Nonsense Mythology: Our Review of ‘King Arthur: Legend of The Sword’

Posted in Movies, Theatrical by - May 11, 2017
Nonsense Mythology: Our Review of ‘King Arthur: Legend of The Sword’

There’s early career Guy Ritchie (Snatch) when he sprinkles his snappily-shot films with the wisecracking gangster class. Then there’s also him mid career. The Sherlock Holmes Guy Ritchie which I’ll describe as homosocial steampunk. Or selling his soul to the devil. His take on the King Arthur legend combines these two mission statements, and the results make for an interesting failure. I’m trying to be good Christian and say nice things here.

There are two major plot points here that galvanizes the rest of the character’s actions. The first one is when Prince Vortigern (Jude Law) literally snatches the crown from Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana). I am irrationally angry because this is not what happens in the real legend. Anyway, that leaves a baby Arthur like baby Moses in a boat flowing down the Thames into Londinium.

Arthur could have spent the rest of his adult life (Charlie Hunnam playing said adult) being a neurotic brothel runner. Who employs the women who raised him. Who surrounds himself with people named Kung Fu George because yes, there were Chinese people in Britain then. His life would have been full of moments where he and his friends reminisce about the dangers of Londinuim living.

Ritchie’s camera would have edited quickly in and out these moments. That’s the only thing he knows how to do. I kind of like this depiction of 5th century Britain. Because in a way, Ritchie argues that the smart alecks populating London’s streets didn’t exist from a vacuum. And characters like the ones he fetishizes have been around forever.

And now we get to the second plot point. Where I argue that Arthur life changes when man inflicting violence against a sex worker. That sex worker is Lucy. And his actions, initially motivated to right the wrong against her leads to the discovery of his true lineage. These plot points show a complex gender dynamic. Here we see the sex workers make up one group that helps him dethrone Vortigern.

Ritchie hints here that he’s realizing that these women have a hidden intelligence, despite not giving them names. Sex workers make up one group of women in Arthur’s life. The second group who enter his life is a one-woman group. She’s an Mage (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) without a name who studied under Merlin. She’s a mom.

These characters are fascinating only through moments. Ritchie, who also has a screenwriting credit, bothers not to develop them fully. They also populate a version of Arthurian Britain that’s larger in scale. Aesthetically some of it also reminds me of pre-Raphaelite red and gold. But the dominant colour palette is wet cement. And seeing those same flaws in tentpole films disappoint.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watches movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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