King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Opening on a marching band of tall mammoths fortified with pyramids housing wizards casting spells-- this isn’t the King Arthur you’re accustomed too. Guy Ritchie's Arthur is more fantasy than you’re probably expecting and this tale will move fast, very fast, in Ritchie's signature style.
The first ten to fifteen minutes is a prologue of how Arthur ends up an orphan in the streets of Londinium. HIs father, the king (Eric Bana) is betrayed by his own men under the leadership of his own brother, Vortigern. Many years later Arthur is doing well enough for himself as the leader of an underground crime-ring, but when everyone starts getting rounded up to try their turn at pulling a certain sword from a stone, Arthur's secret lineage is about to be discovered.
What makes this take on King Arthur so different is the choice not to lean too heavily on grounded medieval era fantasy, instead Ritchie chooses to embrace a more Tolkien inspired fantasy world. Its characters are bigger, it’s full of creatures big and small and the universe in a whole, even by the end of the film, feels like it has much more left to be explored.
Ritchie also applies his signature style here; the dialogue is quick, and so is the action. The melding of Ritchie's style of movie making in this fantasy world works like an odd couple. And it works a lot better than his pairing in the two Sherlock movies he produced, which suffered from trying to be too cool. Still, if you’re not a fan of past Ritchie films and his style, I don’t see you enjoying this either.
Charlie Hanham is the main reason Arthur works so well. He has this Conor McGregor inspired take on an Arthur who grew up on the streets. A kid who grew up being bullied and picked on and pushed himself to overthrow them. He’s funny and charming but carries this grimy street-cred the whole film.
Guy Ritchie apparently had a nearly 4 hour cut of the film, which shows. Many scenes are rushed through like it’s a music video and although this helps the film never stop moving, and certainly never becoming boring, it takes away from moments that needed to have lingered on longer. Characters dramatic moments are moved over far too quickly to get any emotional response from the audience. A scene where Arthur goes to train on an island full of monsters could have been the plot of an entire movie, but it’s simply told through this music video style brushing over any trauma and weight that journey may have carried for Arthur.
Daniel Pemberton has composed a very endorphin inducing, and a gritty score that is one of my favourites of the year. It’s everything you wouldn’t expect a King Arthur score to sound like, and that is why it works so perfectly with Ritchie's film. If you’re going to have an unconventional Arthur, why not do an unconventional score that rides on a track of a man panting heavily-- why not.
Guy Ritchie's King Arthur origin story won’t be for everyone, but this unconventional tale of Arthur’s rise to the stone and legend of the sword, Excalibur: it’s really a lot of fun.