By Daniel Reif
A Guy Richie movie means wistful passion for the English warrior pompous. The folkloric legend of “King Arthur” has never been much dissimilar. In King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, you bet the sources fit like blade in stone. Anecdotal heroism is painted by street grit rebellion. Fictitious fable fairs an elaborate production of metal-blooded period fantasy.
The problem: this blade cuts short. Ritchie and his royal subject are fine cinematic partners, but if the underwhelming lives each have had on the big screen are any indicator of results, the two wrongs end short of right.
At the command of a known indulger, you can feel every cent in this Camelot’s $100 mil-plus action extravaganza. Though admittedly dazzling at many moments, the Santa-bag sum of goodies leave no time for emotional involvement or any space to reflect on the story’s themes of royal-structured class or systemic unrest. Listen lad, it’s “Transformers” with swords and swears.
Big old’e Londinium is a city for many seeking wealth and culture, and a dump for most to find thievery and deceit. No surprise the cobblestone merchant metropolis is presided by tyrant, and quiet sorcerer of dark power, “Vortigern” (Jude Law). Here is where we meet young “Arthur” (Charlie Hunnam), who must inevitably strip the ruler of a stolen, recklessly evil throne.
Following a storied prologue which threads the two men and foretells the star’s fate for the crown, Ritchie is stylistically full force forming his blockbuster endowment to cockney royalty. A restless, whip-pan and repetitive montage excites the instantly signature vision of the director and charms a fresh way into a brothel-raised, street-taught and martial-trained childhood Arthur for today’s cool kids.
Fun stuff mate, but fun can run afoul. Fun funded by a bombastic budget is especially dangerous. And this 2-hour origin epic wears its old text old in excessive big-boy movie making. While the opener will stylize editor James Herbert’s career reel, the common Ritchie collaborator is ever on call to mash a remarkably redundant cache of cameras and camera movements under cinematographer John Mathieson. With fantastical magic at dispense, the CGI is neither shy to the noble-meets-naughty brawl. Spell-concocted monsters, screeching battle screams, stone-cold armor and soldiered bloodshed highlight a daunting calamity of sound.
You must sit tight to focus in on the classic telling of the Roundtable knights. By the time the thrifty city kid has met his destiny upon Vortigern’s manhunt for Excalibur’s true heir, you have delighted yourself to the banters of the to-be King and noble crew, but yet to know their lives and loves.
When the “Resistance” recruits Arthur to manifest his fate, the film evolves to introduce a wealth of players whose dramatic worth is cheapened. Djimon Honsou and Aiden Gillen are wasted talents left as revolting talking heads via “Sir Bedivere” and “Goosefat Bill Wilson”. As right-hand “Wetstick”, Kingsley Ben-Adir never has much of a thought or piece of insight into the horseback herd of events. Stale internal conflicts become the boring consequence of a broadly-written band of badasses.
Now one would expect the Guy swagger to drip off his statue-inspiring shirtless rockstar and wash away the woes of his counterparts (nods to RDJ in 2009’s Sherlock Holmes). In Legend of the Sword, one is sure to feast on Charlie Hunnam’s physicality, but one is equally under fed hearty munchies in a feast of male mischief and warrior glory. The bloke’s a mere pretty boy I tell ya.
It tickles a fancy that snot-nosed, saliva-releasing hipness is the hero, because the two passable performances are the most traditionally melodramatic. Law’s brooding corrupt crown and Astrid-Berges-Frisbey’s burningly rebellious sorcerer “Mage” (Guinevere of the Arthurian legend) are the most susceptible to theatrical swiss cheese, but the two actors actually serve the only delicious swiss chocolate dramatics in this meal. They get to act. To play. As a result, their fun blooms out of their fury.
For you CGI consumers, I can’t pan your choice to spin in spectacle. This movie absolutely does justice to the creature imaginations of classic British fablers. This is Guy Ritchie’s The Hobbit as much as its Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur. Gigantic serpents and elephants swarm from all sides, destroying enormous structures and wiping out mass armies. The Kaiju collage of conquering beasts is this flick’s conquering awe factor. A factor necessary to withstand short-melded, unspectacular story surroundings.
For the consumer not as concerned by special effects, I can’t recommend a sip from this unholy grail. Overblown and oversold, this brass boys-to-men battle bash burns too brash, broad and unbold. When the Roundtable is finally set, you’ll happily retreat to a real-life dinner.
Screenplay by Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram and Joby Harold; Directed by Guy Ritchie – 2017 – Warner Bros. Pictures – 2hr 6m – PG13
May 12, 2017
“King Arthur: Legend of The Sword” opens everywhere today.
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