I had sworn to never see a Guy Ritchie movie again after the insult and injury of Sherlock Holmes, which I hated to the core of my being. Plus, I had read and loved Sherlock Holmes novels and stories, and hated seeing them destroyed in such an idiotic way. I’m also in the process of reading Le Morte D’Arthur, and in both cases I really love the gravity of the material and nobility of the characters, so I was not keen to have that all stripped away and have King Arthur be a righteous bro who does martial arts, as happened with Sherlock Holmes. And then the reviews came in, and they were horrendous. They said that Arthur was indeed a rude, buffed bro and has associates were all thugs and the whole thing was presented in an insanely frenetic manner, scenes edited in a jarring manner, everything amped up to 11 and the story, much as Ritchie is trying to update it, tired and old. So I did break my vow not to see a Ritchie movie again, but was expecting to give it a long and lusty hate-watch and tear it apart later. So imagine my shock to find myself writing the words: I liked it.
I tried, I really did, to hate it. But it starts out with a scene of a castle under attack by giant elephants, which was one of the silly, over-the-top-things about the movie, but… gosh, they had a kind of grandeur. And then you have Eric Bana as Arthur’s dad, and he looks amazing in kingly garb and has the gravity you need… his short time here makes one realize that he should be carrying a King Arthur film on his own. And the whole thing is very fast, loud and frenetic, but… it’s kind of working? By the time I got to the much-derided youth / training montage in which we see Arthur become a street thug, martial artist and natural hu$tla while living in a brothel with prostitutes [all set to THIS INSANE MUSIC] I was pretty much along for the ride. Because much as I hate what he’s trying to do with the character, and much as I think it’s silly [and much as I think chasing fickle teens with flashy versions of ancient literary properties is a fool’s errand]… it kind of works on its own terms.
Necessary to that is to realize that not only is this not your dad’s King Arthur (nor is it anyone’s King Arthur), but just a pretty amusing work in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. I started to like it when a witch made a huge eagle keep an executioner from claiming Arthur’s head… that’s when I thought “Okay, this is just some wildly imaginative thing in which there are no rules, anything can happen.” It turns out to be some story in which the bad guy is a dark magician, and Arthur coming to let his father’s magical sword, and good magic, take him over and guide his movements. So there’s nothing about nobility or chivalry, it’s just about magical powers, and I could kind of get into it on those terms.
What else? Jude Law is excellent. He seems to understand that his part in this film is a series of poses, and he poses beautifully. If there were some sort of Oscar for acting in total irredeemable shit, he would deserve it. Charlie Hunnam is fine, dragging out his strongest cockney accent and trying to come off as a badass. This Arthur is a self-involved alpha asshole, and there are a few scenes in which he is intensely unlikable, but I guess that’s Ritchie’s idea of an awesome dude.
And that’s about it. It’s still ludicrous action crap, and I am not in fact recommending that anyone go see it, but it can be enjoyed as it’s own thing, it’s own very silly thing, and I came out of it with a smile on my face, as opposed to the new Guardians of the Galaxy, which made me scowl.