My understanding of King Arthur lore comes from watching Excalibur on cable in the 80’s, First Knight on video in the 90’s, and reading Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. No, I haven’t seen Disney’s canonic work. When I saw the trailer for this new movie I could not get a feel for what kind of movie it would be. When I saw the director was Guy Ritchie, my interest waned even further. I still have not forgiven him for what he’s done to Sherlock Holmes. But when Warner Brothers sends you free tickets, it’s probably worth standing in line for an hour.
The movie starts with Eric Bana as Uther Pendragon. The story telling and filming style were fast-paced and really never let you catch up until the second act. Only then do we go back through flashbacks and explain what happened in the first act. By the third act we are caught up and complete our hero’s sword’s origin story.
The movie features a very diverse, mostly male cast including Tom Wu and Djimon Hounsou. Mostly it’s a who’s who of English cinema, so of course Jude Law is there. Like all Guy Ritchie movies we need our hero’s genesis to include instruction from an kung fu master. The visuals are impressive starting with the massive Oliphaunt in the first act. I kept looking for Legolas. The color palette of the movie was much darker that I would have liked. At one point our hero is fighting rats and bats but it was hard to see them like someone used an Instagram vignette filter on the whole movie. The movie was not all dark and dingy. There are some interesting aerial shots of Londinium and some gorgeous location shots in Wales and Scotland. None of that look did not match the clean look of their advertising posters. Based on those posters I was more expecting a Kenneth Branagh movie penned by Shakespeare.
Here are a few similar movie posters. I could have included Elizabeth I and I’m sure there are more.
I kept waiting for Merlin to appear. He’s in the credits and the characters talk about him, but I never saw him. I was expecting that “the mage” character that stays with us would reveal herself to be Merlin in disguise. Astrid Bergès-Frisbey is actually credited as Guinevere which really diverts from the little legend that I know. Even then we did not see much spark of romance between her and future husband.
Based on the advertising I would have skipped this film. I’m glad I got to see it. I’m not the target audience. I have yet to stay awake through all 99 hours of Lord of the Rings films. I would recommend it to anyone who likes dungeons, dragons, swordplay and large fighting armies. I may catch it again on Netflix as it may improve on a second watching.