King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) Review
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is directed by Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes, The Man From U.N.C.LE.) and stars Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim), Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes, Spy) and Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator, Blood Diamond). "Robbed of his birthright, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy - whether he likes it or not". Will King Arthur live up to its legendary title or will this adaptation slay the original tale?
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a film I didn't really have high expectations for - I think I only saw one trailer that made me mildly interested but then as the toxic reviews came in, my expectations were really set to rock bottom. I actually think that helped the film out a little as despite King Arthur being a bad film, I couldn't find any qualities that make it the worst film of all time, never mind of 2017. I have actually also heard strong word of mouth about this film so this may be a film that audiences can get behind but I didn't like it. What worries me more is that Guy Ritchie, the director, is also set to direct the live action Aladdin - if I were Disney, I would be trying to dissolve that contract right now.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a very androcentric film that portrays a very male-dominated world. The hard truth is, this is likely what the past was like so I can't really blame the film for its treatment of its female characters but they were that mistreated, it's important to talk about it. There are no female characters in a lead role other than The Mage (more on her soon). All of the other women are simply there as accessories of their male counterparts and what is even worse is that the female characters are sacrificed and murdered to help a male character gain power. If the film had to do this, I'm sure it didn't, it could have at least fleshed out those female characters so we at least cared for them - this is the epitome of objectification. I found this very hard to watch as I love an empowered and strong female character and females were definitely inferior in this film. What makes this worse is that the film's answer to a strong, female character is The Mage. Yes, she helps Arthur a lot and helps him to control his power. However, do we actually get any character development? No. Is The Mage thanked or credited by Arthur for helping him? No. Guy Ritchie shows a complete disregard to females with this film - he has an old fashioned view and puts a quarter of the effort into them in comparison to the males. What I also found irritating about the film was the 'laddish' banter that Arthur and his gang had between them - they spoke like cockney gangsters. This is definitely not how I imagined this tale and the characters.
Guy Ritchie tries to put his stamp on the film by making this a highly stylised adaption of the King Arthur story. On paper, that should work and to begin with, it does. However, I also think Ritchie doesn't understand the concept of quality over quantity - the editing style of King Arthur basically ends up being one long montage. It became way to repetitive and I honestly got tired of the editing style - too much Ritchie, too much! This is how most scenes would play out - Arthur would start talking about something that had happened then the film would jump cut to show us what he is talking about whilst also cutting back to Arthur recalling the event. This would have probably worked well maybe once or twice but not for every, major event of the film! This editing style also meant that most action sequences were condensed and sacrificed - there should have been a cool scene that involved loads of terrifying creatures in a cave but did we get to actually see that sequence? No, we just got a mashup of it. While on the topic of the film's visuals, it's probably worth mentioning the visual effects. King Arthur has had $175 million spent on it - that's more than the CGI spectacles 'Beauty and the Beast', 'Passengers' and 'Gravity' and its on par with 'The Jungle Book'. WHERE THE F*CK DID THEY SPEND THEIR MONEY? They have nothing to show for it and the CGI creatures we do get are barely in the film and don't look that great.
I think the majority of people know the King Arthur story so this film couldn't really go wrong retelling it. However, the story I actually cared and knew about was told within the first 40 minutes - the rest is dragged out and overlong. That's another thing - King Arthur has serious pacing issues - the film begins monotonously fast-paced and then it suddenly loses all momentum and goes really slow then it jumps back to fast and then back to slow - there is no build up. Honestly, I think if it wasn't for the energetic soundtrack, King Arthur would have been an incredibly dull film. The score by Daniel Pemberton does a great job of manipulating your feelings to think what is going on on-screen is really exciting and thrilling. Back to the story - Disney have proven time and time again that it is more than possible to adapt a fairytale (basically what this is) successfully but no other studio seems to be able to succeed. One thing I liked about the story is in the final battle when Arthur answers Vortigern's question about how he has got so much drive - the answer is that Vortigern gave Arthur the drive because he put him in the brothel, he made him an orphan so he essentially made Arthur the person who he is today. I thought this was one of the few clever parts of the story and script. I also found the film to have a similar narrative to last year's Warcraft - Warcraft managed to be more magical and well, King Arthur makes Warcraft look Oscar worthy.
I can't even say that the performances are a saving grace for the film because they are all pretty abysmal. Charlie Hunnam is Tom Hardy lite and I honestly think he did a pretty terrible job - he had the most inconsistent accent I have ever heard in film - was he New York? Gangster? Cockney? Scottish? Welsh? English? Who knows. Hunnam also wasn't very charismatic. I would compliment Hunnam though by saying that he is likely going to follow Jason Statham's footsteps - another poor actor but has made a career in a certain genre where he works. Jude Law started off pretty awful - he had a horrible mellow and soft tone to his voice which just wasn't working for me. However, I warmed to him by the end of the film. Our solo lead female is played by Astrid Bergès-Frisbey and I wish I could say she did a good job but I found her performance forced and wooden. None of the other performances are noteworthy. What about David Beckham's cameo? It's literally a cameo and its not great, Beckham certainly won't be getting future work in films based on this.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a pretty bad film. With a budget of $175 million, it makes you think where that money has gone because it certainly hasn't paid off. The performances from Hunnam, Law and Frisbey are all pretty weak. The film has some entertaining moments which is usually due to Pemberton's excellent score that cleverly manipulates your emotions into thinking you're having a good time. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is pretty sexist, dull and overlong. There never really is an action scene thanks to Ritchie's choppy style. King Arthur...more like King BARFthur.