There have been numerous attempts to bring the legend of King Arthur to the screen, from animated (The Sword In The Stone) to musical (Camelot) to dark and grim (Excalibur). This time around, with director Guy Ritchie at the helm, we get an odd cockney lark/medieval fantasy hybrid that, despite numerous special effects (check out the giant elephant!) and fist fights, turns out to be the most snore-inducing of all.
In this version, we’re treated to a long SFX bonanza of a prologue that explains that in ye olde England, kings ruled with the help of mages – mystical humans who could talk to and command animals. However, after cute little kiddie Arthur’s father King Uther (Eric Bana) and mother are killed, his evil uncle Vortigern (Law) takes the throne and gets rid of the mages while Arthur is raised in a brothel.
Of course, one day Arthur will grow up, turn into a rather blank Charlie Hunnam and discover his true destiny by pulling the sword from the stone, but in the meantime we have a montage of him and his East End-sounding mates robbin’, punchin’ and runnin’ (think Lock, Stock And A Glowing Excalibur). Ritchie’s directorial schtick of rapid edits and jokey dialogue were dated a decade ago but he dusts them off again to the detriment of the action – Law’s first powerful speech has no impact because it doesn’t focus on his face but instead cuts back and forth to another scene.
Worse still, the pivotal sword/stone moment is completely fumbled thanks to the stunt casting of David Beckham as one of the guards – while Hunnam’s performance at this revelatory moment could kindly be described as wooden, at least he can be safe in the knowledge there’s at least one performance in the movie that is worse.
It’s a shame that this King Arthur fizzles rather than sparks, and that there is talent here that is wasted. Jude Law, all tight leather trousers and black eyeliner, does the best he can with the material (and deserves so much better) and there are nice turns from Aidan Gillen and Humans’ Neil Maskell. But with a nondescript lead performance and Ritchie’s reliance on too many forgettable special effects, it all adds up to yet another disappointing trip to Camelot.
Is King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This movie is aimed at older kids and adults, and does feature numerous fist and sword fights, characters in peril and some bad language.
More sensitive viewers may not enjoy the scenes featuring a snake, especially as later in the movie it is giant-sized.
Sensitive and younger viewers may be upset by the death of some characters.
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