Jai Courtney and Henry Cavill were both considered for the titular role of King Arthur, but lost it to Charlie Hunnam. (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
It’s inexcusable, just plain inexcusable, that a modern day blockbuster with a budget of $175 million ends up looking like something thrown together for the purpose of testing out a first year film student’s ability to use editing tricks and stylized filmmaking.
The opening of the movie is a great big warning siren that the movie is not going to be good. It opens up with an exposition crawl to set the scene: Camelot is under attack. That’s all the audience gets from this crawl, and it is reiterated at the end of the battle scene, which raises the question of why the crawl was even needed. It is a small point, true, but it does speak volumes of the incompetence to come with the inclusion of such a blatantly useless crawl that should have been cut.
The plot of this movie is one of the most standard and cliche plots around: the jealous brother of a king decides to overthrow the king and take the kingdom for himself. In the coup, the king’s son escapes to grow up and return to overthrow his evil uncle.
The characters in the movie are as uninspired as the plot, and as poorly conceived as the usage of the editing. Arthur’s uncle King Vortigern (Jude Law) is probably the best developed out of everyone. He at least has some amount of emotional depth, but everything else about him is the generic evil uncle character. King Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) has an arrogantly charming personality—which it’s a miracle that he even has that much development because the audience sees him as a child, then gets a montage, and then he’s an adult—and everyone else is a blank slate.
The cast that plays these characters is studded with talent, but none of them have much to work with. Jude Law gives a decent performance because he has some amount of a character to work with, while Djimon Hounsou, Aiden Gillen, and Eric Bana all do their best with the flat characters they are given. The only bad performances are from Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey as the Mage, who speaks all of her lines in a flat and unemotional tone, and Hunnam, whose lack of charisma removes the charm and only shows Arthur’s arrogance.
As stated above, there is a lot of style to the movie, but none of it fits or works. The slow motion scenes of Arthur wielding Excalibur are more ridiculous than anything “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” dreamed up for their rendition of King Arthur’s story, the quick cuts between characters talking and what they’re talking about happening makes the dialogue flow awkwardly so it is hard to follow what is going on, and even the opening title’s font does not feel like it fits.
What’s even stranger about the movie is that with its confusingly edited and stylized method of story telling, it always feels like it’s edging away from what it wants to be. That comes from its PG-13 rating. The movie features blood and gore in the battle sequences and an utterance of the f-word, but it is highly sanitized so that it can appeal to a teenage audience when it seems like it wants to be an R-rated movie.
I won’t sugarcoat it: “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” is unequivocally terrible.
Final Grade: F