After his father’s murder, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is raised in a brothel, unaware of his royal heritage and birth-right. When the sword of Excalibur resurfaces after years of being lost beneath the sea, Arthur’s uncle and his father’s usurper, Vortigern (Jude Law), scours the kingdom to find the true heir to the throne and destroy him.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is the latest reboot of the King Arthur mythos, and is directed by Guy Ritchie.
The film speeds through all significant plot points in a rush to get to the action scenes. Once in the fight scenes, the film is over-zealous with the slow-motion effect, which means that, amazingly, in a film where all scenes of character development, substance and meaning are condensed via montage and summary, it still runs for just over two painful hours.
The over-use of ‘witty banter’ is not only predictable, but reduces the potency of what could be quite a moving tale of murder, deceit and valor. This is a film that can’t decide if it’s a fantastic comedy of a fantasy-drama-action.
The cinematography is a jumble of high definition close-ups and go-pro footage. The film is filled with accidental intertextuality, clichéd tropes, and the Freudian motifs (What’s better, my sword or your tower?) make the entire film a guide on how to be toxically masculine. The film brushes off issues of domestic abuse and violence against women and children, utilising representations of these themes are merely a vehicle to reveal the power, dominance and ‘morality’ of Arthur, in an attempt to make the audience like him. It uses women as sacrificial objects and symbols of male domination. In just two hours, it manages it to set feminism back a century, at least (not just in its representation of women, which cannot be justified through historical accuracy due to the mythological status of the Arthur legend, but also in the representation of “punch-or-be-punched but don’t cry about it” masculinity).
The dialogue is empty, clichéd and repetitive, and presents no explanation or motive for villainy or heroism, beyond the conventional power and revenge plot. Many of the ‘witty’ remarks or turns of phrase are out of place within the supposed historical context.
On possibly the only positive note of the entire film, the soundtrack is decent, but the film seems to rely on this to make important scenes impactful and exciting. This is impossible, of course, because the audience is not given the chance to care about the two-dimensional characters, especially Arthur, who faffs around for most of the film unable to decide if he should take the only path available to him.
It’s visually an interesting, though not innovative, film, and some audiences may find it’s humour entertaining. I rate this film 3/10.