From the first scene in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, you know you’ve left the modern world far behind. Medieval, wild Briton, a land ruled by knights and challenged by Vikings, rolls out before you. The famous castle of Camelot rises up in the mist.
As the film begins, King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) and his knights take their stand against Mordred, a “warlock” (evil magician) whose army is riding on the backs of mammoth elephants almost too huge to believe. Uther defends Camelot, but later that night his brother — Vortigern (Jude Law) — shows his true colors when he, too, turns against Uther. As Uther dies, his young son Arthur escapes in a small boat.
Brothel women in Londinium (London) discover tiny Arthur in the boat, and they adopt him and raise him without ever knowing where he came from. Arthur himself has no idea; his only family are the prostitutes and a few friends who teach him how to fight.
Years pass, and Vortigern continues to rule Camelot with an iron fist. His peace is disturbed, however, when the water around Camelot unexpectedly recedes and reveals Uther’s sword lodged in a block of stone. No one can remove it except the rightful king himself.
Vortigern knows that Uther’s son must have survived in the boat, and he is determined to find him. His scouts track down Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) in Londinium and bring him back to Camelot. There, Arthur joins thousands of young men attempting to pull the sword from the stone. When Arthur lays his hands on the sword, unseen and terrifying power electrifies all present, making dogs snarl and horses rear and the earth quake. Arthur himself attempts to keep two hands on the hilt of the freed sword before he himself collapses, unable to face the power and history within the sword.
When he awakes, the last thing he wants is to claim his apparent identity as rightful king of Camelot and enemy of Vortigern. Yet good forces in the world are determined to give him a chance. Resistance fighters and a young mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) create disturbance at his execution, allowing him to escape with them deep into the forest. There, he is schooled in the power of the sword, and he is able to see for the first time that he is the kingdom’s only hope.
I will admit to mostly seeing this movie because my husband wanted to, and when I watched the trailer, I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy it at all. The trailer gives an accurate taste of the movie: it’s got phenomenal special effects, unbelievable fight scenes, a little slapstick humor, and a theme song that’s really heavy on the bass. The main actor, Charlie Hunnam, has most recently played “Jax” Teller in Sons of Anarchy; the director, Guy Ritchie, is a bit of a wildcard with the hit Sherlock Holmes but otherwise a series of lesser-known films from the 1990s and 2000s.
The film may be faulted in that it overdoes everything — the jokes, the anguish, the magic, the special effects — but then again… that’s partly the style this epic is going for. As my husband said on our walk home from the theater, “It’s like the superhero version of King Arthur. The Marvel-ized version.”
All that said, I was surprised that I really enjoyed King Arthur. Maybe it was the fact that Guy Ritchie took an epic tale by the horns and, in his own way, really tried to do it justice — and succeeded, I think. The legend of King Arthur and Excalibur came alive for me in a way that it never has before, and these characters will live long in my memory. The movie also leaves the viewers with an indication that there may be more movies to come about King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table. I know I’ll go see them.
“So what happens now?” Arthur asks Vortigern after pulling the sword from the stone.
“You know what happens now,” Vortigern answers quietly. “You’re quickly becoming a legend.”
King Arthur became a legend then, and he still is. Catch him while you can in this modern spin on a legend.
Movie times: click here
Director: Guy Ritchie
Actors: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Eric Bana, Djimon Hounsou
Running Time: 2 hours 6 minutes