Characters like Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes, and King Arthur have existed for so long that it seems like nearly every possible interpretation has been explored, so it proves to be a genuine surprise that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is as entertaining as it is. Director Guy Ritchie, who’s renowned for his fast-paced, stylized films, manages to rewrite many elements of the Arthurian mythology, and surprisingly makes a fantasy epic that works in a modern context. Although it’s two hour run time is a bit of a drag at points, Ritchie’s witty dialogue and quick exposition make for a highly compelling adventure film.
After betraying his brother King Uther (Eric Bana), the evil Vortigern (Jude Law) makes a deal with the dark magical creatures to take over England. Escaping from Vortigern’s invasion, the rightful King Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is raised on the streets as a brawler and thief, knowing nothing of his heritage. But once he recovers the mythical sword Excalibur from the location of his father’s death, Arthur teams with Uther’s allies to retake the throne.
Hunnam is perfectly cast as a different type of Arthur, and seeing him learn the ways of nobility is one of the film’s highlights. Sure, Law is hammy as Vortigern, but the character is surprisingly complex in his simultaneous love for power and lust for power. The film definitely doesn’t shy away from the mystical elements of the story, and while some of the magic can be hard to follow, Ritchie doesn’t dwell too much on the rules of mysticism and keeps the story moving.
There’s a fair amount of humor to keep the film going, but where Ritchie excels is the action sequences; the film combines well choreographed hand to hand combat with eccentric uses of CGI, and surprisingly they fit together in this strange, crazy world. It’s an ambitious, if somewhat overwrought blockbuster, and considering this summer’s slate of releases, you could do a lot worse. Grade: B