Friday, May 12, 2017

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

By George M. Thomas

Charlie Hunnam in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
There’s no mistaking that KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD possesses the flourishes fans come to expect from a Guy Ritchie film.

There’s that pay-attention-or-you’ll-miss-it dialogue.  There are those explanatory sequences where the director of the Sherlock Holmes films and SNATCH takes the audience back to the near past to something not previously seen. And there’s the quick pace.

Given the seriousness that past stories of King Arthur, the monarch of British legend, have displayed (think 1981’s EXCALIBUR), a film that clocks in at less than two hours and 15 minutes is unheard of. But KING ARTHUR’s brisk two hours and six minutes fly because of those attributes.

Ultimately, that fact contributes to what’s a pure piece of escapism.  Some might see trappings of a political statement in what is Ritchie’s modernization of Arthurian legend, but at its core it’s a mostly enjoyable trip to medieval England where a despot rules the land.

King Vortigen (Jude Law) ascends to the throne after selling his soul to have the power to vanquish his older brother. He slays his brother (King Uther, played by Eric Bana) and sister-in-law, but his young nephew escapes to one of the seedier sections of England and grows up in a brothel, unaware of his heritage. 

Complicating Vortigen’s plans: he needs Excalibur, a sword of unlimited power, but Uther ensures that his brother is unable to get his grubby paws on it by implanting it in a stone.

In the meantime, Vortigen grows crueler and more paranoid through the years, worried that someone will eventually pull the sword from the rock upending his claim to the throne.

Perhaps his thugs in armor should have left Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) and his bros to their devices, then.  Instead, Arthu is forced to attempt to pull the sword from the stone because Vortigen wants to weed out possible threats to the throne. 

Yeah, big oops.

Arthur is the chosen one.  But of course the young guy, who’s basically been living it up, doesn’t want the responsibility.  He’s a reluctant ruler and it takes a whole lot of convincing to get him on board with his destiny.

There’s magic.  There’s mirth.  There are mammoth battles and a lot of fun.  Just don’t expect much in the way of intellectual heft, which makes KING ARTHUR typical summer fare.

It helps that Hunnam is infinitely likeable in the lead role and gets to have some fun.  Ditto for Law who chews the scenery as Vortigen.

KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD is pure entertainment for those not looking for something involving guardians.

Director:  Guy Ritchie
Cast:  Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Djimon Honsou
Studio:  Warner Bros.
Rated:  PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong language.
Running time:  2 hours 6 minutes

George’s rating: 2.5-of-4 stars

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