Guy Ritchie is the king of geezer filmmaking, so no wonder he decided to direct a film about the Original Geezer, King Arthur. Ever since Excalibur, Warner Bros. had been trying to do another Arthurian film, even tapping Bryan Singer for a remake at one point. However, Ritchie had a massive plan of a series of five films on Arthur and his knights, but they aren’t gonna happen, since this first instalment went down like a lead zeppelin at the box office.
Of course, the financial success or lack thereof should never be a factor in whether a film is any good, of course. So is King Arthur: Legend of the Sword actually worth watching? It’s a mix, to be fair: it’s basically a superhero origin story for Arthur, so you will know how the film ends by that description. However, it also has this absolutely insane plot centred on Vortigern (Jude Law), who is Arthur’s uncle. Vortigern has made a pact with a tentacle demon creature (I’m not making this up) to become the king. He starts a coup and kills Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon, and his mother, and even sacrifices his own wife! Arthur lives on the streets till fate forces him to get the sword from the stone. Soon there is a battle between Arthur and Vortigern.
Charlie Hunnam plays Arthur, and does his usual gruff macho thing, which is the way you would expect him to play it. Jude Law is having fun playing the camptastic villian. The rest of the cast is pretty uninteresting, with the possible exception of Djimon Hounsou as Sir Beldivere who leads the resistance again the tyranny of Vortigern. Eric Banna plays Pendragon, but isn’t in it long enough to make any real impact, which is a shame because he is woefully underused in films recently. David Beckham—yes, you heard that right, the original metrosexual David Beckham—appears in an absolutely hilarious cameo, and it’s as bad as you would guess it would be.
The main problem with the film is that it’s the first act of a film that was meant to be spread over several hours. All of the most interesting characters of Arthurian legend are missing: Merlin is shown for seconds and only mentioned a few times, the lady in the lake does make an appearance but lacks the magic of her role in Excalibur, and the knights everybody remembers, such as Lancelot and Gawain, don’t appear at all. Arthur’s queen Guinevere also never appears, supposedly Ritchie planned to include her in the plot but never could fit her in.
Although it’s a pretty fun blockbuster-style film, I kind of wish Ritchie had just skipped this chapter. Still, it’s so batshit crazy at times that even the most hardened film critic can’t help but admire its clear ambition. The fact that it bombed so badly is a real shame, because I’m sure that if Ritchie could’ve done his massive series it would’ve been an interesting take on the legend. It could have even rivaled the underrated version starring Clive Owen.
The disc is full of featurettes that cover all of the various parts of the production, from Ritchie’s vision to the casting to the final wrap of the film in Scotland. The sound for the film has also been specially mixed for the home theatre experience, which means that the sound moves all around the room.