King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) Cover

Before watching King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, I tried to learn why this story keeps getting remade. I did some research, but didn’t find anything definitive. After seeing Legend of the Sword, I at least understand why this movie got made. We’ll talk more about that later.

Legend of the Sword is a problematic movie in interesting ways. It has a great cast and a fascinating mythology that could have blossomed in a longer format. A Netflix or HBO series might have given these elements room to breathe and be more memorable. In its current format the bad far outweighs the good. This is sad, though, because there’s more going on here that didn’t pan out.

The issues start right at the beginning with the writing. The narrative is too loose, and it never takes a moment to let you feel grounded. Director Guy Ritchie packs in too much and too fast from the very first scene. Plot lines and characters get dropped left and right. At no point does the director manage to tie it together into a coherent narrative.

There is a divide between the first half of the movie and the second. Driven by dramatic narrative, this half has more to say than the second half. Guy Ritchie knows that story is the core of this half of the movie. You can see this is the case by how it treats the action scenes. They are clipped, skipped over, obscured, or blurred, letting the viewer know that they should be paying attention to what is happening around the action, not the action itself. I’m a huge fan of this technique. How you treat action is a large part of how you highlight what you feel is most important.

Some subtle things are happening in the opening. When I said I understand why the movie was made, it’s because there is an allegorical message. Legend of the Sword wants to be about standing up to unjust authoritarian regimes. Fights in the streets feel like modern day clashes between police and protesters. Soldiers pounding their shields, the background on fire, and riots in the street. That’s a pretty relevant story, or it would be if Legend of the Sword could deliver on any of those ideas.

If that sounds cool to you, I have to agree. Converting the story of King Arthur into a narrative of rebellion is a good idea. Unfortunately, this never pans out. The sense of might makes right, solving every problem with punching or stabbing causes these themes to crumble. Everything feels rushed and crammed together. On top of that, we never get a picture of the story because the plot jumps around so much. And that’s even before the second half starts.

Jude Law manages to give the character of King Vortigern some depth. Tragically, Vortigern’s screen time is far too chopped. Many of his actions are unconvincing or downright confusing. This is emblematic of the entire film, good ideas thoroughly wasted by poor or incomplete execution.

When Arthur confronts the villain, Legend of the Sword loses its purpose and direction. The entire plot of the people’s rebellion crashes to the side. With the way the movie ended, there’s no reason at all the film couldn’t have been an hour shorter. They smash their way through the front door in a way that will have any viewer asking themselves why that couldn’t have happened earlier.

After the final conflict breaks out, Legend of the Sword becomes nothing but a brawl. All sense of tension and storytelling are abandoned. Everything resolves through CGI animations of King Arthur murdering his way through the enemy. It’s so fake and devoid of suspense, or purpose, that I was bored. When the movie finally ends, it’s a relief.

There were some good ideas here along with impressive world building. There’s a menagerie of giant beasts and monsters that populate this world, but we never get to meet them. They smash in and out of our view with only a few moments each, often with little to no introduction.

Legend of the Sword has good ideas that are completely undermined by the story and editing. It’s not worth your time, it’s not worth your money. Give this one a pass.

Final Verdict:A complete mess that is neither worth your time or money.