King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword: Film Review
Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Eric Bana, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Neil Maskell
Director: Guy Ritchie
Playing like some bastard version of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Towers, and already a massive flop at the US Box Office, Guy Ritchie's take on King Arthur isn't quite as bad as you've been led to believe.
It's not perfect, either, but the visceral energy and sheer chutzpah that Ritchie imbues part of this fantastical tale with a visual thrill that's hard to shake.
It doesn't start off well, with a CGI heavy Return of the King /Two Towers / Warcraft style battle atop the ramparts that sees possessed pachyderms throwing rocks and taking on hordes of bad guys at the behest of a Mage blighting the land.
But the story concentrates on Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam aka Arthur, who witnesses his father's death before being cast off in a boat for his own safety.
Growing up on the back-alleys and streets of Londinium and denying his royal heritage, Arthur's forced to face his destiny when he manages to pull the sword Excalibur from the stone.
It's this that puts him on a collision course with his uncle, the ruthless leader King Vortigen (Jude Law), who's determined to deny Arthur his birth-right.
There's a kernel of a good gritty take on the Arthurian legend here, but it's buried deeply under the relatively rote and muddied CGI that blights large parts of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
In particular, Ritchie's geezer take on proceedings and quick cut montage adds a level of irreverence that is welcome in among the familiar trappings of conventional story-telling.
Ritchie used similar devices in his take on Sherlock Holmes and here, the speed and energy pays off with an unconventional way of doing a conventional story.
However, it's these stylish touches which add greatly to King Arthur and almost manage to distract from the occasionally flat delivery of some clunking dialogue (chiefly and unfortunately from former model Berges-Frisbey) and some rather exposition-heavy scenes.
The film's over-reliance on slow-mo also hurts proceedings as well, with it becoming a stylistic bridge too far and a visual trick that needs dialling down to achieve greater effect.
There's also a distinct feeling that the duality of destiny for the protagonists and their journeys on them would have made for a better film, with Arthur doing all he can to deny it, and Vortigen falling further into darkness as he desperately scrabbles to embrace it.
Ultimately, though it's the jumbling of all the ingredients that make King Arthur a disappointment of a film, with supernatural elements becoming the norm over the characters. When the film moves away from those (aside from the brilliant creation of a slithering octopus-like creature that lurks in Vortigen's catacombs), the human elements aren't strong enough to spring to life from the page.
It's a shame as Maskell's innate likeability and Hunnam's oafish-ruffian-geezer energy that make parts of King Arthur bearable.
It's just unfortunate that the weak script and a tighter edit weren't deployed to help save this from feeling like a derivative and sub-par fantasy epic that could ambles on its way and could have been so much more.