How do you tell the story of King Arthur, a story that’s been told on film many times before while keeping it fresh? Give it to Guy Ritchie.
He’s kept it fresh by applying his signature directing style; quick cuts, snappy editing, unconventional camera angles and gorgeous gothic visuals make Ritchie’s take on Arthur stand out from the pack. Along with that, his characters feel like they’ve been plucked right out of his film Snatch (2000), which at first feels a bit strange, but doesn’t take long to draw you in and keep you there.
The characters in the film are mostly a rag-tag bunch of anti-hero types, which is nothing new, but the casting and performances are great. Charlie Hunnam is excellent as the rebellious good-guy Arthur, and Jude Law a perfect opposite as the film’s evil King Vortigern. The rest of the supporting cast are all fine, though Hunnam and Law take most of the spotlight, which isn’t an issue as the story mainly revolves around the power-hungry King’s quest to destroy Arthur – who is the rightful King by birthright.
The story of King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone has been around for centuries, and covered across popular culture in different mediums over the years. In Ritchie’s film, the basic plot is there as expected – the rightful heir to the throne is the only person capable of pulling the magical sword Excalibur from the stone, in order to defeat the evil King and reclaim the throne. The difference in this film being that it doesn’t pay too much attention to the myth behind the sword and its creation, but rather about the character wielding it. We get to see the extent of the power behind Excalibur a few times in the film, but it’s not a sole focus. Rather, the film relies more on displaying the effect the sword has on Arthur, and his journey to find the power within himself to master the sword. This is a nice touch, as it’s good to see the film’s story focus a bit more on character development, rather than the lore behind the magical sword.
The film’s story also heavily features magic and supernatural aspects, brought to life by some outstanding visual effects work. The production team have captured the middle-ages period beautifully, with fantastic set and costume design, along with excellent creature design. The film’s visuals are by far one of its strongest highlights, with only a couple of sequences that slightly miss the mark effects-wise, but still manage to keep you enthralled without pulling you too far out of the film.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a unique take on the classic tale; think Snatch set in the dark ages with magical elements. It’s humorous, visually stunning, action-packed, and filled with interesting characters. The story may be considered trite and predictable at times, however the film has enough entertainment value going for it to allow you to look past its faults.
Charlie Hunnam said that he closely observed Ultimate Fighting Championship Irish featherweight Conor McGregor to incorporate his fighting style and his ultra-ripped physique into his portrayal of a young “street” version of Arthur. Hunnam watched hours and hours of interviews and fight footage of McGregor on YouTube because he thought he would be an interesting model for the character.