Review: King Arthur – Legend of the Sword (2017)

As per Guy Ritchie’s sharp, glitzy brand of blockbuster goodness, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a fantastically fun romp; a particularly fresh take on the Camelot tale. Critics aren’t giving it enough credit, but it’s filled with unceasing spirit, whether it’s found in the film’s cutting wit or big heart. Spoilers ahead.

This is a pretty human, mortal story – as evidenced by the fact that bloody Merlin wasn’t featured in the film as much as I was hoping – but that’s what makes it lovingly Ritchie in flavour. There’s a relationship of time in his films that’s never quite done the same way by other filmmakers – those flashbacks, flashforwards, and present-day story telling are fast-paced and honestly obnoxious, but it adds plenty of flavour to an age-old story.

I very much enjoyed the cheek that’s thrown into the mix for good measure; how the film specifically indulges in that. It’s easily acceptable in this flashy, modern take on the classic. There’s a decided sexiness undercutting the film as well, which I suppose could be expected from casting Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law.

Hunnam is great as Arthur. This is the kind of role that people would pigeonhole him into for his looks and charm, but it is clear that he embraces that aspect of the part while bringing his usual pathos to it. Law is insufferable as he should be playing the traitorous Vortigern. However, the would-be knights are much more interesting even as secondary characters, in my opinion. There are multiple dynamics at play within Arthur’s gang, but everyone has spot-on chemistry with each other, and the camaraderie truly feels realer than most other blockbusters in recent times. This film may be kind of grim-dark in certain ways but it is far from soulless.

But I do have a concern, namely that the mages simply could have been expanded on a lot more. Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey’s nameless sorceress is such an intriguing character, clearly powerful if tentative, and it would have been nice to know what had happened to her compatriots. That little hint of Merlin definitely was not enough for me, and even though a sequel is highly unlikely due to the film’s lacklustre ticket sales, one can dream of a second chapter exploring this side of the narrative.

Yet, the film still works as an thoroughly entertaining piece, pulled together expertly with a fabulous soundtrack and slick direction. Ritchie’s fight sequences are always an actual delight to watch – they are forever in motion and purposely limited in frame, making them palpable and exciting. The sound design is thunderous and motivating, and pairing it together with such electric action sequences just makes me very happy indeed.

Perhaps the world doesn’t need a new King Arthur legend picture, but I can’t say that I agree with critical reviews of this film. It’s very easy to enjoy Legend of the Sword, and I relish in all its simple charm and enthusiasm.

★★★★

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