'King Arthur: Legend of the Sword' review: Charlie Hunnam only decent thing in Guy Ritchie's forgettable trip to Camelot
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
- Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Jude Law, Eric Bana
- Directed by: Guy Ritchie
- Written by: Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram, Joby Harold
- Duration: 126 minutes
Here’s the good news: Charlie Hunnam is terrific as King Arthur and — in this version of the legend — entirely believable as a streetwise orphan who grows up to reluctantly embrace his destiny.
And here’s the bad news: the movie is a mess.
It’s a mess graced by a few terrific sequences, but a mess nonetheless.
The first cut of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was three and a half hours long, according to filmmaker Guy Ritchie, and frankly, that’s the version we’d like to see.
Getting the movie down to two hours seems to have involved editing out all connective tissue.
What’s left is spectacle, almost entirely uninterrupted by storytelling. You can feast your eyes on giant elephants or hideous serpentine sea creatures, take in brutal hand-to-hand combat or watch elaborate battle scenes with swashing and buckling and fiery weapons galore.
Now if you could only figure out what the hell was going on...
It’s like Game of Thrones meets Survivor, and not in a good way; worse yet, the 3D element makes some segments so murky that you can’t discern what’s happening.
Ritchie encapsulates lengthy history with flashy fast-forward élan — Arthur growing up, for example — and while it’s eye-catching and clever, it’s not emotionally engaging.
The movie begins with just such a shorthand segment, attempting to bring viewers up to speed, but in this case the overall effect is confusion. Where there should be character development, emotional investment and so on, there’s just more stuff to look at.
To wit: Here’s Jude Law chewing the scenery as the villainous Vortigern, killing off those he loves to appease various evil entities; Astrid Berges-Frisbey turns up as a sylphlike Mage, capable of using her wizardry powers on the animal kingdom; Eric Bana looks cool (briefly) as King Uther and Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Freddie Fox, Tom Wu, Neil Maskll et al are sidekicks, helpers, fight instructors, buddies and other interchangeable background characters.
You so won't care.
That’s a lot of wasted talent.