Verdict: Ritchie breathes a new life into the myth.
Loosely inspired by the Arthurian legends, Guy Ritchie gives a fresh spin on the myth of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Charlie Hunnam plays the lead as the titular Arthur – the man, the legend, the king. He's quick-witted, street-smart, oozes charm, and you wouldn't notice anybody else in each scene he's in. Still, he's far from the only good thing in this quick-paced and clever movie.
The movie begins with a setting up of the story – King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) has his brother, Vortigern (Jude Law) turn against him. The king and queen are killed and little Arthur escapes on a boat that winds up in Londinium, where he grows up in a brothel. It's after the opening scenes that the pace picks up. The stage has been set and we see a montage of Arthur growing up on the streets, making a little money where he can, learning to fight, and swindling. On the other side of the land, Vortigern grows in power, taking over more and more lands. Even before we get there, you know a face-off is inevitable between the two men.
Arthur seems to be a scoundrel with a heart of gold, much like Robin Hood. He will steal and con and commit crimes but in the end he will take care of those that need caring. Even without a royal upbringing, he's a born leader. He assembles a crew and goes around bribing the King's soldiers, stealing an assortment of things and picking up fights along the way. But life is not all a joy ride for the well-built Arthur. Watching his parents die in front of his eyes as a child haunts him every single time he closes his eyes. It's only when he finally pulls out the sword that he will discover his past and embark on the journey to be the king he is destined to be.
Charlie Hunnam plays the cocky protagonist with ease. He will make you chuckle more than a few times. Jude Law revels in playing the evil uncle mad for power. Hunnam's band of rebels is filled with notable performances. Playing Arthur's guide in his journey is The Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) who speaks very little, yet manages to be formidable. Djimon Hounsou plays Sir Bedivere, a calm voice of reason among the passionate rebels who might get carried away. Arthur's friends from his 'normal life' – Back Lack (Neil Maskell) and Wet Stick (Kingsley Ben-Adir) – manage to hold their own against aristocrats and magic-wielders. Game of Thrones fans will also be happy to see Aidan Gillen, known for his role as Littlefinger, be a part of yet another medieval fantasy. There's also a special cameo by a certain famous footballer.
Although set in the medieval times, the worldbuilding is a bit rough around the edges. The clear rules of magic are never established. The Excalibur is magical, sure, but the extent of magic is not known. It seems to slow down time, slice through other swords, and even burst into flames (but only underwater), and it still didn't manage to save Uther, but works for Arthur in a recreation of the same showdown. The dialogues are snappy but anachronistic. The f-word, used in the movie, probably wasn't even a word during medieval times.
Still, don't let minor inconsistencies keep you from watching what is still a thoroughly enjoyable movie. The presence of supernatural forces gives King Arthur: Legend of the Sword an extra kick. The gigantic animals, conjuring fire from out of thin air, controlling animals with the mind – all this creates a stunning world that you would want to revisit, which seems to be a possibility due to the open ending, although it might not end up happening. It's funny, fast, full of action, yet not meaningless action. Quick cuts and montages in Ritchie's distinct style add a unique quality to the familiar story. The climax is a satisfying collision between Arthur and Vortigern, capped with a pleasing ending.
Why You Should Watch This Movie:
If you've enjoyed previous Guy Ritchie's films like Sherlock Holmes and The Man From U.N.C.L.E., King Arthur: Legend of the Sword will not let you down. Every scene brings with it a new turn of events and there are no dragging moments. What's a better way to spend a couple of hours than in the company of magic, intrigue, and memorable characters?