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July 7, 2022

Cinema Review: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

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The cinema experience these days, especially at blockbusters, is often akin to being seated in a feed-lot, as punters noisily stuff their faces with chips and popcorn – the bloke in front of me today brought a foul-stinking Subway sandwich with him! It was not a good start, and it didn’t take me long to realise that Guy Ritchie has done the same to the story of King Arthur as he did to Sherlock Holmes – he has trashed it. Out of curiosity, later on I watched RocknRolla (2008) again and found the stylistic similarities striking.

The difference is the budget. Ritchie has gone from working with $18 million to having $175 million at his disposal, and if ever there were an example of somebody given too much lolly it can be observed in these two films. The earlier one is tight, cohesive and primarily concerned with plot and character. Arthur is all over the place like a mad woman’s breakfast, with enough indulgent gimmickry and CGI to sink the Battleship Potemkin.

Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is a reluctant hero and his mates, who are destined to become the knights of the round table, all carry on like East End wide boys. The villain is Vortigern (Jude Law); his soldiers are the ‘black legs’ and under his command they lord it over the cowed populace. What is most disappointing is the complete absence of any sense of period. Not taking into account the anachronistic, smart-arse dialogue and the edit’s tricky jump cuts, the art direction is a mish-mash of design that fails to create any sense of the medieval. But I suppose if you grew up with Aubrey Beardsley’s illustrations for Le Morte d’Arthur as the legend’s true image, Ritchie’s in-your-face approach was never going to be compatible. There is a nod to the pre-Raphaelites in the princess’s outfits, but Vortigern is dressed in a way to suggest that he is about to hit the bars in Oxford Street. And don’t get me started on the stupid giant serpent…

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