King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

(Video On-Demand, September 2017) The reviews for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword were harsh enough that I didn’t expect to enjoy the film, but it doesn’t turn out to be quite as bad as anticipated. As an attempt to take the Arthurian legend and fuse it with modern fantasy filmmaking, it’s actually rather good. It helps that director Guy Richie’s style is in full display here: while some sequences are almost incomprehensible (sometimes due to information being undisclosed until much later), other moments have almost genius-level editing blending cause and effect, narration and irony in one energetic package. There are a lot of special effects along the way, Jude Law effectively mugging for the camera as a villain (which he should do more often), and an honest attempt at revitalizing Arthurian myth. It’s certainly not all good. Charlie Hunnam remains a strikingly ineffective lead despite being better here than in many other movies. There are a few dull moments. The anachronisms are blatant despite taking place in an avowed fantasy film. And yet, and yet… King Arthur: Legend of the Sword does have its share of strong moments, and it’s almost regrettable that its commercial failure film means that none of its planned sequels will even be brought to screen. As an origin story, it would have promised much for later exploits of the Knights of the Round Table. As it is, though, it’s a better-than-average fantasy film, with almost-stirring echoes of British myth-making for us colonials. I very much prefer this maximalist approach to the Arthurian legend than 2004’s gritty yet completely dull King Arthur, which made the legend so realistic that it completely lost interest.

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