Review: KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD Fights On Unstable Ground, Swings Hard And Loud On Enough To Fascinate

Over the weekend I had the opportunity to go and see the one film in 3D that no one wanted to go see. I wish I were kidding in contrast to the headlines but...yeah. I was the first and only one inside the theater room showing King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword with actor Charlie Hunnam before maybe ten others showed up - including four kids, so it wasn't a total solo outing.

The film comes years after its share of stops and starts prior to nabbing Guy Ritchie to direct the script from Joby Harold and with Hunnam in a stylish, enriched take on the character for its central narrative pitted in an ancient world of kings, warriors and mages, and the compelling existence of Excalibur - the sword passed unto Arthur after pulling it out of a razed stone. Its affects on young Arthur aren't known until around the tail end of the second act when we meet our embattled reluctant medieval hero from orphaned childhood, enduring hazing by peers whilst enslaved in a Londinium brothel until manhood, becoming much stronger and self-sufficient.

Soon enough, an unfortunate series of events forces Arthur on the run only to find himself among slaves in the King's court by chance (or prophecy), eventually crossing paths with Excalibur which unlocks his haunted past upon his first grip. With his evil uncle Vortigern having usurped himself into power in the years since betraying Arthur's father, Uthur, with the aid of Mordred's army, Arthur's trepidating quest for answers will implore him to choose his rightful place in his father's throne at Camelot in the face of pure evil, or live out the grim prophecy that has haunted him for years and will condemn mankind to suffering.

Ritchie's signature style is almost everywhere in the film from brisk, frenzied interludes to witty dialogue, the latter which is energetically paced and well acted. Jude Law exhibiting a strong villain in Vortigern who stoically sacrifices the occassional loved one so he can get stronger. Hunnam gives worthy portrayal of our title character from start to finish, supported accordingly by Djimon Hounsou and Aiden Gillen who play Sir Belvedere and Goosefat Bill in addition to Kingsley Ben-Adir and Neil Maskell as Arthur's longtime friends Tristan and Backlack. Spanish actress Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey commands alongside Hunnam as the nameless mage who implements her skillset when needed.

The action is feasible, though understandably frustrating through visbile usual formulaic shaky cam. Thankfully most of the shots aren't so ridiculously cut that you can't follow where the action goes but you would be forgiven if some of the tight lensing was an issue. The fights get exciting when Hunnam picks up Excalibur - stunning visuals and stellar 3D showcase a sword that lays waste in any direction with explosive, thunderous approval, invoking one of the albeit best iterations of the longstanding literary figure. Visuals of the landscape are a predictably good to average as you might feel about it depending on your expectations.

Daniel Pemberton's scoring is a plus as well, though there are a multitude of factors that play into the film's lack of satisfaction, a lot of which one may say are outlying. The fight sequences, coordinated by Mike Lambert, were entertaining and the Excalibur sequences, which aim to dazzle more than showcase fight prowess, accomplish what they set out to while leaving a little more to be desired in a time when films like John Wick and Logan are embracing perpetually better cinematography. Coloring overall is suitable but overall could dullen the look thus affecting the viewing experience.

King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword isn't a terrible film. It aims high and reaches for a vision keen on starting something special in all its grit and fervor, and Hunnam is an extraordinaty candidate for the role, joined by a cast that would have been primed for a franchise in another lifetime. Unfortunately, despite the years of hard work and patience it took for Warner Bros to get this one right, the last thing it needed was a poorly-timed release, as much as this project languished in wake of an already lesser-demanded IP, among some of the many other factors that have been discussed in various trade news sites and blogs.

Time will tell if Arthurian literature will ever get to see better box office numbers should a studio pick this one up again in the years to come. In the meantime, you would be wise not to pay the entirety of your attention to arbitrarily disapproving critics. What King Arthur: The Legend Of The Sword lacks in luster, it makes up for compelling drama, relatable characters you can connect with, dazzling visuals, quality 3D, a lively and vigorous soundtrack and spectacular action, plus or minus your own viewpoints.

Given the current lack of prospects, I at least recommend a 3D viewing of this one while its theatrical run continues, or a Blu-Ray combo pack purchase upon its release. Either way, you can't really lose, which is more than I can say for the studio. As for Ritchie, well, it's been six years since Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows teased a third in that franchise and now he has Aladdin in the works, so let's hope he wraps that one so Holmes can bring it on home.


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