King Arthur Legend Of The Sword - This Once And Future Bore Of A Movie Does Not Rock
Dir: Guy Ritchie
Starring Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Eric Banna, Aidan Gillen, Freddie Fox, Poppy Delevingne, David Beckham
Say what you will about Guy Ritchie as a filmmaker, the one thing that is undeniable is that the man does have a signature style. You know instantly when you’re watching a Ritchie movie, both visually and narratively. And there aren’t too many directors you can say that about in these days of the all-conquering homogenous blockbuster.
The trouble arises when Ritchie attempts to mesh his distinct sensibilities with the wrong material. So for every Lock, Stock and two smoking Sherlock Holmeses, there is a Revolver. Or even (whisper it) a Swept Away.
Sadly, King Arthur falls into this latter category, with the filmmaker trying to cover up the sheer inadequacy of this botched, confused script with all the stylistic bells and whistles he can muster. Thus we kick off with Camelot being laid to waste courtesy of some ginormous CGI elephants, and Arthur being transformed into Moses as he is sent down river to avoid death by his evil power hungry uncle Vortigern – a splendid Jude Law who plays the entire movie as a spoilt petulant child and genuinely seems to be the only one enjoying himself here, audience included.
Finding himself in a brothel, the once and future Arthur grows into Charlie Hunnam, who it transpires is a now a bit of a Cockney geezer, surrounded by his mates, for dodgy dealings and bants-a-plenty. In fact this is so Only Fools and Horses at times that David Beckham’s brief but fairly dreadful appearance is playing a character named Trigger.
Which brings u to the Hunnam problem. Anyone who’s ever watched Sons Of Anarchy knows how good Charlie can be. But anyone who sees this (and the actor’s other major role this year in The Lost City Of Z) will be stunned to see just how incredibly dull and bland he is here, delivering every line with a kind of earnestness that manages to be completely shallow and unconvincing when he’s clearly striving for the opposite. Yes, he can wield a sword just like a ringing a bell, but every time he speaks you just can’t help but think how weird and “off” his diction and intonation are.
Which brings us back to the Ritchie style over substance issue. Ritchie, as co-writer, undoubtedly thinks his own dialogue is fast paced and sharp witted. It isn’t. There’s just lots of it. One of his tricks is to have some of characters discuss what will happen in another scene as that scene unfolds intercut into the current almost-narration. It’s a trope that might work once or twice (indeed it’s an effective editing trick to speed the action along) but Ritchie seems to employ it throughout nearly his entire movie here, right up to the rather over wrought and uninvolving climax, almost as if he re-edited the whole film at the last minute and wasn’t sure how to make it move from A to B to C.
It’s certainly a big movie, and whilst the money (a reported $175 million, most of which it looks set to lose) is on the screen, it’s a ugly looking mess. There’s something to be said for verisimilitude and whilst this Londinium is suitably grubby, the whole palette of the film is dark and dirty. And non of it is aided and abetted by the usually reliable Daniel Pemberton’s relentlessly jarring and simply annoying score.
More than anything though, Ritchie’s take on the Arthurian legend – via some Mockney reinvention – commits the cardinal sin of simply being remarkably dull. Most of a round table shows up at the end and the geezers get knighted, but by then you really are past caring.
Remember when this was first announced as the first of a Marvel-aping new cinematic universe with five or six more movies to follow? Not really happening.
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