NICE ALTERNATIVE TO THE LEGEND
Film Review by Fiore
One of the more endearing legends is that of King Arthur. It is a cultural mythos which encapsulates the whole of humanity, while allowing room for that which is beyond. I’ve seen a plethora of films on King Arthur, from the sublime EXCALIBUR to the ridiculous KING ARTHUR, with Clive Owen. I believe the legend is best exemplified by EXCALIBUR. It is the film by which I hold all others to task. Knowing that, I can tell you KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD is a fun spin on the folklore. While it will not usurp EXCALIBUR as the definitive Arthur representation, it, nevertheless, offers an alternative universe to the story, with action, drama and humor, making it a very entertaining melodrama.
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD has Director Guy Ritchie’s DNA imprint throughout each frame. There are historically inappropriate colloquialisms tossed in at key moments, providing comic relief in much the same manner as Kevin Sorbo’s TV series HERCULES. There is Ritchie’s trademark quick-cut edits that effectively blend dialogue with ensuing action; and there is enough twist on the legend to allow Ritchie great latitude, while still keeping the essence of the fable intact.
The tale begins before Arthur’s banishment from royalty. His uncle, Vortigern, played by Jude Law, has delusions of grandeur and world conquest, like most grandiose villains. He banishes and begins to systematically destroy all people of magic, the Mages, while using dark magic to increase his power. For this, he conspires with a demonic kraken, which is a clever SFX concoction of squid, sirens and corpulent spinster.
When his power is sufficient, he sabotages Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon, King of England, and wielder of Excalibur, played by Eric Bana.
Baby Arthur is set adrift in a basket down the river in a dramatic escape, much like the myths of Hercules and Moses. He is adopted by the women of a brothel, and grows into manhood among the street people. Here the tale skewers as there is no boy king, for Arthur pulls the sword from the stone when he is a man, in this version. Arthur, played by Charlie Hunnam, reluctantly seeks to recapture his rightful legacy.
Helping Hunnam, Bana and Law reinterpret the Arthurian Legend are Astrid Berges-Frisbey as Merlin’s Mage. She is sent to help Arthur discover his destiny. There is only one quick shot of Merlin, as most of the magic in KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD is performed by Mage. Also starring are Dijimon Hounsou as Bedivere and Aidan Gillen as Goose-Fat Bill, two loyalists to Merlin and the old ways.
1.1 KEY SCENES TO LOOK FOR:
1. THE INTERROGATION
2. THE ESCAPE WITH KUNG FU GEORGE
3. THE SNAKE ATTACK
Ritchie adds an element of mythical magic to the tale. There are demonic elephant-zillas, giant rats, bats and wolves, while on the side of good are snakes, dogs and one big Eagle. (America’s symbol providing the might for right – hell, yeah!)
Some of the action sequences are muffled, especially the concluding sequences when actors battle CGI monsters. The segments are a blur of swinging limbs and artificial colors. The version screened for the press was 2D. I suspect these scenes play better in 3D. KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD was not shot in 3D, but rather went through a conversion process. While that type of 3D is not particularly effective, it may have helped these sequences.
Let’s take a look at the report card for KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD:
1.2 ACTING = B
1.3 CINEMATOGRAPHY = B
1.4 SOUND/MUSIC = A
1.5 EDITING = A
1.6 LIGHTING = A
1.7 SCRIPT = B
1.8 SFX = A
1.9 ACTION = A
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD offers spectacular sound separation. Editor James Herbert, who worked with Ritchie on THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., keeps the film moving at a rapid pace and aside from the aforementioned concluding battle scenes which he probably purloined from his own work on GLADIATOR, Director of Photography John Mathieson, utilizes the rolling hills and landscapes of Scotland to provide a worthy vision of Medieval England.
Although scripters Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram, along with Ritchie, play loosey-goosey with the story, there is enough tongue-in-check interplay to make KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD a fun alternative. It is an entertaining film for anyone looking for several hours of pure escapism. I highly recommend seeing it on the big screen.