Bleedin’ ’ell, anotha King Arthur movie? ’Ang on, lads, look who just swaggered in: Guy Ritchie! Jus’ the manly bloke we need to turn this Arthur cuck on ’is ear!
And blimey, what a mess he’s made of it. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is supposedly the first of six King Arthur movies Ritchie plans to make (let’s reassess that once the box office receipts come in), but it already feels 12 hours long—stuffed with montages, flashbacks, flash-forwards, jump cuts, embarrassingly outdated Matrix fight scenes, and nary a whiff of emotion or suspense. For a movie that contains elephant monsters, bloodthirsty lamia, and a crew of scallywags with fun names like Wet Stick and Back Lack, this is quite an achievement.
Charlie Hunnam is fine, basically; his Arthur is a muscly lout trying to reclaim his dead dad’s magic penis—er, sword—in order to defeat his usurping uncle Vortigern (Jude Law). This could have been a welcome variation on the hoary legend, but it merely substitutes one overly familiar story for another. The rest of the movie plays it similarly loosey-goosey—for instance, Merlin’s a woman, which would have been great, except the photogenic French model who plays her, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, is real bad at acting.
Still, the main problem is Ritchie, who montages the living fuck out of every sequence—from Arthur’s coming of age to the totally useless chunk of plot in which he journeys to “the Darklands” to confront the ghosts of his past. This slicing and dicing is made all the more painful by the intriguing fantasy elements—giant eagles, creepy tree-witches—glimmering beneath the movie’s testosterone bombast. Ritchie mistakes kinetic energy for storytelling—and when the story is as age-old as Arthur, his masculine bluster is empty and exhausting.