Most importantly King Arthur knows that it is a slightly ridiculous film. A lot of the humour in the film really lands. Charlie Hunnam as Arthur brings a good deal of charisma and charm to the character of Arthur and makes Ritchie’s more modern take on medieval fantasy dialogue work. There are plenty of small moments in the film that just let you know how Ritchie was having fun with the film. David Beckham’s incredibly in your face cameo and a 30 second scene of the major characters just standing around panting are just some examples of moments that aren’t inherently funny, but because of how much they stand out from the film around it just make you laugh.
Finally, one of the consistently great aspects of King Arthur is the soundtrack from composer Daniel Pemberton. Pemberton, who previously worked with Ritchie on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., succeeded in capturing a very traditional English folk feeling with his score, whilst injecting some very modern aspects into it. In that respect Pemberton managed to create a score that perfectly mirrors the film itself, whilst also being great to listen to.
Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur isn’t a perfect movie, and by no means a classic retelling of the legend, but it is a weird, dark, funny, charming, and most importantly highly entertaining fantasy film. It is full of Ritchie’s signature style, and if you can get on board with that in a medieval fantasy setting, then you’ll probably have a good time with King Arthur.