Saturday, June 24, 2017

He Has to Push the Pram a Lot, or Thoughts on King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

When Guy Ritchie comes to mind the conversation inevitably turns to Cockney gangsters and Snatch (2000) or his Sherlock Holmes (2009).  Everybody forgets that he also made Swept Away (2002, I saw it, asking the question "how bad can it be?" And the answer is, pretty bad).  His track record isn’t as confusingly inconsistent as, say, M. Night Shymalan, but a revisionist Arthurian historical action movie seems like a challenge, especially when measured against John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981).
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) stars Charlie Hunnam as Arthur, doing his best Jason Statham impression in a vague and noisy adaptation T.H. White’s The Once and Future King.  It’s a Guy Ritchie movie, and if there’s one thing Guy Ritchie loves more than Cockney rhyming slang it’s a good montage, so you get young Arthur learning how to fight on the mean streets of Londinum, various capers being planned and executed against Jude Law’s Vortigen, the evil king, and Arthur learning how to harness the magic of Excalibur.
Excalibur is now a twirly-magic-nuke sword, and Arthur fighting the king’s men with it is no different than Neo fighting multiple Agent Smiths in The Matrx Reloaded (2003), and at least that scene was visually impressive because in 2003 we had never seen it before.  At times this movie seems like three movies jammed into one, but that might come down to Guy Ritchie’s fast-paced narrative style, and the inevitable over-reliance on green-screen video game action sequences that audiences have come to expect from this sort of movie.
England and the UK have a rich historical tradition to draw from and I applaud the effort to make a revisionist and inclusive King Arthur that modern audiences will find cool and relevant.  There’s really nothing in America to match it; we’re such a young country from a historical perspective, we didn’t have knights, we had cowboys.  Batman was created in 1939, King Arthur has record beat by about 1500 years, in addition to being based on actual historical figures. 
According to Wikipedia there’s a cameo by David Beckham, but I missed it.

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