King Arthur: Legend of the Sword: Revisionist Legend

by Sandra Olmsted

Charlie Hunnam as young Arthur in Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Charlie Hunnam as young Arthur in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

The retelling of the Arthurian legend, or at least the origin story, has a first delights for effects fans, but little else. Revising the legend with color-blind casting might assure this expensive epic an international audience, but it might also get history buffs questioning the inclusion of an African resistance leader and a Chinese kung fu master in Arthur band of friends.

The fatal flaw of director Guy Ritchie’s revisionist legand, however, is that characters are not developed adequately to allow the audience to empathize with them. The moments of showing characters truly caring about another human being come in clichéd scenes meant to telegraph emotions rather than evoke them.

Without the human connection to the characters, the movie becomes just a relentless CGI-fest of endless fighting, all done to the sound track’s relentless drumbeats, with a few lulls for exposition. The 3D, computer-generated effects are well done; however, the 3D often borders on the use made famous by the Three Stooges where items come flying out of the screen at the audience. It’s not truly a bad thing, just gimmicky.

The film opens with a huge battle which includes giant elephants, under the control of a Mage king, destroying the Pendragon castle. King Uther (Eric Bana) bravely defends and saves hs realm. All the Mage, such as Merlin, are banished from the kingdom. Uther’s brother, Vortigern (Jude Law) doesn’t “seem himself” and soon is revealed to be an evil sorcerer and willing to do anything to gain power. How the sword, Excalibur, lands in the stone provide interesting twists. Vortigern takes the throne and the “True Born” king and heir is set adrift, literally and figuratively, in the world.

Like Moses, Arthur is plucked from the Thames by brothel workers washing their clothes along the riverbank. The young prince grows up rough but champions over adversity. Adult Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is loyal and cares for these women; however, the audience never gets to know them, and Arthur’s love for the woman who raised him is only used to manipulate the less savvy viewer. Eventually, Arthur and his small dynasty draw the attention of King Vortigern because of Arthur’s defense of his “mum” who has been beaten by Vikings. Unfortunately, the Vikings are under the protection of King Vortigern. Soon, Arthur ends up in a mandatory lineup to see if men of a certain age can pull Excalibur from the stone.

Despite not wanting any part of the resistance, Arthur, the newly recognized True Born King, Arthur and his best friends, Wet Stick (Ben-Adir) and Back Lack (Neil Maskell), are drawn into the fight. First, however, Arthur must choose Excalibur as much as Excalibur has to chosen him by “seeing” what he has been blocking out since he was set adrift in a boat on the Thames River.

Fortunately, Merlin has sent The Mage (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey) to help Arthur embrace his destiny. She sends Arthur on several “vision-quest” walkabouts in order to remember what happened to his father and mother at Vortigern’s hands. Meanwhile, Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou), Bill (Aidan Gillen) Rubio (Freddie Fox), and Percival (Craig McGinlay) encourage Arthur to embrace the Excalibur’s power and lead England to freedom. Soon, George (Tom Wu), Arthur’s kung fu fighting mentor and his dojo’s fighters are also drawn into the resistance.

Meanwhile, King Vortigern continues to make sacrifices to the squid-like creature in the castle’s watery sub-basement in exchange for evil powers. The existence of this creature unbeknownst to Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table set up for a sequel. Certainly, the Arthurian legend has much to be mined for box-office gold, especially if Ritchie, who also produced and cowrote the movie, intends to divided it up into a multi-film saga, such as has been done with comic books.

Since the CGI-enhanced, 3D fight scenes are fantastic, if endless, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is worth seeing in 3D because that is the movie’s main focus. The acting isn’t terrible considering that way the characters are written. Jude Law makes an excellent villain, and Arthur and all his men are very hunky. A Warner Bros. release, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword runs long at 126 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong language. Although officially opening Friday. May 12, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is in many area theaters Thursday evening.


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