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David Poland

By David Poland

Review: King Arthur: The Lege…

I won’t bury the lede. This movie SUCKS. King Awful!

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is the kind of movie that’s so bad that you wonder who greenlit the film at Warner and whether they have already been fired. (Answer: Greg Silverman… yes, he’s been gone for six months.)

There is only one reason why you would ever consider giving Guy Ritchie $100 million (which ballooned up to over $200 million) to make a King Arthur movie. “Sherlock Holmes 3,” which is still not a sure bet to happen.

What makes the greenlight on Arthur even more shocking is The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which the studio had to have seen before Arthur started shooting, a terrible, terrible movie that lost money after a $110m worldwide gross.

Incomprehensible loyalty to bad directors with giant egos had a big footpront at Warner Bros. Robinov was the walking definition of Old Boys Club. And the studio’s inability to get over the hump on DC has one giant thumbprint on it… Zack Snyder. After the surprise, massive, stunt-y hit that was 300, Snyder had three straight WB movies that lost large amounts of money. While that usually marks the end of a career, much less a relationship with a single studio, Snyder was handed the crown jewels. And yes, the numbers are up… incrementally, But even with Batman and Superman combined, Snyder could only earn the #7 slot in last year’s worldwide box office chart… not a disaster, but not what they needed.

Another problem is that WB has allowed these guys to cast really good-looking guys who don’t have the Movie Star muscle and never will. I have nothing against Henry Cavill or Charlie Hunnam. But neither of these very good looking, very earnest actors has that gear that takes our experience of staring at their faces, 30 feet high, to the level of magic. You are either born with that or you are not. They are not. The power of every close-up of Jude Law in this film, most of which are meaningless, shows how he has that magic (however mismanaged in past years). Even Eric Bana, who was born to be a character actor—and while good-looking, is not a natural lead—brings more weight than Hunnam does here. Just the way it is.

I have some more bad news… pretty sure that, as beautiful as she is, Gal Gadot doesn’t have that magic thing either. Affleck has it more than other Justice Leaguers. Ezra Miller has it… but does Snyder know how to exploit it? And Jason Momoa? Who the hell knows? So far, he is a grunter, showing none of the extra charm of a Dwayne Johnson… but who knows? Zach Snyder’s taste in casting was once exceptional. Dawn of the Dead was overloaded with interesting, clever choices. And Watchman was damn well cast, with a couple small exceptions. But it’s been downhill since 300, once production became more important than the acting.

But back to the hyperactive turd that is King Arthur

I don’t want to just list everything that is wrong with this movie, because neither you nor I have that kind of time. Let’s just look at one simple head-scratcher… Giant evil elephants.

“What could be wrong with giant evil elephants,” you ask? “It’s sword-and-sorcery. Stop being such a buzzkill! ”

Well… I was okay with the giant (like 50 feet tall) evil elephants, at first. They were, after all, only evil because they were being made so by a bad wizard of some kind in some way (unclear, but I would make room for that lack of clarity as well).

BUT… the elephants were not made giant by magic in this film. When the evil light goes out of their eyes, they are still giant, just not evil (even kind of good… kinda).

So in this movie, they live in a world with GIANT ELEPHANTS.

But wait… they don’t. Never see another giant anything. (Some big snakes… but perhaps hallucinations.)

Picking the world in which your story takes places and remaining reasonably consistent is so basic. Otherwise, you are making YouTube videos writ large.

Ritchie’s twist on King Arthur isn’t complex. Take the original and add The Lion King. Add some Harry Potter effects (not as well done). Add quick editing that makes parts of this film dangerous for ticket buyers with epilepsy. And voila! You’ve got a crap movie.

It’s not all hideous crap. There are a few moments, here and there. But almost everything is ham-fisted. There are some likable actors (including Hunnam). There are some fun moments. But tell the damned story!

I would have been thrilled to have a sequence as exciting as Conan’s fight between Conan and the cheesy giant snake… because it was about Conan, not his magic, light-saber sword. They film pretends that the Jude Law character has an arc… but it turns out to be a lie… and even that is just something you figure out, not storytelling.

Maybe the best chance for something interesting here is Astrid Bergès-Frisbey as the Merlin of the story… even though Merlin is mentioned and somehow not around. But it’s a dead end. Turns out that she is Beastmaster with an eye condition. But who is she?!?! What motivates her? What challenges her? What does she want (aside from the good guy beating the bad guy)?

And don’t even get me started on the Guy Ritchie cameo(s), with a LOT of dialogue.

Not bad enough to be fun. You may catch a scene on TV that makes you turn your head for a minute or two. Fair enough. But as Peggy Lee sang, is that all there is?

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14 Responses to “Review: King Arthur: The Lege…”

  1. Eric says:

    Spot on. All the fun parts of the movie feel like other Guy Ritchie movies (e.g. the early gangster stuff, the chase in the city). But nothing at all out of the King Arthur mythos is compelling.

    Have to assume they were saving Merlin for a future installment in this planned franchise. They still needed a magician in the story but then didn’t bother to develop her character.

    I will say this: the score is a ton of fun. I’ve been listening to it on repeat all week. Super-derivative– basically Inception Meets Superhero stuff– but it works.

  2. laura says:

    Yep – this review sums up the sad waste of time and money that is this movie.
    So i did see Guy Ritchie playing a cameo himself as the owner of one of the buildings at the time of the attempt on King’s life. I did a double take.. both his and Beckham’s cameos were useless distractions. Shame

  3. Pete B says:

    Have to disagree with Dave on one thing – yes, this movie sucks, but Man From U.N.C.L.E. was fun.

    The question is why do a King Arthur movie if you’re going to piss over all the legend? Mordred attacks the castle when Arthur is a mere child? Huh?

  4. Stella's Boy says:

    Heading for a $25 million opening weekend and hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but how in the hell did this seem like a good idea at $175 million? Did they envision Sherlock Holmes-type success or something? If so, why? It seems inexplicable.

  5. Reza says:

    funny how your longest paragraphs , 3 of them to be exact, are about Zack Snyder and the DCEU. No matter what movie you bloggers/critics can’t keep that man’s name and work out your mouths

  6. EtGuild2 says:

    Wasn’t this supposed to be part of the (*involuntarily twitches*) “Camelot Cinematic Universe,” complete with Lancelot and ninja assassin Guinevere spinoffs? So the Zack Snyder comparisons aren’t necessarily overblown.

    Perhaps this will dissuade Universal from pursuing their gestating “Robin Hood” universe, even if the Taron Edgerton/Jamie Foxx reboot breaks even. I really am not enthused about the idea of “Friar Tuck: Guru of the Mystic Arts” and “Marian: Bovine Enchantress.”

  7. Hallick says:

    “Legend of the Sword” is the worst thing to sandwich a colon since Elvis Presley.

  8. Hcat says:

    Of all the studios Warner’s seems to Throw darts at names on a spinning wheel once a year to fill out the schedule. I can find no other inspiration for Get Smart, Yogi Bear, Man from Uncle (which I liked quite a bit) or last years Tarzan. Even The successful Sherlock Holmes films had a “they’re doing this why’? quality to them.

    And with another big budget Camelot movie underperforming within the last decade you would thing they would be a tad more cautious.

    And this is not a lament but how in this constant state of recycling has Disney not pulled Davy Crockett back out of their catalog? Are there two many PC land mines with native Americans, the Alamo, and president Jackson?

  9. Pete B says:


    “Marian: Bovine Enchantress” sounds udderly charming.

    I’ll show myself out.

  10. EtGuild2 says:

    UGH Pete lol.

    @Hcat, this strategy worked for WB when they had POTTER, Chris Nolan and MIDDLE EARTH as consistent draws. So they could hit the 50% mark and not worry….and they also had a sizable number of unlikely breakouts to boot.

    In 2012, a Nolan/Middle Earth year, trouble began to show itself as there were no breakouts, though big bombs were kept to a minimum (I believe Cloud Atlas was a distribution deal?)

    2013, a Middle Earth year, saw the surprise smash of GRAVITY and THE CONJURING and the decent DCEU launch overcome “meh” results for PACIFIC RIM and GATSBY (in relation to budget) and the disastrous JACK THE GIANT SLAYER….but the warning signs were still showing

    2014 was a slippery slope. 2015, was when the chickens began to come home to roost. The model doesn’t look sustainable now with reincarnated Potter not a cash cow, the DCEU in perpetual warning mode and LEGO suddenly riskier.

  11. Js partisan says:

    Ethan, at one point, Warners had it put out there, that they wanted to make TEN FUCKING King Arthur movies. Ponder this; for a fucking moment. TEN!

    Grace Randolph, really summed up this movie well. It’s a throwback to yesteryear, when you only got entertainment like this, from Summer movies. Now, we could get something like this, from the Syfy channel! This also, sums up Warners really well. A studio, that has no fucking clue, what it’s doing, and trying it’s best, to understand the changing world. Dunkirk, isn’t going to fucking help either. Looks awesome, but who in the hell, wants to see that shit during the Summer? And yes, I know…

  12. EtGuild2 says:

    Ten…wow. Yeah, I hope that WONDER WOMAN does Thor/Cap 1 numbers, but that’s about all you can expect…DUNKIRK is a real test for the cult of Nolan, but WB is definitely headed for a record low summer I think.

    Im really excited for IT and BLADE RUNNER, but they have another disaster in the long-delayed and comically bad looking GEOSTORM, and since it’s WB, I expect they somehow spent 9-figures on it. A lot riding on the troubled JUSTICE LEAGUE…

  13. Js partisan says:

    Ethan, if Wondie doesn’t do eighty, shit may get, even realer over there. She’s the highlight of BvS, so hopefully that translates into a decent opening, but the entire DCEU is held to a hyperbolic standard, so whatever happens to Wondie, will either be the worst thing ever, or the best thing ever. Those fuckers, can’t win, like with Thor. If JL doesn’t beat… The third Thor movie? Shit.

    That aside, Dunkirk looks masterful, but again… Why fucking July? It’s just mind boggling.

  14. EtGuild2 says:

    Yeah I would have switched IT into July and DUNKIRK into the Sully spot…but the rumored budget probably means they had to roll the dice on grabbing huge numbers.

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