Robbed of his birthright, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the mythical sword Excalibur from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy, whether he likes it or not, and save England from oblivion at the hands of his uncle Vortigern (Jude Law).
It may be a signature of Guy Ritchie’s directorial style, but Lord help me the fifth or sixth time a character said exactly what they were going to do simultaneously as said action occurred onscreen, I wanted to scream. Thankfully for those in attendance of our screening, my lovely wife was there to shush me.
Here’s the thing. Everyone has their jam – that select few of properties (film or television) that is their rock. The Arthurian myths are my jam. John Boorman’s “Excalibur” is one of my absolute favorite films. I’m an easy lay when it comes to the exploits of one Arthur Pendragon and am eternally open to a new filmmaker bringing their own interpretation to the centuries-old tale.
So when I tell you “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” is bad, please take it to heart. It’s dreadful.
They’ve been upfront that this is not “your father’s King Arthur,” and, to its credit, it isn’t “Bro Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Yo” (a title coined by pals upon the initial trailer’s release last July at Comic-Con) either.
We’re instead stuck with a jumbled mess where outlandish imagery like Vortigern turning into the spitting image of “Mortal Kombat” baddie Shao Kahn not once but twice or talking to a sea-witch that is Ursula from “The Little Mermaid” in all but name still elicits boredom instead of “What the…?!”
Ritchie and his Ritchie-isms are his own worst enemy here, especially with those damn montages.
Imagine in “The Empire Strikes Back” when Yoda tells Luke Skywalker what is out there in the mysterious parts of Dagobah, it cuts back and forth to his dueling with Darth Vader at the same time while saying, “Your weapons, you will not need them!” That happens here when Arthur is told he has to go to the Dark Lands to confront his fears by Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and The Mage (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey).
To his credit, Hunnam is alright in the title role, an upgrade from his genuinely-terrible turn in “Pacific Rim,” and Law is perfectly fine as the baddie. Everyone else cast-wise is just… there. Arthur’s gang of brothel buddies-turned-knights are interchangeable, Hounsou sleepwalks through his umpteenth turn in the mentor-role and the less said about Bergès-Frisbey, the better.
No matter its box-office performance this weekend (all signs point to flop with a capital F), this won’t be the last we hear from King Arthur (thanks to his status in the public domain) – just not this King Arthur. Thank God.