By Bradley Griffith
Few movies have bombed as hard and fast as “King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword.” The reported price tag to produce the movie was $175 million. In its opening weekend in the United States it made a grand total of just over $15 million. At this point breaking even on the movie would be a major miracle. The quality of the movie doesn’t inspire anything near a record-setting payday, but it’s better than one of the worst cinematic disasters in the history of film.
As the movie opens a warlock known as Mordred (Rob Knighton) is laying siege to Camelot with the assistance of two war elephants that stand tall at over 200 feet. Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana), the king of Camelot, confronts Mordred and beheads him with his magic sword, Excalibur. The kingdom is saved, for the moment. Shortly after the battle, Uther’s brother, Vortigern (Jude Law), stages a coup and kills both Uther and his wife. Vortigern is unable to kill Uther’s son, Arthur, before he is whisked away in a boat.
As the years pass Vortigern continues to search for the true heir to the kingdom of Camelot. Vortigern also becomes more powerful by wielding black magic. He becomes the king of all England and rules with an iron fist. During the same time, Arthur’s boat found its way to Londinium and he is rescued by prostitutes. Arthur is raised by the prostitutes who protect him until they need his protection.
As an adult, Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) has become an expert in hand-to-hand combat and runs a crew of misfits who operate as a medieval mafia, collecting tariffs on all commerce that takes place in their territory. Arthur is eventually captured by the King’s men and taken to Camelot. All men his age in the entire kingdom are taken to Camelot to see if they can pull Excalibur from the stone. Vortigern knows he has found the elusive son of Uther when Arthur pulls the sword from the stone, setting off a war between those who support Arthur and those who back Vortigern.
The main problem with “Legend of the Sword” is that it relies too heavily on the supernatural, using computer-generated images. Gigantic elephants, a demon swordsman, and an enormous snake are just a few examples of over-the-top ridiculousness. Give me a real knight with real honor battling evil men and I would have been much happier. A healthy dose of mysticism is fine, but giant elephants to open the movie was a bad harbinger of what was to come.
The movie is also missing several key elements that are absolutely integral to the story of King Arthur. First of all, there’s no Guinevere. In fact, there’s no love interest or even hint of a romantic possibility with Arthur and anyone else. Most of the women in the movie are used for sacrifices or are prostitutes. Also, the giant contradiction of the movie is that Merlin is not in a movie that seems dominated by magic and supernatural beings.
The Camelot of “Legend of the Sword” is not how I have pictured it in my mind, or how it has been depicted in any other movie. Camelot is supposed to be a shining beacon of light and peace in a bleak world. Instead, it was dark and dingy, sitting on the precipice of a cliff upriver from Londinium. Rather than an example of righteousness in the medieval world, Camelot is dirty and depressing, emitting a sinister vibe.
Not everything about the movie is terrible. In an example of excellent casting, Charlie Hunnam is great as Arthur. He is equal parts tough and arrogant. He portrays Arthur with just the right amount of bravado necessary for the role. If medieval combat is your thing, there’s also quite a bit of swordplay, archery, and fist fights to keep you happy. The action scenes are the best part of the movie.
But, in the end, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” was a disappointment. It was over-produced with too much computer-generated images and not enough of the traditional King Arthur legends.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content, and brief strong language.