King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Style Overwhelming Substance

The story of King Arthur has been covered in many films over the years and this time it’s Guy Ritchie’s turn. Why not at this point?

Synopsis: Robbed of his royal lineage as a child when his uncle usurped the throne, Arthur returns to the kingdom once ruled by his father and draws the legendary sword Excalibur from the stone. He must then learn to harness the sword’s power in order to lead a rebellion against the tyrannical Vortigern and reclaim his birthright. (Rovi)

Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, and Djimon Hounsou

Writers: Joby Harold, Guy Ritchie, and Lionel Wigram

Director: Guy Ritchie

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 126mins

Trailer: 

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This definitely wasn’t your traditional King Arthur story. While attempting to bring new life into the story was worth applauding, this new attempt didn’t quite work on so many levels. This begins and ends with director Guy Ritchie. Over the years, he has developed a particular style in his many films, using a lot of quick cuts (I lost count halfway through), flashy camerawork, and snappy dialogue among others. It has worked well in more modern films like his Sherlock Holmes films for example but it just didn’t fit this story.

In terms of origin stories, there was nothing particularly new here, featuring a reluctant hero Arthur (Hunnam) being pulled out of relative obscurity to become the face of the uprising against the king and Arthur’s uncle, the evil Vortigern (Law). Everyone kind of has a vague idea of his origin story but this film, approaching it in a different way by rushing through it, like literally rushing through it (you’ll know when you watch it) with not much else happening from that point on.

The film, for the most part, was a pretty boring watch as it consisted mostly of the characters constantly moving (while still feeling slow), followed by a steady stream of exposition all while Arthur was finding himself. This was a slightly overlong film, clocking in at over 2 hours, which was emphasized by Arthur’s slow progression and his reluctance became a hindrance to the pacing. The problem was that Arthur’s story had potential to be compelling but the film was more interested in showmanship than approaching it with any depth.

Arthur was barely compelling to watch but none of the other characters, even Vortigern, were even remotely interesting as they were all underdeveloped. The side characters all had the odd distinction of adding nothing to the film while also bogging down the film with their presence. Because of the Guy Ritchie style, the film was full of snappy dialogue and tried to offer some lighter, comedic moments which came off as forced and again, didn’t fit within the story.

As mentioned, the pacing of the film was all over the place, being a slow burn until the last 30-45 minutes (thus going against how film like this should be) when it approached its climax. Out of the whole 2+ hours of next to nothing, the only things that stood out were the film’s three battle sequences. The first one at the beginning was okay, however, the last two exposed the film’s overreliance on visual effects thanks to the CGI which made these sequences so unbelievable that they weren’t even watchable.

Despite everything else wrong with the film, the acting was not one of them. Sure it wasn’t the greatest but that was more because of the script that didn’t know what it wanted to be and the direction than anything else. The acting was uninspiring but Hunnam still managed to be somewhat compelling to watch as Arthur but there wasn’t really much to him to begin with. Law seemed to phone it in, giving a lifeless performance as Vortigern. Everyone else was okay but it was hard to care about any of the characters.

Overall, this was a disappointing, forgettable mess of a film thanks to aimless direction and its overreliance on style and showmanship rather than telling a complete story. Some may be amazed by the spectacle, but it gets old fast, while others will be bored. Hunnam was okay but it wasn’t enough to save this.

Score: 5/10

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6 thoughts on “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword – Style Overwhelming Substance

  1. The critical reaction to this has to be one of the least surprising of the year so far. Not seen it myself yet, but you just knew didn’t you that it was going to be all over the place. That said, I’ll keep an open mind!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Good review. I agree with you…Legend of the Sword was pretty forgettable. Despite it being visual and having the necessary star power, the movie was flat, did not care for the characters, and Ritchie’s style was overused in certain areas.

    Liked by 1 person

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