As I was sitting in Hollywood's latest attempt to create a decent King Arthur flick, I had a random thought pop into my head...whatever happened to McG?
I mean, one minute the guy is directing just about every other flick that comes out of Holllywood and the next minute he's vanished into thin air. So, with this random thought locked away I finished up my viewing and rushed home to find that, indeed, McG is alive and well and directing mostly television projects with the occasional more obscure cinematic effort still popping up from time to time.
I tried to get myself back relaxed and immersed in Guy Ritchie's latest cinematic travesty, but I simply couldn't do so because, quite simply, it's not a very entertaining film.
It truly is that simple.
It's not horrible. It would be easy to call it so, however, because it is such a jumbled mishmash of faux action sequences and overly stylized heroics that aren't really that heroic that you'll likely either find it laughably bad or, perhaps more sadly, just plain boring.
My vote? Boring.
Tossing aside any semblance of loyalty to the actual story that we're all familiar with, Ritchie along with Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram have done nothing more than craft a Guy Ritchie film with Guy Ritchie action and Guy Ritchie sequences and Guy Ritchie trademarks that, if we're being honest, have little to do with or any business being in a film about the legend of King Arthur.
In this film, Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy, The Lost City of Z) plays Arthur, whom we meet as a street orphan who learns that his father, Uther (Eric Bana), was king until Vortigern (Jude Law), staged a coup and murdered his brother just as Arthur was whisked away to safety. Having grown up in a bordello, Arthur lays claim to his lineage by pulling the legendary Excalibur, the sword in case you skipped that class in school, from the stone. Hearing of this, Vortigern becomes determined to kill Arthur before Arthur becomes widely known as the rightful heir to the throne.
Blah. Blah. Blah.
Ritchie has done what Ritchie tends to do with his films - he's taken a familiar framework and bathed it into his own cinematic tendencies and excesses. Merlin (Kamil Lemieszewski), essential to the original source material, is merely a secondary player here. The film, not surprisingly, emphasizes the conflict between Arthur and Vortigern and slathers on heavy doses of the mystical and magical and an unnecessarily dark origin story that does nothing to enhance the story or further the character development. King Arthur is bathed in CGI, not exactly uncommon these days, but it's done in a way that feels more like commercial exploitation than something actually done for the sake of the film.
While it largely goes for naught, there are moments in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword that work including Jude Law's bombastically one-note performance that happens to be the right one note and a performance by Game of Thrones actor and modern cinema's go to actor for medieval flicks Aidan Gillen that finds depth in a character that as written has very little.
Hunnam, who was quite impressive earlier this year in The Lost City of Z, completely flounders here as Arthur with a performance that is wooden and half-note at best with posturing and preening taking the place of charisma and convincing action sequences. It's mostly Hunnam's fault that the central here of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a man whom it's nearly impossible to like from beginning to end.
Djimon Hounsou makes the most he can as a warrior, while Astrid Berges-Frisbey lacks a spark as a mythical creature who tries to help Arthur.
Daniel Pemberton's original music is occasionally quite captivating and, I'd dare say, more compelling than the film itself, while the entire production team should be given kudos for creating a beautiful to look at film that, unfortunately, is never really anything more than beautiful to look at.
There are moments in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword that reveal the film's potential, though in all likelihood this will become yet the latest middle of the road flick for a filmmaker who has seemingly spent much of his career creating middle of the road films both critically and in terms of box-office receipts. Ritchie, like McG, is one of those directors who has found a formula that works for him and it attracts just enough of an audience to keep Hollywood knocking at his door.
As I sat down at the computer to begin writing this review, I found myself at a loss for how to describe a film about a legend that feels so decidedly non-legendary. I'll give it up to Lily Tomlin...What becomes a semi-legend most? In this case, it's King Arthur.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic