Deep into Guy Ritchie’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword ,” a bad guy who we’ve never met before informs Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) and his mates that they’d better be at the castle before dark if they want to see “the boy” and “the girl” again. It’s one of those harmless, up the stakes clichés that’s all too common in action movies, but, in the flawed yet amusing “King Arthur,” it unwittingly left me baffled. “Which girl?” I wondered, sincerely doubting that this was the intended effect.
At this point there are two options: The Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), a strange animal-controlling magician who we recently saw with a knife at her throat, or Maggie (Annabelle Wallis) who over the course of the movie is so underdeveloped that at different points I’d thought she was Arthur’s presumed to be dead mother (who is in fact played by the just similar enough-looking Poppy Delevingne) or the evil King Vortigern’s (Jude Law) wife. (She’s neither.) It’s a strange thing for a movie that is this packed to the brim with dialogue and clever exposition to have managed to so insufficiently explain a supposed key player. The film is somehow both overwritten and underwritten.
It’s a stretch to even deem it a King Arthur movie (marketing calls it an “iconoclastic take on the classic Excalibur myth,” while a producer says it’s “not your father’s King Arthur.”)
And yet, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” is reasonably entertaining with its CGI-laden summer nonsense, stuffed with mystical beasts (including giant elephant-like creatures with wrecking ball tails), vulgar action and delicious scenery chewing from Law. It skates by on Ritchie’s divisively kinetic filmmaking and the charisma of Hunnam’s reluctant hero.
This Arthur was raised in a brothel after seeing his mother and father, King Uther (Eric Bana) killed in a coup. A speed-induced montage later and Arthur is a fully grown and martial arts trained man who is a street-wise protector of the brothel’s prostitutes. His Uncle Vortigern, who sold his soul to get the crown, rules Camelot. But Vortigern can’t access his full powers without the Excalibur sword, which, as you know, is stuck in a rock. This leads Vortigern’s soldiers to round up every man of Arthur’s age to find the remaining heir.
Hunnam’s Arthur is a wise-cracking, sensitive, who neither seeks nor wants power of any kind. What he does want is never really explored beyond the fact that he cares about his friends and feels some sort of obligation to protect the weak. But he eventually gets on board with his birthright — partly to avenge his father’s death and partly because a group of outlaws, including The Mage, Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and Bill (Aidan Gillen), sort of make him do it. An Arthur for the millennial generation perhaps?
Indeed, Ritchie’s “King Arthur” seems specifically designed to appeal to the “Game of Thrones” crowd (though mercifully with some hope infused into the core of the story) and definitely not to anyone who has any deep reverence for the classic tale. If that’s a compromise you’re willing to make, there are some genuinely compelling and innovative sequences of the action and dialogue variety (and a jarring David Beckham cameo). The film falls apart in the final showdown, however, when Ritchie gives himself over to the CGI leaders to craft a mind-numbing duel that looks so much like a video game, it would be easy to forget you’re still watching “King Arthur.”
Despite a shameless non-ending that hints at sequel possibilities, this is not a film that is likely to stick with you even past the movie theater parking lot. Like Arthur, you’ll be happy that you got alive and relatively unscathed.
“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” a Warner Bros. release, is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America for “sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong language. Running time: 126 minutes. Two stars out of four.
LONDON: David Beckham has received some scathing reviews in the British press for his cameo in the film “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”, but director Guy Ritchie has given the former soccer star the thumbs up for his performance.
“I love him and I think he’s great on screen. I find him very talented,” Ritchie told Reuters at the film’s European premiere, when asked if Beckham had the potential to be as good at acting as at soccer.
Ritchie’s take on the medieval legend follows King Arthur, played by Charlie Hunnam, who is robbed of his birthright and has a tough upbringing. But once he pulls the Excalibur sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy.
Beckham, the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder known for his bending kicks, plays the soldier Trigger in the sword-pulling scene.
Beckham “shows just about enough dramatic range to have played the stone the sword got stuck in,” The Telegraph said in its review, adding that he had “sabotaged” the scene.
“It’s a misguided, fist-biter of a performance,” Empire said.
Beckham, who also had a cameo in Ritchie’s previous movie, “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”, said it was “nice to be involved” in the film.
LOS ANGELES: In only the second weekend of the summer box office, the first ice-cold front approaches.
“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” looks to continue its reign over the box office this weekend, but it’s far from the most interesting story. That title goes to “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” which is anticipating an opening weekend flop of epic proportions for Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow. Off of a $175 million production budget, not taking into account marketing costs, Guy Ritchie’s take on the medieval legend should make $25 million from over 3,600 locations.
Ritchie has seen box office glory in the past with 2009’s “Sherlock Holmes” ($209 million domestic and $524 million worldwide) and its 2011 sequel, “A Game of Shadows” ($187 million, $545 million). But more recently, the director saw a similar fate with his 2015 outing for Warner Bros., “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.” The film ended its run with nearly $110 million worldwide off a $75 million budget, despite receiving generally positive reviews from critics. (Agencies)
The same cannot be said for “King Arthur,” which was sliced and diced by the critical community, and currently holds a doleful 23% on Rotten Tomatoes. Variety’s Peter Debruge panned the movie — which tells the story of Arthur who draws the sword Excalibur from the stone and is confronted with its power — as “just a loud, obnoxious parade of flashy set pieces, as one visually busy, belligerent action scene after another marches by, each making less sense than the last, but all intended to overwhelm.”
Perhaps some of the inevitable blame for the film’s anticipated draw can be shoved onto its star, Charlie Hunnam, who is best known for his role on FX’s “Sons of Anarchy,” and relatively untested as a movie star. The most thought-provoking point of comparison might be 2013’s “Pacific Rim,” which Hunnam anchored. The big-budget action film was widely considered a domestic bummer ($102 million by the end of its run), but scored overseas, leading to a worldwide total of over $400 million. Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow are most likely hoping for similar international traction since there seems to be little stateside.
Not to be confused with Ritchie’s 2000 Brad Pitt-starrer “Snatch,” Fox’s “Snatched” is also opening this weekend. Despite being a mid-budget R-rated comedy, the movie should give “King Arthur” (a big-budget action flick) a run for its money. Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn star in “Snatched” as a mother and daughter whose exotic vacation goes wildly and dangerously wrong. With an early estimate in the $15 million to $17 million range, some are predicting that it will make more on faith that female-driven comedies like Kristen Wiig’s “Bridesmaids” and Schumer’s own feature debut, “Trainwreck,” are routinely underestimated at the box office. The Chernin Entertainment and Feigco Entertainment production was directed by Jonathan Levine from a script by “Ghostbusters” writer Katie Dippold.
All this to say, Disney’s “Guardians 2” should pummel its new competition on the way to a second weekend on top of the domestic box office. Even if it sees a 60% drop from its opening weekend grosses of $145 million, the sequel to 2014’s surprise hit should more than double the newcomers with around $60 million. (Agencies)
By Lindsey Bahr