I have to admit that I was skeptical when I heard that Warner Bros. was putting out a new movie that delved into the legend of Camelot and Excalibur. Not that Charlie Hunnam or Guy Ritchie couldn’t handle the task, but we’ve seen several recent adaptations of mythological figures that repaid our admission prices by s*&%%*#$ all over the big screen. Even Clive Owen’s take on The Once and Future King is subpar. So I was very pleasantly surprised by King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
First of all, Guy Ritchie does a phenomenal job of mixing the myth with reality, creating a tale of action and magic that delivers on all fronts. Hunnam, playing the titular character, brings an endearing quality and emotion to a man struggling to accept his new-found purpose and responsibilities. Thanks to his uncle Vortigern (played to perfection Jude Law), Arthur is robbed of his birthright at a young age and learns the ways of the world growing up on the back streets of London. All of those tricks come into play as he tries to recapture the throne after inadvertently pulling the sword from the stone. Djimon Hounsou is solid as Arthur’s mentor Bedivere, a man loyal to Arthur’s father and leading the resistance against Vortigern. Overall, there are solid performances all around, even from Law, who gives layers to a villain that honestly doesn’t deserve them.
While the performances are solid, it is Guy Ritchie’s blend of action, humor, and style that help this movie the most. The source material has been done to death, with Excalibur being the best effort so far. But Richie has the benefits of modern movie magic to really make the sorcery explode on the screen. A scene with Arthur using Excalibur to take on his uncle’s elite is full of Richie’s camera style and visual effects; you can almost feel the swings of the sword in the theater. Add to this Richie’s penchant for humorous, witty story-telling and what you have is a perfect mash-up of Rock N Rolla with Camelot’s finest.
While the story focuses on Arthur becoming the person he was born to be, it sets up nicely for more stories to be had. And while I’m always afraid of every movie becoming a franchise, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of King Arthur’s adventures with Richie at the helm. With that said, I give King Arthur: Legend of the Sword a 4 out of 5. It’s an old dog of a story, but you’ll love its new tricks.