Friday, May 19, 2017

'King Arthur: Legend of the Sword' Is a Fun Mess

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is writer-director Guy Ritchie’s take on Arthurian legend.  It portrays Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) having to grow up in a brothel and be raised by prostitutes after his parents – the King and Queen of England – are murdered by his uncle Vortigern (Jude Law).  With Vortigern usurping the throne, Arthur is left unaware of who he truly is.  His upbringing and tough environment develops him into a proficient fighter and to be street smart, and he basically becomes a mob boss in Londinium (medieval name and site of London).  But fate would lead Arthur to reunite with Excalibur – his father’s magical sword, which is now rightfully his – setting him off towards the path of saving England from his power-hungry uncle’s tyrannical rule and becoming who he’s destined to be: King Arthur.

To be honest, this movie is a mess, but it’s an immensely fun mess.  It’s not as epic as the fantasy/gangster mashup it’s somewhat trying to be, and the different tones sometimes don’t harmonize well, but all elements still add up into an utterly energetic and entertaining film.

Guy Ritchie’s trademark styles are prominent in this movie.  It has fast-cutting montages of inter-meshing past, present, and future moments; sharp and witty dialogue; and livid, vigorous sequences.  In terms of giving a medieval fantasy setup a complementing gritty-and-grounded feel, he successfully pulls it off.
The featured mythical creatures – e.g. the Syren, the giant snakes, the monstrous elephants (several times bigger than an oliphaunt) – are awesome, and Excalibur is supremely badass.  But the presence of magical and mythical elements doesn’t go overboard.  They are just there in right amounts to infuse fantasy vivacity to the narrative.

The cast is solid.  I was amused by the presence of DS Peter Drummond, Littlefinger, Roose Bolton, and David Beckham in the movie; I never expected them to be in it (can’t remember seeing them in the trailers).  The actress who played Merlin’s apprentice seems to be robotic with her performance; however, whether that’s intentional or she’s just bad at acting, it somehow puts an appropriate mystique to her character.  But the highlights belong to the two main actors, Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law.  Hunnam perfectly portrayed the arc of a hooligan, initially defiant of embracing his destiny, developing into a king.  Meanwhile, Vortigern could have easily become a clichéd, hammy villain, but Law’s performance brilliantly displayed the underlying tragedy of the character.
As for its flaws, well, first of all, the story doesn’t always make sense.  It has annoying moments where I was like, “Wait, that was dumb.”  And with the tone and pacing being somewhat uneven, the narrative is not thoroughly engrossing as it could have been, as a result of these.  In addition, there are some dizzying shaky cams, and there are some cringy CGI-heavy sequences.   Still, despite these, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword works for me overall because it’s unpretentious of what it is and stylish enough to be appealing.

It’s a crazy but enjoyable retelling of the Arthurian story; heck, I even kind of developed some fondness for it.  So it’s quite a bummer that a sequel is out of the question since it’s a box office flop.  I would have loved seeing some “Knights of the Round Table” adventures.

No comments: