Starring: Charlie Hunnam, Astrid Bergès-Firsbey, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou, Eric Bana, Aidan Gillen, Freddie Fox, Graig McGinlay, Tom Wu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Neil Maskell, Annabelle Wallis, Bleu Landau, and more.
Directed by: Guy Ritchie Screenplay by: Joby Harold, Guy Ritchie, and Lionel Wigram Story by: David Dobkin and Joby Harold Cinematography by: John Mathieson Music by: Daniel Pemberton
Premise: A betrayal destroys the peace Uther Pendragon has built and it's led to the massacre of most mages. But Uther's son escaped Vortigen's grasp as well as Excalibur. Years later, the sword surfaces again embedded in a stone. Vortigern can't afford to have his plans interfered with. So all males of a certain age must come forward and try their hand at removing the sword from the stone. Yet pulling the Excalibur free also means certain death. (Rated PG-13)
1) Acting - Total Thumbs Up: Charlie Hunnam does an excellent job as the down to earth, yet troubled Arthur. Astrid Bergès-Firsbey as the mage was both mysterious and no-nonsense. Jude Law didn't have to stretch too hard to play the backstabbing Vortigern. Though I will say, he did a fabulous job looking conflicted as he made his sacrifice.
2) Special Effect - Total Thumbs Up: Just when I think I can't be wowed by special effects, I run across something to prove me wrong. All the effects in the film were fabulous! (And they should be, I saw at least three visual effect companies in the credits!) The 3D component served several of the special effect sections quite well.
The giant elephants with pyramids on their backs in the beginning sequence were super rad. Loved their fire eyes and their cunning intelligence as they wielded giant rocks tied to ropes. Sweet!
The three fates/sirens/octopi looked amazing! The tentacles and undulations were superb. The Lady of the Lake also gets a super neat sequence of her own.
The demon warrior with the flaming and smoke cloak was super cool! So were the bizarre fire bombs. The giant rats, bats, and snakes were very detailed and looked alive.
Though a mixture of cultures, all the fantasy locations looked fantastic. Londinium was a bizarre mix of British and Roman but looked awesome. The tower, the Bad Lands, all the CGI locations looked super.
3) Plots Story - Neutral: If you come to see this film expecting an accurate rendition of the Arthurian legend, you're in for major disappointment. Much as Guy Ritchie did with the Sherlock Holmes movies, he's kept the bits he liked then jumbled/changed the rest. The previews alone should have been an indication this would not be cannon, but in case you didn't realize it, I figured I'd give you a heads up!
You know you're not in our England when you see a Mayan temple on a hillside not far from a mage's tower. Londinium itself is a weird mix of Roman, Greek, and old English styles. It's difficult to say if it was intentional in order to let us know this won't be your usual Arthurian legend or people not doing their homework or just something someone had always wanted to do.
The plot is straight forward for the most part. There are no real surprises aside from those at the beginning. Some of the motivation was suspect though. They say Vortigern betrays Uther because he was jealous of him, but I didn't see much to be jealous about. He had a loving wife, a beautiful daughter, a high position in court. He could even do magic! So his "jealousy" motivation didn't quite work. (Coming to love people fearing him came later, so not part of the original equation.) Also, the fact he suffered so much in his sacrifices for power scenes - if you feel so terrible about it, why would you do it at all? Bleah.
Arthur's motivations worked a little better. And they had an arc for his needing to overcome a hurdle to get to use the sword as it was meant to be used. (Excaliber in this film is super powerful!) One thing they never do cover is why Arthur was hoarding so much gold. What had he planned to do with it? The detail would have meant more if they'd given us a reason. Otherwise, it just looks like greed for greed's sake.
They did do a bunch of fun and good bits. There was a lot of story to cover and some of the ways they condensed things worked pretty well. The gag with the story of the Vikings was a hoot and a half. Some play with camera work made for some funky storytelling as well.
So some definite points for the fun and some of the maneuverings, but negative points for so wholly messing up the legend. The fact Mordred is in the beginning sequence made me think Uther was Arthur for a while. Ugh.
Oh, and we get one, one super quick glimpse of Merlin. And that's it. Boo!
4) Stunts - Total Thumbs Up: Aside from the CGI deaths and pratfalls, there are also plenty of fights, chases, and other physical stunts. Good job by all involved!
5) Locations/Cinematography - Total Thumbs Up: While historically inaccurate, all the sites looked fantastic. Londinium was a giant mix of several cultures and showed many differing types of architecture. Bizarre but cool. The Stonehenge type temple and several other mystical locations were fab. I fell totally in love with Vortigen's cave. Sometimes less is more!
6) Costuming/Makeup - Neutral: I keep going back and forth on this one. Most of the costumes looked great. But then they'd throw something in that would bug the heck out of me. For example - the ladies by the bank who find the boat - the way they're dressed, I thought them ladies of the court rather than ladies of the night (they were awfully dressed up for doing laundry!). And in several spots, Arthur's clothes don't look period but rather modern. His fleece lined coat, his machine stitched night shirt. They looked like something out of a modern store. Jude Law's clothes all looked great and medieval. And so did most everyone else. But Arthur's colors, cut of clothes, etc. stuck out a lot.
7) Music - Total Thumbs Up: Daniel Pemberton does a lovely job with the soundtrack. Has several flavors mixed in it all the way from modern to Scottish. Lots of fast paced tracks that merge well with the action around it.
Conclusion: "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" is a retelling of the old legend which has been chewed up and put back together in a different way. Think Robin Hood meets King Arthur meets Spartacus meets Dungeons and Dragons, and you'll have a good idea of what you're in for. And yet, it was still fun.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 (Hubby's Rating: Worth Full Price of Admission)