By Shelby Fielding (Lubbock, Texas)
Since the twelfth century, Camelot has become an acclaimed fictional tale that focused on the prominent story of King Arthur and his round table. Now in 2017, Guy Ritchie and Warner Brothers Studios bring us this legendary story in an updated version that focuses on Arthur’s transformation from outlandish citizen to a king with a legendary sword. After progressing through several stages in its production, and this is noticeable in the final product. Joby Harold adapts a screenplay from the familiar tale that focuses on painting Arthur as this whimsical and charismatic figure who can not only battle his way out of any situation but also charm his way out of one.
This Guy Ritchie trope is noticed in this one hundred and the twenty-six-minute blockbuster that has to seem to be a huge disappointment thus far. I rather enjoyed the film until its finality and enjoyed its mesmerizing allure. However, the film falls off the track near its resolution with how Ritchie and Harold choose to handle the climactic moments of the film. Overall I understand the backlash against it, but when further considering its filmmaking, I begin to realize its undeniable charm.
Opening with an expositional and fantastical sequence with King Uther displaying the power of Excalibur in this saturated sequence of action. We then launch into this choppily edited scene of showcasing Arthur’s growth from youth to maturity. In which James Herbert’s editing was showcased in its entirety with his common use of match cuts, hard cuts, and jump cuts with a medium shot length of maybe a second that exhibits the lack of ingenuity and artistry for this film. However, the film continued and began to manifest itself in a captivating way that presents itself as this heist genre film at times. With scenes focused on displaying the thievery skill that Arthur possesses with his wittiness and assertiveness, Arthur became the best part of this film’s narrative.
Charlie Hunnam was criticized after this film by many as an actor who belongs on a small screen and not the big screen. I strongly disagree with this accusation due to his undeniable charisma in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. He portrays Arthur with such appeal that he began to prove to me that he is an actor that belongs on the big screen and could indeed bring out a fun and sensational performance that reminds me of Robert Downey Jr. a bit. Combining Downey’s smart humor with Hemsworth’s voracity and grittiness to fabricate this enticing character that is properly developed and cleverly written. However, this is the only character that showcases these qualities. Jude Law provides an interesting performance that is captivating at times and annoying at others. He depicts the evil warlord Vortigern in an engaging manner beginning with his mannerisms and the way he says things. Using this enough and calm tone during his heinous actions, and at times this is insanely entertaining, and on other occasions, it is a bit flat with how his performance becomes a bit one-note.
Aidan Gillen provides an engaging performance that is all too familiar in a lot of ways. Astrid Bergès-Frisbey provides the most lifeless performance of the film with how she remains very stale with her portrayal of the Mage. This performance is just the beginning of the flaws in this movie, and it begins to become problematic near the third act. Guy Ritchie’s direction starts to get focused on the stylistic presentation and less upon the substance underneath. Focusing on long establishing shots of Camelot and all of its grandeur, and even less upon the depiction of the action. With an unfocused use of computer generated imagery that reminds me of the “Matrix Reloaded” animation of balloon people that belong on the small screen of a video game and not the massive screen of cinema. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword begins to limp on after that and fails to continue its witty interchanges of dialogue and instead attempts to present this untonally focused screenplay the acts as a reminiscent of Game of Thrones with its struggle to show realism and fantasy in a seamless realm of believability.
Overall, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a bit underrated and undeserving of its harsh criticisms of naming it an abysmal attempt at filmmaking. Guy Ritchie’s creation is watchable and undeniably entertaining at times with its marvelous screenplay that focused on this rugged hero. With an evident stand out performance from Charlie Hunnam as well as a compelling use of filmmaking its first and second acts. But, the montages and atrocious attempts at visual effects and monotonous performances began to become exposed in their blemished entirety.
Once again other critics have rushed to chastise this film before contextualizing its enjoyable qualities; however, it may feel necessary as audiences have rejected it as well with an opening weekend of $15.3 million on a budget of $175 million. Audiences may agree with these harsh opinions on Ritchie’s insufficient screenplay of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, but I may have to take a step back and realize its value as a delighting film. That begins to remind me to analyze before reviewing; forcing me to understand that this film has an insurmountable amount of flaws and is still easily rewatchable.
Uther Pendragon: Listen to me, I need you do to as I tell you. I need to get you and the boy away from here.
Uther Pendragon: Run, son!
The Mage: Did you see everything you needed to see?
Arthur: I saw enough.