Yes, yes, I know. Officially, this movie doesn’t come out until May 12, 2017, but I have connections. Well, I had an internet connection and signed my wife and I up for an advanced showing of this movie. It had been a while since she and I had gone to see a movie, so my son volunteered to watch our daughter and we had a date night.
Anyway, let’s talk about King Arthur: Legend of the Sword starring Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law, and I’ll try to make this spoiler free.
First, if you go and see this movie, I recommend you turn your brain off, at least so far as the Arthurian legend is concerned. This movie makes no pretenses about sticking with the legend and instead uses the themes for the Arthurian mythos to craft a fairly new version of this classic tale.
The trailers indicate that Arthur is more of a street rat growing up, running through the streets of Londinium (London) before pulling the sword from the stone. Of course, there’s more to the story than that.
Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, was the wielder of Excaliber, which he used to defeat the mage sorcerer Mordred. He’s soon betrayed by his brother, Vortigern who seeks to take the crown for himself.
A young Arthur is set adrift in a boat (hints of Moses, here) and is found in Londinium by a group of prostitutes who happen to be down at the river washing. They take him under their care.
The film then goes into a slightly jarring montage that jumps through decades of young Arthur’s life growing up in a brothel, including him witnessing the girls being abused, then him being hit by the abuses. This spurs him to learn to fight, which he does in a school nearby run by an Asian man named George (referred to as “Kung Fu George” at one point), and squirreling away coins.
As he grows up, Arthur is quite contented with his life running what looked like a protection racket along with his two good friends, Backlack and Wetstick.
All that gets thrown away when water drains away from near the dock Arthur was set adrift from, revealing Excaliber stuck in a stone.
Vortigern, now an oppressive tyrant who demands homage from his subjects with something that looks an awful lot like a Nazi salute, seeks ever male the right age to try and pull the sword, intending to kill the rightful king so there could be no challenge to his rule…and so he could then wield Excaliber as the last of the Pendragon line.
Beyond the names, Arthur’s growing up not knowing he’s king, and him drawing the mighty Excaliber from the stone, there’s not a lot of similarities to what you may know about Arthur. As someone who absolutely loves the Arthurian legends and the historical time period, I have to say this isn’t really a bad thing.
For a long time, storytellers have tried to fit the legend people knew into their own stories with varying degrees of success. By skipping that entirely, director and co-screenwriter Guy Ritchie takes the pressure off and is allowed to simply tell a badass story in the Arthurian vein without worrying about whether he’s sticking with Geoffery of Monmouth’s version or Mallory’s account of the story.
Historical accuracy is out the window on every level, mind you, but I’m used to that from Hollywood. After all, Arthur wouldn’t have been chatting with Vikings as they’re only a few hundred years apart, but, again, Hollywood. Then again, there are black dudes and Asians running around England like they were born there, so…who cares? Plus, there’s a lot of magic. Kind of hard to make a historically accurate movie with magic, right?
Frankly, my wife and I had a blast with this one. It’s a whole lot of fun. There are some interesting action sequences, which at least seem partially CGIed. However, it was good enough that I had difficulty determining if it was or wasn’t, so take that as either an indictment of me or as praise of the movie. Your call.
The first half of the movie felt a little disjointed as Ritchie was trying to cram as much as possible with Arthur’s childhood, plus a non-linear bit when Arthur travels to a place called The Deadlands to learn how to get control of Excaliber.
However, the visuals even then are entertaining enough that I had no problem enjoying even those, actually wishing the film had been longer so more of that journey could have been included.
After that, it settles down a bit and takes more of that Ritchie flare that I’ve come to enjoy so much.
The wife and I have already declared that the DVD of this will be in our collection and we intent to watch it on OnDemand as soon as that is possible…and I won’t rule out taking my son to watch it when it does officially come out.
It’s a fun, action-packed movie that doesn’t require you to think, parse things together, and doesn’t try to make some grand statement about the nature of man. Instead, it tries to entertain you for a couple of hours, and I really believe it succeeded.