In the same way Robin Hood, Tarzan and Kong are stories that will not leave us, so too the legend of King Arthur and his knights have had various cinematic iterations down the years. This time we are treated to Guy Ritchie's vision of this mythical world seeped in wizardry, wideboys and CGI.
When Arthur is a young boy his father is murdered, Vortigern (Jude Law), Arthur’s uncle, seizes the crown. Robbed of his birthright and with no idea who he truly is, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, his life is turned upside down and he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy…whether he wants to or not.
Over time I've enjoyed some of Guy Ritchie's work, Lock Stock and Snatch being the obvious standouts, with his version of Sherlock Holmes being fairly entertaining fare too. King Arthur is much more within the Sherlock range than Lock Stock and in ways that may be problem. I'm not convinced that Guy Ritchie and the 12A certificate match up.
Ritchie works best in the grimy underbelly of London where the cockney chancers we meet are threatening and characters who the viewer genuinely fears. Arthur and his friends are certainly cheeky chappies (Neil Maskell being the standout of the bunch and the best thing in the film) but they are not the thugs we are meant to believe them to be. The grit and the dirt of this rough upcoming never feels grimy enough to be believable. Jude Law attempts to bring some flare as Arthur's evil uncle but on several occasions looks terribly bored and at one point forgoes all period type dress for an outfit I would imagine him wearing in day to day life!I know it is mythology but there needs to be a degree of believable content in order to maintain interest.
The standard Ritchie affects are applied, the sped up story telling, with cheeky cockney interruptions applied to conversations, slow mo fights and battle sequences and these traits did raise a nostalgic smile from me. The sad thing is though they simply work better in older Ritchie films and perhaps that is because these habits have had their time.
Charlie Hunnam is perfectly decent as Arthur but does not really do enough to fully gain the audience's affection in his journey. Only when he and his gang turn a little towards Robin Hood like tendencies did I start to warm to the future king but this was sadly all too fleeting.
Woefully underserved by the film is Astrid Bergès-Frisbey who, in her role as The Mage, has an important role to play story wise but is not given enough screen time to fully flourish. This only serves to further extend the laddish persona.
While flawed in places King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is not terrible. However, it is also not enjoyable enough to whole heartedly recommend. It is the dictionary definition of a 3 star effort and will quickly be forgotten amid the upcoming summer blockbusters this year. Hints at further adventures to come generate no real interest from me and it may be best that Arthur and his knights return to the mythology from whence they came.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is on general release from 19th May.
Thanks to MovieHouse for screening access