Guy Ritchie, of all people, made a movie about King Arthur. This is the King Arthur story as it’s never been told before.
That’s mostly because I don’t recall when I took Medieval Lit in grad school there being much mention in the old King Arthur stories of things like castle-stomping elephants and kung fu.
For what it is worth, there is a good movie in Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The problem is it is surrounded by a lot of screwy stuff that may have been the product of a crackhead playing Mad Libs. Had Ritchie told a more, shall we say, Guy Ritchie style story about a medieval guy living in Londinium, running scams and staying one step ahead of the law, all the while using blatant anachronisms, then this could have been just a fun time at the movies. Ritchie has that sort of thing down by now. Arthur’s formative years after he, a newly orphaned young prince, washes up outside a brothel and grows up, getting beat up until he can dispense beatings, learning martial arts, and slowly gathering a nice retirement fund for himself and his friends, could have made for a fun movie.
But then the most slapdash retelling of King Arthur’s story comes into play. Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is, of course, the son of Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana). Uther had just won a major war from his seat at Camelot against the evil mage Mordred (Arthur’s son in most Arthurian legends), but then Uther’s treacherous brother Vortigern (Jude Law) removes his brother and sister-in-law from power and life, leaving only the sword Excalibur, a very powerful weapon when held by Uther or his heir, stuck in a stone until said heir can show up to claim it.
In the meantime, we have a bunch of characters with names like Flat Nose Mike, Goosefat Bill, and Kung Fu George hanging around and helping Arthur to one degree or another as he very reluctantly takes his destiny. Arthur has no interest in ruling anything. It’s too bad his Uncle Vertigern doesn’t see it that way.
The Arthur stuff is too ridiculous to take even remotely seriously, but not really played for laughs. The movie does come to life when it shows Arthur plotting and scheming, doing the kinds of things Guy Ritchie characters do so well. But that wasn’t really what this movie was trying to do. Arthur’s childhood and education on the streets may have informed who he was, but this movie doesn’t really work as the fun elements gradually dissipate in favor of the more stupid generic elements. Six and a half nameless Mages who may or may not be Guinevere out of ten.