Guy Ritchie goes medieval with “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”

Ever since Game of Thrones became a huge hit on television, there has periodically been an attempt to replicate that sort of work on the big screen. This week, the latest shot is taken by filmmaker Guy Ritchie with his origin story/potential franchise starter King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. In tackling another blockbuster, Ritchie is firmly entrenching himself in a world far removed from his smaller British gangster tales that gave him his start. Regardless of the quality of the film itself, it’s interesting to see an auteur take a hard right turn like this one in particular has. He’s attempting to replicate what’s working on HBO here with this origin story, which is easier said than done.

The movie is a look at how the boy king Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) was robbed of his birthright and the lengths he’ll ultimately go to get it back. Arthur has to do things a different way. He comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city, almost more like Oliver Twist than King Arthur. But once he pulls the sword from the stone like we all know he will, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy. From there on, he begins targeting those who wronged him, including the dictator Vortigern (Jude Law). Arthur must learn to understand his magic weapon Excalibur, conquer his demons, and unite the people of his country to defeat the man who murdered his parents and stole his crown right from under him. Ritchie directs here and co-writes with David Dobkin, Joby Harold, and Lionel Wigram. Also in the cast are Eric Bana, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Aidan Gillen, Djimon Hounsou, Annabelle Wallis, and many more. John Mathieson handles cinematography, while the score comes from Daniel Pemberton.

Critics are savaging this flick. Though a few have not overtly killed it, the majority consider it among the worst of the year so far. Suffice to say, that should eliminate any possibility of the half dozen sequels that Warner Brothers had bandied about initially for this property. It’s also a blow to Ritchie, who seems poised to stay in blockbuster land for a while, with a live action Aladdin and a potential Sherlock Holmes 3 on tap next for him. Ritchie is at his best when the scales are a bit smaller, so this doesn’t seem like the absolute best use of his talents.

Here is how I would rank Ritchie’s films so far to date, not including this most recent one:

8. Swept Away
7. RocknRolla
6. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
5. Revolver
4. Sherlock Holmes
3. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
2. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
1. Snatch

As an added bonus, here are Law’s ten best performances, in my humble opinion:

10. My Blueberry Nights
9. Alfie
8. Cold Mountain
7. eXistenZ
6. Contagion
5. Road to Perdition
4. Spy
3. The Talented Mr. Ripley
2. Closer
1. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence

Honorable Mention: Black Sea, Enemy at the Gates, Gattaca, Sherlock Holmes, and Side Effects

Overall, this weekend brings something for either sword and sandal fans or diehard Ritchie fans in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. In all likelihood, this will be a one and done affair instead of a franchise starter. Maybe the foreign box office will come to a rescue and sequels will still be in play? It comes out tomorrow, so if it sounds like your thing, you know what to do. From here on out, the wait to see what he might do with Aladdin or another Sherlock Holmes outing begins. Otherwise, cross your fingers that Ritchie does something on a smaller scale soon…

Be sure to check out King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, in theaters everywhere on Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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