I don’t want to waste any more time on this movie than I have to, so I’ll make this quick: “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” is forgettable and not worth a trip to the theater.
Here, pre-king Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is a mid-level criminal who runs a brothel and rubs elbows with a kooky cast of street-wise criminals with names like Wet Stick (Kingsley Ben-Adir) and Back Lack (Neil Maskell). When he and his cronies try to take down the villain, Vortigern (Jude Law), they do it with elaborate plans that could easily be in a heist film. Sound familiar? It’s Arthur meets a Guy Ritchie crime film. Makes sense since he is the director. Call it “Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Excaliburs”?
Admittedly the above sounds interesting, and the film does start promisingly. Well, no, it starts with typical exposition that crams character intros, a battle sequence, and major betrayals in an impossibly short amount of time. But after that, we’re treated to an energetic montage that succinctly and quickly takes us through Arthur’s childhood as a scared orphan boy to a hardened, street-smart adult. It’s neat to see such a modern montage in a sword and sorcery movie, and it promises a fast-moving tale that avoids the staid stodginess that epics can run into.
But that trip through Arthur’s childhood loses its luster when you come upon fifty more montages before the credits roll. Everything, and I mean everything, is either told in flashback or flash-forward. Sequence after sequence has characters sitting around either recalling or predicting events that are then visually intercut into their conversations.
Initially, I thought that Ritchie was trying to get past a bunch of exposition and on to the good stuff. The “good stuff,” though, never materialized. And as the movie jump cut to yet another stylized montage, I finally realized he wasn’t working toward anything. The constant exposition was the movie. It’s all intricately edited to be sure, and while it is kind of fun at first, it gets old quickly.
I guess credit should be given to Ritchie for trying something a little different with his Arthurian legend, but then again it should be rescinded for not realizing that his “different” was just a glossy sheen on a dull story.
That’s the amazing thing; the Arthurian Legend isn’t boring, but Ritchie and his writing team (Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram) sure make the most boring version of it. Attention is given to the surface but not to the story or the characters; the foundations of a film are treated as an afterthought. So we’re stuck with a hero’s journey where said hero refuses for nearly two hours to take up the mantle and fight, populated by uninteresting characters that don’t resonate. Near the end, a character is knighted and I heard his name for the first time: Percival. That’s the knight who finds The Holy Grail in the legends, and here he makes so little of an impression I just called him Brown Beardy Guy up to that point.
And frankly, that crime-movie-cool that’s supposed to be so hip is just labored. The humor is, at best, on par with my “Two Smoking Excaliburs” joke. Yeah, it’s that bad. When Arthur finally builds the round table, one of his newly minted knights walks in and asks, “What is that? A carousel? A wheel of cheese?” Ugh. Just ugh!
“King Arthur” is a waste of time. It’s nothing for two hours that ends with what looks like a video game cutscene, all whooshing camera moves and little else. Though I guess I should be grateful that the finale wasn’t just the knights sitting at the round table gregariously recounting the final battle as bits of it are cut into their colloquy.
Once again, as I watched the movie I was accosted by an annoying rear-seater (do they follow me, somehow?) who kept “whispering” throughout the movie. I had two options, tell her to shut up or move. The movie engendered so little caring, though, that I settled for a third option: Stay where I was. Honestly, the movie wasn’t even worth the minor trouble of moving to another seat.