Guy Ritchie, director and co-writer of “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” has an entertaining storytelling style.
He uses flashbacks for sometimes comedic and sometimes tragic effect, and he revisits memories multiple times to probe their deeper meanings.
It works beautifully, as we learn how an orphan prince raised in a brothel becomes a serious threat to his usurper uncle, King Vortigern (Jude Law).
Arthur’s dreams are nightmare visions of his past that he’d rather push away during his waking hours. He’s happy running a criminal operation, protecting the women who raised him and saving his growing stack of coins.
But the king knows a rightful heir is out there, and he’s bent on finding him. The mighty sword Excalibur is stuck in stone. Vortigern makes young men try their luck and plans a quick, public funeral for the one who succeeds.
But Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) has allies that even he doesn’t know about. The king’s forces are strong, but a mage (Astrid Bergés-Frisbey) controls powerful forces.
Though a natural-born leader with a quick smile and quicker wit, Arthur turns out to be a reluctant future king. It’s those nightmares and memories again. Clearly, the young boy inside him was scarred in ways his new followers can only glimpse.
Before going to see this film, I caught the Rotten Tomatoes score, which was in the 20s. I didn’t have high hopes but was pleasantly surprised at how engaging it is.
Certainly, Ritchie’s storytelling style has an effect. In a movie called “King Arthur,” it’s clear the kid raised in a brothel will find himself in significantly better circumstances by the end of the movie.
But as the old saying goes, “It’s not what you do, but how you do it.” Hunnam is perfectly cast as a born aristocrat with a common man’s touch. His Arthur is a mystery to figure out.
Sadly, he seems to be the only one. The movie focuses on Arthur’s story to the exclusion of other characters. The mage could’ve had an arc, so could’ve Vortigern or one or more of Arthur’s “Merry Men.” (I know that’s from Robin Hood, but I found myself thinking of them that way throughout the film.)
Though the numerous one-dimensional characters prevent “King Arthur” from being a great movie, they don’t get in the way of its being a good one.
There are plenty of fight scenes in and around Londinium, where magic is just as likely to kill you as a sword or an arrow. I’m a sucker for fantasy films and the cool stuff that goes with them, and I’m glad Ritchie decided to tell this story.
I give “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” a B.
It’s showing at the Cinemark in Tupelo, as well as Malcos in Oxford, Corinth and Columbus, Hollywood Premier Cinemas in Starkville and Movie Reel 4 in New Albany.