A Re-booted King Arthur Fights Dazzling Special Effects
By Skip Sheffield
In the various incarnations of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table, I do not remember a flaming devilish character; nor do I remember giant elephants, slimy snakes or repulsive reptiles.
You will see all of this and more in “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” which is a reboot of an English folk story myth that has been around for more than 800 years, ever since Geoffrey of Monmouth committed the legend to parchment.
British-born Guy Ritchie is director of this bombastic spectacle. He also co-wrote the screenplay with a committee of four other writers. He was more effective with his reboot of “Sherlock Holmes” and even more so with his gritty “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.”
Like “Kong” so recently, “King Arthur” is short on story but long on ferocious beasties, endless battles and fiery special effects. Charlie Hunnam plays Arthur, who knows nothing of his regal birth after his evil uncle Vortigern (Jude Law) murdered his father and seized the throne of England. Infant Arthur is spirited away and raised in a brothel.
Following Arthur about is The Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey), who is a sorceress who goes into trances to bestow super-human powers to Arthur. He is already a super-tough street kid. If we don’t get the point it is hammered in repeatedly as Arthur kicks bad guys’ butts.
The one readily recognizable part of the story is the magical sword Excalibur, embedded deeply in a boulder. As a trial of strength, young men are required to try to yank the stone out of the rock. The losers get to keep their lives. Then along comes Arthur, and with help from eyeball-glowing Mage, the sword is released from its prison. From then on, Arthur is a marked man, as his legend grows.
Jude Law seems to be enjoying himself as a shameless villain with no redeeming qualities. Dijimon Hounsou is strong as Arthur’s allie Bedivere, as is Aiden Gillen as his buddy Bill.
“King Arthur” rambles on for over two hours, with Daniel Pemberton’s music blaring. The finale is a forgone conclusion, yet Ritchie embellishes it with even more over-the-top touches. This movie is a prime example of wretched excess.