dir. Guy Ritchie
by Dakota Drobnicki
If someone were to stumble across these first couple film reviews and it was their first impression of me, they might think I could call a movie the “best/worst movie ever” at the drop of a hat. In my Guardians 2 review last week, I claimed that it would likely be the best film of the summer, which I admit is a tall order to predict when it was the first major release of the summer movie season, but I consider it more of a testament to that film’s quality and power. Likewise, here’s a major release from the second weekend of the season, and I can’t imagine anything else this summer being worse than this.
Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is a scrappy lad from the mean streets of Londinium (you can probably imagine what city Londinium became later on), raised in a brothel and estranged from whatever family he came from. One day Excalibur, the sword of the fallen king Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana), is revealed in a drained river, and Arthur discovers his true heritage when he is the only person who can actually pull it out of the stone. With the sword’s infinite power, he must lead his gang of hooligans and the people of Londinium to revolt against his evil brother Vortigern (Jude Law), who ascended to the throne by dastardly means.
I can’t fault Guy Ritchie for desperately trying to inject his own style into the film, especially since there are so many other King Arthur movies out there. His auteur touch mostly comes through in the thugged out approach to the characters and the scattered scenes with snappy dialogue and even snappier editing. Ritchie is trying to press the King Arthur mythos into the mold of a British gangster flick and is especially ripping off scenes from Snatch in doing so. Call them anachronistic, sure, but for me, those scenes worked pretty well and the humor was even occasionally funny.
Where this movie completely falls into the void is that those few scenes are just about the only time it has any semblance of a personality. Ninety percent of it feels like it was either directed on autopilot or had its remaining personality pulled out by its abysmal editing job. Have fun trying to figure out what’s going on half the time when the dark, drab visual palette is making its already boring action scenes hard to look at, or when it uses its Guy Ritchie-isms to casually stroll through massive stretches of story that might have provided some excitement.
The actors, for the most part, either aren’t trying that hard or the script didn’t give them enough to work with, which helps to derail this mess even further. Jude Law gives a hammy performance sometimes, and the biggest laugh I got out of the entire film was a very small scene where he talks menacingly into a guy’s severed ear. It’s scenes like that where he manages to be the over-the-top villain this movie needed, but for most of it, he and the rest of the cast are just standing around looking bored.
The most infuriating thing about this movie is that I could tell someone about so many individual elements of the movie that would make it sound more interesting than it actually is. I could talk about how there’s giant elephants and a giant snake and naked octopus women, or how Excalibur gives Arthur what amounts to Super Saiyan powers, or that there’s a token Chinese guy named George, who teaches Arthur how to fight, but since these elements all have the same boring, poorly-edited lens over them, they don’t save this movie from its own drab and uninteresting demeanor.
For me, the worst sin a movie can commit is being boring, and this one fills that to a T, even despite all the potentially interesting stuff in it. I’d be hard-pressed to find a movie the rest of this summer that comes close to being this stomach-churning to watch. If you get dragged to this movie, bring a throw pillow so the lull to sleep is a little easier. Other than that, only hardcore King Arthur or Guy Ritchie fans need apply.