One thing I know to be true about King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (the new adaptation of the old legend in theaters this weekend): this ain’t your father’s King Arthur. Your father’s King Arthur was polite and courtly. Your father’s King moved slowly and unsheathed his sword only as a last resort. Well guess what? This ain’t your father’s King Arthur. No way, no how, no ma’am!
By now you’re probably asking yourself how did they make a modern King Arthur film free of the musty baggage that has plagued all previous adaptations? The answer, my friends, is by finding the right director: Guy Ritchie. Having already revolutionized music videos, madcap crime caper movies (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch), romance movies (Swept Away), TV throwback reboot movies (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), and Sherlock Holmes movies (Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), it was only natural for Ritchie to tackle King Arthur movies next. And with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Ritchie has found the perfect vehicle for his heretofore unexpressed cinematic desires.
Let me tell you a bit about Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur and you tell me if it sounds like your father’s King Arthur. In Legend of the Sword, King Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is a hard drinking, bare knuckle brawling scoundrel with a flair for the flamboyant like you wouldn’t believe. This King Arthur throws tantrums over nothing and yet still somehow seems undeniably masculine. He’s illiterate, he’s got numerous outlandish tattoos, he’s clearly an alcoholic and when he gets especially riled up he puts on a little red superman cape. Sound like your father’s King Arthur? Didn’t think so.
The most entertaining part of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is its unconventional approach to accents. Lesser critics have already noted with some distress Charlie Hunnam’s tendency to drop in and out of different accents throughout the film. But the sundry accents Hunnam deploys are clearly intentional. King Arthur’s many different accents demonstrate a brash and exuberant unpredictability that keeps both the audience and the rest of the cast on their toes. This King Arthur is a madman, and when he shouts things like “Do I sound British?” in an unsettling combination of cockney and swaggering Australian, you know you’re dealing with a dangerous megalomaniac that may plunge Excalibur deep in your chest without warning at any time.
Also: big ups to Guy Ritchie for finally giving King Arthur a richly deserved catchphrase. Hunnam utters the words “Cool Jordan” over and over again throughout the film: as a response, an encouragement, an exclamation, a condemnation, a compliment, but most often as mindless drunken blather.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is thoroughly modern and not afraid to dispense with the niceties of period historical films. For example, Muse provides a dark, throbbing nu progressive rock soundtrack of original tunes you’ll be singing along to for days. That being said, this gritty reboot is more grounded in the actual events of history than any other King Arthur film before it. The real King Arthur got his eye gouged out in a battle for the ages. Hollywood typically brushes this aside so as to preserve the beauty of its pretty faced leading men. But Ritchie is brave enough to depict this event in brutal detail, along with its aftermath in which King Arthur invents a glass eye and pops it into his empty socket over dinner at the round table which freaks out all of the lesser knights, believe me.
The historical King Arthur was also no friend of women, at least at first. He was well known for keeping a cellar full of boys exclusively for his butthole pleasures. And his relationship with Guinevere was characterized by a frightening quantity of physical abuse alongside the romance and passion that’s better chronicled and known by today’s youngsters.
I won’t mince words: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword shows Arthur beating the shit out of Guinevere. She crawls into the embrace of Sir Lancelot (Jude Law) after a particularly bruising incident. When Arthur discovers the infidelity, he cuts off Lancelot’s head and quarantines Guinevere for the rest of her life, and writes the original code of chivalry to prevent such misfortune from afflicting anyone else ever again.
Other adaptations have always sanitized King Arthur. The choices made by lesser filmmakers have deprived King Arthur of his warts-and-all humanity. These filmmakers also drain the world of King Arthur of all its vivacious color. Thanks to Guy Ritchie, that’s no longer the case. We finally have a full color, highly saturated adaptation of the legend with lots of slow-mo action sequences, fast-paced editing, and non diegetic overdubbed Muse songs that will make your blood pump pretty damn fast. We all owe Guy Ritchie a debt of gratitude for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Here’s hoping there’s at least five sequels, and if we’re lucky an entire cinematic universe spawned from Ritchie’s imagination.
TL;DR – King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a jaw dropping spectacle of shocking violence, vibrant theatricality, slow motion rock music montages, and untreated mental illness.
What the rest of the critics are saying:
“King Arthur is one of the best movies you’ll ever see, but one of the worst people you’ll ever meet.” – Legs Lavish, New York Observer
“King Arthur is back, baby, and he’s better than ever!” – Eric D. Snider, EricDSnider.com
“Do you think Jude Law is bottom or top in his sticky fumblings with Guy Ritchie offscreen?” – Emily Yoshida, Vulture
“I got two words for you: Cool Jordan!” – Book Denison, Associated Press
“Guy Ritchie captures the essence of the character in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The man was basically a crimefighter at heart, and his lifelong struggle with alcoholism is depicted with tenderness.” – Mondale Robinson, Slate
“The relationship between King Arthur and Guinevere is chilling to watch.” – Nathaneal However, Guernica Magazine
“Guy Ritchie took one look at King Arthur and said I got to go Sherlock Holmes on this baby, with a dash of Iron Man, a healthy dollop of The Dark Knight, and some Daniel Craig’s James Bond garnish on the side. What a meal!” – Kitila Mkumbo, The Verge
99% liquid & seed retention – CERTIFIED JUICY™