Summer blockbuster season is in full swing. After we were treated last week with a stellar franchise building-block in the form of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. II, this week in wide release we have the season’s first sure-fire Razzie contender in the form of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
King Arthur is the latest hyper-stylized action flick directed by Guy Ritchie, who is known for films like Snatch, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and the Robert Downey Jr.-led Sherlock Holmes series. Like his past work, Arthur offers more of what you would expect, including elaborate set pieces that strike a distinct visual style, and frequent rapid-fire cuts from his favorite editor, James Herbert.
While this could have led to some stimulating, though unsophisticated thrills similar to Ritchie’s past work, Arthur unfolds as an unrelenting onslaught of disorienting action scenes and expositional montages. Ritchie and Herbert have ratcheted their favorite gimmick to an offensive degree as the viewer is assaulted by a bewildering array of special effects and hurried plot points.
The cuts are so constant and unpredictable that it is easy to lose track of what is going on. With cockney British accents making the dialogue difficult to understand and erratic editing making your head spin, there is little hope of following this chaotic mess.
Ritchie made good use of this style in Sherlock Holmes to illustrate Holmes’ manic genius, but there is no justification for the insulting level to which this technique is relied upon in King Arthur. Sherlock Holmes demonstrated that Ritchie could bring new life to a story that has been adapted to death, but he has missed the mark in King Arthur by a mile.
Charlie Hunnam, who you may know from Sons of Anarchy, Pacific Rim, and recently The Lost of City of Z, effectively delivers on his unique, rugged charisma. Unfortunately, the editing is the star of this film, and any help Hunnam could have offered is lost in the clutter. Sherlock Holmes’ Jude Law does some decent work as the villainous king obstructing Arthur’s path to the throne, but again, the rushed editing kills any potential value the cast could bring.
On top of the turbulent style, the film robs the legend of its very essence in a desperate attempt to create a blockbuster. The characterizations of the knights of the round table see a complete overhaul, Merlin gets barely a mention, and the classic characters of Guinevere and the Lady of the Lake get crammed into one lifeless performance from Pirates 4’s Astrid Bergès–Frisbey.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a reckless endeavor to build a blockbuster out of a beloved story. By draining its source of its elemental appeal in an effort to draw a wider audience, King Arthur will likely please very few.