I was unfortunately unable to attend the meeting where Guy Ritchie's latest movie, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, was greenlit, but I like to imagine the elevator pitch went something like this: "What if King Arthur was kind of a dbag and had friends with names like Kung Fu George?"
Charlie Hunnam's swaggering strut—a sort of exaggerated limp, a hobble that seems to be created by hurling one foot in front of the other via momentum generated by throwing his right shoulder forward rather than simply, you know, walking—is perfect for Ritchie's Chav King Arthur, in its own perverse way. As he lurches about near the end of the film, letting the tip of the famed Excalibur drag on the ground behind him throwing off sparks, you understand that this is a king who just dgaf, you know? Magical swords and legendary power mean nothing to this dude; he just wants to take his revenge and head home for a cold brew with his banner-bros.
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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword opens with an impressively incomprehensible battle scene—one that involves mages and men waging war with the help of gigantic elephants and magical swords and doesn't end until Uther (Eric Bana) maybe kills the evil mage Mordred (Rob Knighton)? Or maybe Mordred just disappears in a cloud of smoke? Either way, Mordred goes away and Uther is victorious until later that week, I guess, when Uther's brother, Vortigern (Jude Law), betrays him.
Arthur, like Moses before him, is sent down a river to have his life spared. Unlike Moses, however, he winds up at a brothel, taken in by the kindhearted hookers of Londinium. What follows is an aggressively—like, grab-your-eyeballs-by-the-optic-nerve-and-PULL aggressive—edited montage that tracks Arthur's aging and Vortigern's rise. It's probably impossible to do justice to this scene with the written word, but here's a semblance of how I experienced it:
half-second of a boy being fussed over by prostitutes SMASH CUT boy sweeping or maybe mopping or something SMASH CUT boy getting money ZOOM IN ON BOY boy getting beaten up SMASH CUT Vortigern looking evil SMASH CUT ZOOM boy making friends SMASH CUT Vortigern building SMASH CUT ZOOM boy working out PAN HARD RIGHT SMASH CUT ZOOM boy older and now he is Charlie Hunnam SMASH CUT ZOOM Charlie Hunnam punching air and yelling SMASH ZOOM Charlie Hunnam punching more air and yelling more SMASH CUT Vortigern something something bad SMASH CUT present day
Apologies if that was annoying or unpleasant for you to read. It wasn't much better to watch. Nor was the portion of the film where Arthur—now in possession of Excalibur—explains to his newfound allies how they will plan an assassination of the magic-wielding king. It's not a conversation that they have so much as a pointillist's idea of a conversation, a series of disconnected snippets edited together in such a manner as to demonstrate that Arthur is really quite clever, always one step ahead of everyone else. It's the sort of thing that works better in Ritchie's modern films like Snatch or Rocknrolla, less so in this medieval milieu.
But then again, who is to say what's out of place in a movie about King Arthur and Excalibur that features no traces of Merlin? Or one where Jude Law's character, nominally a king, dresses like a Vegas lounge singer, shirt open to mid-chest? Or one where Excalibur gives the Chav King the powers of a Dragonball Z character and the ability to move in "Bullet Time" like Neo from The Matrix? Or one where the Round Table is to be filled by the likes of one Sir Kung Fu George (Tom Wu)?
Annoyingly edited, shoddily acted, and stuffed with action scenes that have stakes so low as to be invisible to the naked eye, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is easily skipped.