King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
So this weekend I was spoilt for choice when it came to the movies. Seriously, weekends like this haven’t happened in a long while. First up – was of course the legendary star-lord and his ragtag bunch of misfits out to save the galaxy from itself, the sequel to the wildly popular and absolutely brilliant first part, Guardians of the Galaxy from Marvel. Next on the plate, was the Alien prequel which is going to be a mindfuck, I can guarantee. With Ridley Scott spinning the wheels crazy in the first prequel to the original Alien series in Prometheus that gave us a twisted convoluted legend of the Aliens ‘origin’ story, the trailer looked mind-boggling. But the movie that I finally settled on, of course was the return of my all-time movie director: Guy Ritchie stamping his unique signature on the much loved legend of the “The Man who would be King”.
In King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, one of the oldest legends is re-imagined in signature Guy Ritchie fashion – complete with a non-linear narrative that never bogs down even for a second, criss-crossed with some mind-boggling action sequences shot in sharply panned angles, this Arthurian mythos comes alive in the typical flashy and super entertaining manner, helmed by the same director who gave us a different spin on Sherlock Holmes and most recently, resurrected the cold-war spy drama based on the 1960’s series, Man from UNCLE.
So Arthur, disinherited by his power hungry megalomaniacal Uncle Vortigern (Who in a bid for power, snatches the crown killing the king Uther [Why does Eric Bana take up such roles? every wondered why can't he take up a full fledged role in a medieval fantasy where he doesn't get killed mid-way?]) grows up in a brothel – protecting the women who brought him up, scheming little schemes for making money on the side, thieving, extortion, smuggling and the kinds. A flash of sepia and B/W montages that sees young Arthur grow up into the hunk that he is now, street smart – with a motor mouth that lands him in trouble but lightning quick reflexes and a mean wit to boot, to help extricate himself out. But Vortigern is still haunted by his greed for power and knows that someday, the ‘Born king’ will come back, the rightful one to claim the sword ‘Excalibur’ forged by the mighty mage Merlin against magic and thus rule Londinium and the counties around. Arthur finally has to face his fate, brought in by the King’s soldiers to stand in the line with other youngsters, who are made to try and pull the sword out of the rock. He obviously succeeds and then, sets loose an inter-connected set of cataclysmic events that sees England rise up in rebellion for the rightful born king and Vortigern sets out to destroy Arthur’s life, one person at a time. Arthur goes through his hero’s journey of self discovery, coming into his own fate, the sword and the kingdom that is his.
That’s all there is to know about the story – it’s brainless yes. But the edgy, over caffeinated, jumpy montages of glistening muscles, gleaming sword play, the monstrous animals, the dark throbbing thrill of magic and greed gone far – and the never-ending quips and japes and the clever play of words, damn it was so SO much fun.
Charlie Hunnan as Arthur is not your well-mannered courtly king, no sir. He is your regular little street ruffian, perhaps a grown up member of the ‘Baker Street boys gangs’ transported in time and set in a medieval fantasy setting. But man, every scene he swaggers into with his waggish attitude, that brawn sitting pretty with that impish smile of his, he so OWNS it. He is a rough-and-tumble Arthur, much like Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock. He uses his wit to disarm his foes, make friends with strangers and plans to bring down the evil King. All in a day’s work. He doesn’t want the crown, he wants to save his own people. He doesn’t want the legendary sword, he just wants to avenge his father’s death. Charlie plays a very capable titular role – wronged and robbed of his birth rights. There are raw moments of anguish and pain in his eyes but it’s truly in the action set pieces that he limbers and sets out in that rollicking gait of his to literally explode on the screen.
Jude Law, is a bit of a caricature. The evil uncle who grabs for power and goes to any extent to derive more magical power, he is menacing enough with malice glinting in those eyes and the hissing voice of his, demanding that “the resistance be crushed tonight!” There are others, the cronies, part of the bro-code in the streets of Londinium along with Arthur. Of note, were two : Goosefat Bill, played by Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones, Little Finger) the archer extraordinaire who obviously joins the inner coterie of the brotherhood of the ‘wheel of cheese’ and then, there is Back Lack played by Neil Maskell, Arthur’s bro from the streets with his son (Oh they make a fine pair, the only nod to anything remotely poignant or emotional in this movie!) There are others of course, who later join the Round Table but not many stand out. Astrid-Berges Frisby as the Mage who can will the animals to do her bidding, is impressive in bits but alas, there was no Merlin.
So fans of the 1500-year old myth are going to be disappointed if they go in expecting a heady brew of myth and magic. I didn’t quite like the dull 2003 version with Clive Owen and Keira Knightly. And I agree that this one doesn’t quite do justice to anything beyond the fun action elements – of bringing in a Lord of the Rings feel into the dark, damp streets of London from Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Hell, I could just have called this Lock, Stock and many smoking axes and One Magical Sword. Apparently, Mr. Ritchie is going to expand this into a six-part franchise. Did I hear anyone whooping with glee? Ah, perhaps he aims to bring in Lancelot, Guinevere, Gawain, Galahad, Kay and of course Merlin ( You see, I am quite a big fan of Arthur and his Round Table Knights. I loved the legend while growing up and would suck up anything in this form!) to the story and the big screen.
Overall, with some rapid fire editing, explosive action sequences with the background of a mind-blowing soundtrack and some pulse-pounding music that thrills your blood, there is never a dull moment to the movie. It sets out to do exactly what Guy Ritchie has been famous for. The grit hits you in the face, the blood roars in your brain as you take flight with this version of the Man who would be King, rushing through dimly lit streets with his bros.
Come expecting nothing. You will leave plenty thrilled.