Reviewed by Alicia Glass
Director: Guy Ritchie
Studio: Warner Bros.
MPAA Rating: PG 13
Review Rating: 7 out of 10
Spoilers hide among the six-packs!
Guy Ritchie’s utterly epic take on the whole legend of Arthur (and the damn sword, but we’ll get to that) is just rife with one major thing –trumpet call- destiny! Oh it was absolute destiny that all this happened to Arthur, every last bit of it, fated to bring him to the moment of redemption, the orphaned ‘true born’ to the throne of Uther Pendragon his royal self, brought back to his rightful place by pulling the sword from the stone! But first –
In the beginning, we’re treated to these amazing scenes involving mostly the whole of the Camelot knights crashing against the Mage-led army of armored oliphants and utterly savage bad guys. King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) himself comes out to lead the charge, it’s his duty after all, and bids his loyal man to hold his crown while he does. Hey, that means multiple things! And after some highly improbable moves, Uther confronts Mordred and with a shining Excalibur, takes his head. Then during peacetime there’s a bunch of discussion about Mages, some utter betrayal that involves a very naughty blood sacrifice, and next thing he knows, dear little Prince Arthur is an orphan on the streets.
From there we’re whisked off on a breathless rush of Arthur growing from a boy employed as a server in a brothel, all the way to a smart, capable young man with a giant heart, rock-hard abs and a gang of loyal friends. Yes, they’re all pickpockets and thieves, but of the Robin Hood and his merry men variety. Then suddenly that damned clarion call of destiny visits Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) in a nightmare and we’re off to the races with the current big-bads, the soldier and assassin knights of Black King Vortigern (Jude Law), known colloquially as Black Legs. Seriously though, that’s all Vortigern seems to wear, is eternal black. Which I personally dig, but it practically shrieks bad guy! to the audience.
That whole idea of the island where any man can try his luck at pulling the sword from the stone was interesting. Every man gets one try, only one and then gets branded with a mark that basically says he tried and failed. How long have the Black Legs been manning this silly operation? No-one expected anyone to ever actually do it. Damn it, destiny, you’re just being a bitch now.
By the time he’s about to be executed live in front of Vortigern’s men and grumbling subjects, Arthur is still staring like he can’t quite understand how the hell we got here. In the midst of it all is a Lady Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) with a plan, and hey Arthur’s crew have a plan to get him out too, so with all that combined plus that bloody persistent call of destiny, onward we go!
As with any reluctant hero epic, Arthur wants nothing to do with any of this nonsense. He doesn’t want to fight (so he claims, but seriously, no-one believes that for a second), he sure doesn’t want to be the true-born King, and trying to wield Excalibur in any meaningful way is very hard on him. But the drums of destiny are screaming at him now, both when he’s awake and being taken to the stronghold of the last of his fathers Knights, and when he’s asleep and confronting the killer of Uther Pendragon, what he thinks is an actual demon. Forces of good and evil are gathering together from without and within, whether Arthur likes it or not, and a final bloody confrontation will determine the fate of Camelot!
Except that it kind of doesn’t. I mean, yes, all this destiny nonsense brings Arthur full circle to kill Vortigern, but the manner in which the movie shows this epic fight is … odd? If they can have Charlie Hunnam fighting a Witcher video game escapee, they could have just as easily CGI’d the hell out of a fight betwixt him and Jude Law and made those scenes just as epic and over-the-top. Given the massive Mage fight from Uther Pendragon at the beginning of the film, sure Arthur needs his own monster to fight, but like that? Just didn’t much care for that part.
Of course, that damnable fate won’t be denied, so the film ends with a reluctant but dutiful King Arthur constructing an oddly-shaped table in the great hall and joshing with his multi-colored Knights. Which was a good way to end it, almost Guy Ritchie saying, “Whew! Okay we’re done, cool off, great run today team!” The performances were all favorable, though I had trouble with the strange accent of the Lady Mage who came in Merlin’s stead. The special effects and eternal CGI are big and masterful and epic, but also sometimes cheesy as hell in the earnestness to imply destiny once again. And the soundtrack is unexpectedly good.
Succumb to the destiny of King Arthur Legend of the Sword on DVD and Bluray now!