‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ is too busy, too long and marginally entertaining
The fascinating tales from the life and times of King Arthur have been the subject of various big and small screen works. The latest cinematic foray inspired by the intriguing folklore of the British leader comes to us from director Guy Ritchie, who explores the origin and rise of the legendary ruler in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The film is a frenetic big-budget adventure that isn’t nearly as captivating or exciting as it should be but still manages to be marginally entertaining.
The action commences as the power-hungry Vortigern (Jude Law) betrays his brother, King Uther (Eric Bana), and usurps the throne. Uther’s young son, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam), survives the coup and eventually winds up being raised in a brothel while his treacherous uncle rules the land. Years later, after Arthur has grown into a street-smart man and skilled fighter, Uther’s magical sword Excalibur re-emerges near the King’s castle where it is set in a stone and can only be retrieved by the actual heir to the throne.
A series of events lead Arthur to the sword, which he manages to pull from the stone, revealing his true identity as the rightful king. Vortigern tries to have his nephew executed, but Arthur is rescued by a group who want him to inherit his father’s kingdom. Reluctant to be drawn into the power struggle, Arthur must learn to accept his true legacy and defeat the evil Vortigern.
It’s an interesting but predictable story told in a film that’s simultaneously too busy and too long.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword always feels like it’s in a hurry, even though it takes a little over two hours to get to its inevitable conclusion. There are a few interesting filming flourishes and impressive visual sequences in the movie, but the overall execution of the film feels haphazard.
The cast is quite impressive, but the material they have to work with doesn’t let them make a memorable mark. The ruggedly handsome Hunnam, for instance, is well cast in the main role but his character just feels like your typical hero, which is perhaps why there isn’t anything particularly distinctive or unique about his part or performance.
Law’s over-the-top villain, too, feels stereotypical at its core, and doesn’t have any interesting shades of grey to add any depth to the character. In fact, we don’t really get a chance to have any meaningful interactions with most of the supporting characters who generally aren’t developed beyond their roles of Arthur’s helpers.
Peppered with flashbacks and montages, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword could have used a bit more of Richie’s wit. On the whole, this financially unsuccessful fantasy film is neither terrific, nor terrible, and while it hasn’t been able to launch an Arthurian franchise like the director would have hoped, Legend of the Sword is still a watchable – albeit ultimately forgettable – adventure that will keep you (somewhat) engaged as you while away a lazy summer evening.