Magazine article Screen International

'King Arthur: Legend of the Sword': Review

Magazine article Screen International

'King Arthur: Legend of the Sword': Review

Article excerpt

The real stars of King Arthur are its technical team, as Guy Ritchie amps the action up to dizzying heights

Dir: Guy Ritchie. US. 2017. 126mins

Guy Ritchie trains his maniacally excessive eye on Camelot in King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword, a brawny, leaden action spectacle which is enlivened by the occasionally winning overabundance. The filmmaker behind the Sherlock Holmes reboot gives us brooding, badass heroes and glowering villains in this tale of a vengeful Arthur out to reclaim his rightful place on the throne. But the hypnotic sweep of the larger-than-life set pieces proves a mere distraction from a story that's been stripped of its mythic qualities so it can be more easily processed through the blockbuster assembly line.

Commercial considerations strangle the vitality from the movie, but Ritchie does his best to bring a bit of impish wit to the proceedings

Opening May 12 in the States and a week later in the UK, this Warner Bros. release will rely on Ritchie's relative cachet with audiences. Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law add a little commercial appeal, but mixed reviews and mild buzz may keep this Sword from slicing through any box-office records.

Set in medieval England, the film stars Hunnam as Arthur, a street orphan who will gradually learn that his father Uther (Eric Bana) was once king -- that is, until Arthur's conniving uncle Vortigern (Law) staged a coup, murdering Uther just as the boy was safely spirited away. Now a young man, Arthur proves his lineage by pulling the fabled sword Excalibur from its stone, an event that attracts the attention of Vortigern, who wants the kingdom's rightful ruler killed.

Legend Of The Sword takes liberties with the familiar tale, placing magical Merlin on the sidelines and emphasising the battle for the crown waged between Arthur and Vortigern. But the most obvious alteration is that Ritchie has envisioned this legend through the prism of other recent blockbusters. Elements of Gladiator and the Harry Potter franchise are apparent, but more broadly, Legend Of The Sword slavishly adheres to the tenets of modern tentpole filmmaking, which require a gaudy slathering of CGI and a tendency to present an iconic character through a dark origin story that, the studio hopes, will lead to multiple sequels.

Commercial considerations strangle the vitality from the movie, but Ritchie does his best to bring a bit of impish wit to the proceedings. The screenplay, which he co-wrote, mostly falters when it aims for clever quips and comic relief, but Legend Of The Sword boasts a giddy boisterousness whenever the director lets fly with his hyperbolic action sequences. Not unlike his big-screen redo of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Ritchie's new movie works best when it's forgoing story altogether, instead just letting the sensuous rush of kinetic images wash over the viewer. …

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