I don’t know what you’re expecting when you sit down to watch King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, but I don’t think you’ve fully factored in the ‘Guy Ritchie Effect.’ This is important because you’re either going to love this movie or you’re going to hate it. You’ll either exit wanting to sword fight demons or *sniff that it’s not what you were expecting.
Personally, I loved it. (also, no one cares if you’re in the second group)
Do not expect pageantry or chivalry or m’ladys or swordplay or any of that nonsense. This is Arthurian England, It’s dirty and probably smells a lot like body odor and human waste – but that’s okay because we’re still having fun.
I’m going to skip the opening because, while mind-blowing, it’s an incredibly important plot point and you’ll revisit it later with new eyes. Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) grows up on the streets of Londinium (shut up, it’s real). You see his upbringing in flashes of brutality and compassion, surrounded by women and violence and piece by piece he grows his meager, if illegitimate, empire. Meanwhile, like the Biblical King Herrod, King Vortigern (Jude Law) is hunting for a man of a certain age to pull the sword of the previous King Uther (Eric Bana) from a stone. Circumstances bring Arthur and Vortigern together and then apart as Arthur must discover why he’s so important, and why that sword packs such a vicious psychic punch.
In two hours and six minutes – we have a story with fleshed out characters, villains we hate, and a hero’s merry band we can cheer for. You care about everyone Arthur cares for, and this is important because he’s got a big heart. Constant companions and business partners Back Lack (Neil Maskell) and Wet Stick (Kingsley Ben-Adir) provide the full picture of the man Arthur has become. Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) is the link to his past, Goosefat Bill (Aiden Gillan) is his slippery conscious, and the enigmatic Mage (Atrid Bergès-Frisbey) is his magical guide. (Side note – in some reports she’s called Guinevere, but not in anything official. She’s just The Mage, so if you’ve romantic expectations, put them out of your head now).
Also, Aiden Gillan is six shades of hot.
The frenetic nature of Guy Ritchie films means you get a lot of information in compressed time. Try to keep up, because he doesn’t have time to hold your hand and pull back the curtain and explain every blessed thing. Let your left brain absorb the facts and your right brain revel in the action – and there is a lot going on
Oh and hey – if you’re expecting clean magic with circles and cauldrons, or majestic dragons, stay home and watch Maleficent. This a Quest Movie from beginning to end and it’s dirty and grimy and painful to watch. Quests are neither clean nor painless and the trials (again compressed because we’ve got a story to tell) look like they hurt.
You want comedy with your bleak existence? Welcome and have a seat. Guy Ritchie knows with the horror of just existing, you have to laugh. The lines are quick and humor is smart plus you get all of the feels. I also need to express how much FUN this movie is. You can’t help but be swept up in the adventure, the fighting and the treachery. Guy Ritchie brought us Victor Frankenstein (2015), and while it had potential, I think it wanted to be this movie.
I really hope there is at least one more of these. You want to know what happens next, you’re composing your letter to Warner Bros. RIGHT NOW and that is the hallmark of a great movie.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is rated PG-13 for action, adventure, swears and the kind of violence you’d expect from living in a place where the life expectancy is about 36.