“Acclaimed filmmaker Guy Ritchie brings his dynamic style to the classic Excailbur myth that traces Arthur’s journey from the streets to the throne. When his father is murdered and his uncle seizes the crown, Arthur is robbed of his birthright and must grow up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, his life is turned upside down and he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy.”
Guy Ritchie has created an entirely new genre of filmmaking in his long career of films that push the brink of acceptance with his unique style with films such as Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch, RocknRolla, and notable the Sherlock Holmes franchise that has brought a renewed action-packed interest in the character. Why, then, has the audiences forsaken this legendary director as he sets his sights on one of the most iconic legends of England?
Studios seem to like placing the blame on everything and everyone besides themselves, and I’ve read several varying explanations as to why this supposed mega-blockbuster failed horribly at the box office. Some of them may have valid points, culminating in a perhaps disastrous series of events which spelled catastrophe for the film, while others seem to be a bit outlandish in their claims. For fun, let’s take a look at a few of them.
Audiences have been satisfied by Game of Thrones for the genre. While there is an argument to be made that the popularity of this hit show has raised the bar when it comes to the sword/fantasy genre, I must object to any sentence that has Game of Thrones and ‘satisfied’ in the same sentence. For seven years fans have waited patiently as their favorite stories are given meager screen time in order to explore the plethora of characters involved in the story-line of the show. From the first episode when I saw a White Walker, to the most recent, I am still hungering for more exploration into this fantasy world, and would jump at a chance for more of the same, just as long as it is done well, which is the catch here. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword doesn’t do fantasy well at all. We are given glimpses of this, heavily in the first act, but little exploration is done into this world. Instead, it plays more like Snatch, where King Arthur is a thug wanting to get paid.
Source Material. Blaming the failure of this potential franchise on the more lighthearted adaptations, such as the brilliant Monty Python and the Holy Grail, only tries to shift the blame and assume that audiences can’t distinguish between different adaptations, which for the most part is an absurd assumption. To suggest there is apathy toward the subject matter may be coming close, but what I believe audiences are tired of are bad King Arthur movies.
Lack of Strong Female Characters. This one I happen to agree with, and while I don’t believe it was a key factor in the failure of the film, it definitely hinders it. With the recent trend (and rightfully so) of strong female leads in films, there was a surprising lack of the gender in any fashion, except in a brothel. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword takes amazing creative liberties with the legend, dreaming up all kinds of sequences out of thin air; it shouldn’t be that difficult to create a strong character that breaks the paradigm of the gender in genres such as this. That being said, even if a character was created to satisfy audience standards these days, the lack of character development in this film would immediately render it moot, but we will save that for later.
These are only a few of the possible explanations I’ve read that contributed to the epic failure of the film. There is one possibility that I never did see listed, which to me is one of the more obvious reasons: The Style. It may seem unconscionable to blame Ritchie’s unique style to the downfall of the film, but for me, this was a major factor in my dislike for it. Who doesn’t love his earlier work? I do, I own all the ones I mentioned earlier, but that type of style fits those films. Here, it doesn’t. At all. The genre doesn’t move at that pace, where you can’t understand anything that’s happening because scenes don’t last longer than three seconds. As hard as I tried to pay attention during the assault on my senses, I only knew the name of one character by the end of the film, and that was Arthur, which of course I only knew because it’s about him. Character development is virtually non-existent, as a memory of the character may start yesterday, jump to present, go back to last week, then to his childhood, all in the span of 20 seconds. I can only imagine the editing nightmare this film must have been, because I literally counted out loud “one…two…three” and there would be a cut. Sometimes I didn’t even make it to three, and this is consistent throughout its entirety. A director can’t simply add his ‘touch’ to any and every film and expect it to work. The genre didn’t need this, and deserves better.
Are there any redeeming qualities of the film, you may ask? There are for sure, but these simply cannot compensate for the mismatching of style and genre. The visuals are spectacular. There are very cool sequences with giant elephants, battle sequences, and great cinematography with breathtaking landscapes. They also create some new and unique variations to the Arthur legend, including sequences with the Lady of the Lake, which I thought to be an interesting way to portray the myth. Despite these small enjoyments, I left the film feeling as if I had no connection with it or anyone I just watched. I wasn’t given the time to.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is presented in 1080p High Definition Widescreen 2.4:1. This transfer is basically flawless, with no defects noticed. The film has a very gritty and colorless look to it, with a lot of greys in the palate that certainly reflect the repressed nation tone to it. Visuals are done very well, with great special effects when used, and amazing cinematography that leaves your jaw dropping in some of the more beautiful sequences of location when the film allows for it.
The audio is presented in Dolby Atmos, which is quite possibly the best thing about this disc. Levels are balanced extremely well, with some very powerful sound coming from the surrounds. During the intense battle scenes, especially in the introduction of the film, your system will definitely get to flex its muscles in showing off some great stuff. The score, which I believe doesn’t go well with the film whatsoever, still sounds good, it just doesn’t quite fit.
There are quite a few extras on this disc, and you’re going to see:
- Arthur With Swagger – Charlie Hunnam is a gentleman, a hunk and a rebel.
- Sword from the Stone – Go on set with director Guy Ritchie as he breathes new life and luster into England’s most iconic legend!
- Parry and Bleed – Charlie Hunnam and other cast members get a crash course in swordplay.
- Building on the Past – Watch the creation of medieval urban life as Londinium is built from the ground up.
- Inside the Cut: The Action of King Arthur
- Camelot in 93 Days
- Legend of Excalibur
- Scenic Scotland
Unfortunately, this new vision of an iconic legend took some risks that didn’t pay off. I can only hope this doesn’t sour the appeal of the story, which at its heart is full of inspiration and the goodness of humanity. Leaving this as the last incarnation of King Arthur would truly be the biggest downfall of the mega-blockbuster that never was.