I was excited about this film for a very long time and so I finally got to see it. After that, I checked the reviews and feeling of other people, and I was rather surprised. So much negativity on this film from all the sides. Well, I am here to defend this film.
If we look at the Arthurian legend itself, we are taken to a 5th Century England and to some figures of British history that until this day raise many questions from many historians, while Vortigern was a King of Britons and warlord, Arthur remains more questionable figure, as of course, does the legendary wizard, Merlin. The reasons why this legend survived over centuries are kings and queens that hold it together and of whose, there are many written memories. King Uther, or Uther Pendragon, is one of them. Uther had a son, Arthur, and you know how it is, from folklore comes legends, from legends, comes myths. So who knows how it really was.
When I was a kid, I’ve seen a mini-series called simply Merlin with Sam Neill portraying the wizard himself, this two-part series was a quite amazing retelling in its own of this story and remained more focused on the folklore itself, and Merlin’s creation, battle with Mab and eventually, the creation of Camelot. Then there is, of course, legendary and brilliant Excalibur from 1981. Now this film, directed by John Boorman (who, by the way, wanted to do Lord of the Rings) is a piece of beauty that will never be conquered. But I think it’s important to say, that this film, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, is not doing that, it’s not even trying. It is a story and a take on this legend of its own.
What we are facing here, unlike in Merlin or Excalibur, is an amazing epic presentation of the story, but also an enormous element of magic. Perhaps more so, than you would have expected. You meet Uther and Vortigern early on, setting the story. Uther who is portrayed by Eric Bana holds power and dignity over the crown, but his brother Vortigern craves the power for himself. Jude Law that played Vortigern is one of the brightest jewels of this film. In his character and in his portrayal you see the inside battle within Vortigern that craves power and is ready to sacrifice a lot for it, but still, he suffers from it. It shows the great price and burden, but also submission one can be put under when he or she seeks this ability to control, to be feared. And this movie plays with this very topic.
But the important bit is the sword itself. We know from many stories before, that is is a magical sword. But Ritchie took it one level up by showing that is has a life of its own and takes power from those worthy carrying it, in this case, the Pendragon descendent. Which is also Arthur, played by Charlie Hunnam. Now, he is not your typical king Arthur, he is cocky built build, but he is also protective of his own and you see the character grown in the two hours of film. I think Charlie Hunnam did really good job. There are many side character that give this film a lot of soul, but also humor. I need to ponpoint Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou), Bill (Aidan Gillen), the amazing Mage (Astrid Bergés-Frisbey), and Blue (Bleu Landau).
As I mentioned earlier, magic is an enormous part of this film. At the beginning with Mordred (played by Rob Knighton), Syrens giving power increases to Vortigern or the king himself. We even get a glimpse on Merlin and Lady of the Lake. But the biggest gate to the magic realm is given by The Mage, guiding Arthur and aiding his crusade through her power of what is almost a lore master, controlling and becoming part of animals. Her magic was one of my favorite parts of the film. Played brilliantly by Spanish actress Astrid Bergès-Frisbey.
The film can easily be described by epic, it goes in straight forward line, no bullshit, just pure action, not overly heavy on emotions, but it shows the fight with them. The film of course, is still made by amazing Guy Richie (whose films I love very much), and you can really see that from first moments on. It has dynamic cuts, it’s heavily, and I mean heavily entertaining, but also beautiful. The shots are almost unreal, and I could talk about the soundtrack, done by Daniel Pemberton, for hours. It connects to every scene perfectly. And the Same Lee track? Pure gold. I am trying to find the song in dialect from early moments of the film, no luck so far. If anyone knows, please let me know.
So yes. I will defend this film because it is a very good film. Just as Sherlock Holmes was unlikely and different take on this classic British character, so is King Arthur.
So if you are coming for the legend, with Excalibur in your mind, you will loose. You need to see this film openminded because it is different. And it is amazingly fun.
I am gonna start saving now so I can get that sweet Blu-ray. One thing I really hope for is a Directors Cut, you can feel that the film should have been longer, you can feel that there is that one part of dialogue missing and Ritchie himself said, that originally, the script would be for almost three-hours film, and somehow, you really feel that. The other think that has some wiggle room is CGI, while some parts, like the giant elephants and snakes and the animals controlled by mage were top noch, the moments where Arthur takes the sword from “rock” or where we see Vortigern do some magic, that seems bit sloppy. So, those are two things that I don’t necesarrily mind, but that have noted presence.
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