For the seemingly endless amount of brilliant material based on Arthurian lore, we just can’t seem to get a satisfying modern take on King Arthur. Guy Ritchie‘s summer blockbuster King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a bit of a disappointment for me personally (and a massive disappointment at the box office), although it does have its moments.
Arthur himself is played by Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam, who plays the role of Arthur the dashing street rogue turned King of England with a charismatic but overly cocksure smugness that never quite fully endears the audience to him in a way it should have. Instead, the bright parts of the movie belong to strong performances across the board from the supporting cast, from Eric Bana‘s King Uther (a carbon copy of his role as Hector of Troy) to Jude Law‘s villainous sorcerer/kinslayer Vertogen to Djimon Hounsou‘s very much anachronistic Sir Bedivere. Also included are a wide variety of cameos, from Game of Thrones‘ always excellent Aidan Gillen (Lord Petyr Baelish) and Michael McElhatton (Lord Roose Bolton) to Marco Polo‘s fan favorite martial artist Tom Wu to the utterly forgettable acting debut (and hopefully acting finale) of soccer legend David Beckham, who thankfully only has a handful of lines to butcher.
Unfortunately, this is a movie that relies heavily on CGI, which wouldn’t be so bad if the CGI wasn’t also shockingly lackluster. For a movie that features giant elephants, rats, bats, wolves, snakes, and even a shadowy demon knight, the CGI falls far short of what one come to expect from a movie with a whopping $175 million budget. While it’s not quite “The Great Wall” bad, it’s thoroughly unconvincing and even migraine inducing at times.
For all its flaws, fans of Guy Ritchie (whose signature cross-cutting direction is on full display) and the sword and sandals genre should nonetheless give this a whirl when/if it arrives on streaming platforms. Just don’t pay for it in theaters, although given that I saw this the final day of its Boston theatrical run, you’re probably not in danger of committing that error. As for the six-part King Arthur series that this movie was supposed to serve as the initial installment in, that’s sadly no longer likely to happen given the film’s disastrous performance at the box office.
- Rating: 6.5/10
- Recommendation: Worth a shot on streaming, not worth price of admission.