No one was really asking for a new King Arthur movie but here we are. I don’t think anyone really knew this movie was coming out because everyone I talked to about this movie said “I don’t know what that is.” So that’s not a good sign.
We’re in medieval England in a time when magic was common, until one mage named Mordred seeks power and attacks the king (Eric Bana). The king sends his only son away, while his brother (Jude Law) usurps the throne. Years later, the boy Arthur has grown up (Charlie Hunnam) and he is on a mission to retrieve the sword Excalibur and reclaim the throne, reluctantly. He is assisted by a crew including a mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), an archer (Aidan Gillen), and a warrior (Djimon Hounsou). It is directed by Guy Ritchie (Snatch, Sherlock Holmes).
I’ll get to the question “Is it good?” later but for now I can definitely say that it’s incredibly cool. From start to finish, this movie is cool. It opens with an incredible fight sequence, like something from Lord of the Rings. The creature design is impressive, with some great visual effects to bring these creatures to life. The elephants that feature in the opening scene are jaw-dropping. There are plenty of other creatures, both disturbing and beautiful, that show up throughout the movie but I’d hate to spoil it.
Guy Ritchie knows what people want from this movie and he delivers plenty of it. Adding to the cool factor is his unique style involving speed manipulation, almost like a spiritual successor to Zack Snyder’s work in 300. There are some montage sequences that are incredible, showing the passage of time, that he smartly puts together in a way that is functional and also captivating.
Layered on top of that is the music, strings and horns but remixed to a degree that it’s like a whole new genre of music. There are tons of cool moments here, if that’s what you want.
Lastly, the locations are beautiful. Sweeping shots of countrysides and mountain ranges and raging rivers, it’s all perfect.
You’ll notice there’s a few things strangely absent from the above section. The cast is most notably missing. It’s really a B-list outing, with Jude Law really serving as the only heavy hitter and he delivers a performance here that is completely one-dimensional. You never quite know why his character is doing anything.
I also don’t understand the push to make Charlie Hunnam a star. I watched Sons of Anarchy and he was frankly one of the worst things about that show. He was also one of the worst things in Pacific Rim. He’s the new Sam Worthington (Avatar), being pushed into the spotlight without anyone really asking for him to be. His performance here is fine but nothing special. He’s so angsty and resistant to the entire plot that it’s almost like he’s working against the film itself. This role would’ve been better suited for a more charming and aloof action star who could really enjoy the campy fight sequences and witty banter.
And while there are moments of greatness, there are just as many moments of painful amateur decisions. The opening credits are horrible, like someone’s high school project. The visual effects, while usually great, aren’t as solid in the final act of the movie, with a new type of action scene that is subpar compared to everything else we’ve seen.
King Arthur is cool, undoubtedly. Monsters and wizards and witty one-liners. It’s not necessarily good, though, with forgettable performances and some bad decisions in regards to visual effects (and when to use/not use them). I think most of you will enjoy this movie but you’ll forget about it almost immediately after you leave the theater.