Movie Review – King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

TL;DR – King Arthur is a fascinating film as long as you don’t care that much about the source material, though it does have more than a few lulls and awkward story moments

Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars

King Arthur Legend of the Sword

Review

So this was a surprise, from all accounts, and my own expectations going in I was expecting a dumpster fire in movie form. Instead what I got was sure a flawed film in many respects but also a really interesting one as well. So today we are going to look out how this film approaches the legend, how the cast works, then the parts of the film that excel and the parts that really fall short. So let’s begin with how they approach the myth of King Arthur, and well it’s interesting.

Because it is in the public domain, the King Arthur story is one of those narratives that gets remade over and over again. We’ve had miniseries do a classical remake, we’ve had it reinterpreted into a teen angst drama, a side event on a fairy tale TV show, we found out that Camelot was a bit silly, and we even got it reimagined as a real world event as the Roman’s retreated. So you needed to do something new, make an interesting idea, approach it from a different angle, or else you risk the question of why should I watch this when there are already versions of this out there. So King Arthur: Legend of the Sword approaches this conundrum by just having the Arthurian legend as a window dressing for the story. So we have Arthur witnessing his parent’s death before being raised in a brothel and becoming a black market leader in an occupied town. You have some nods to people in the legend but some core members get barely a cameo, and some are missing altogether. On the one hand, this gives the filmmakers a lot of latitudes to tell a story that is not confined to a certain progression, on the other hand, if you are a fan of the original legend you are going to find the inconsistencies jarring. As well as this, they take bits of reference from everywhere and smash it together, we have the very magical Camelot existing at the same time as the real world Londinium after the Roman exodus, with a little Old Testament thrown in there for good reference. So this leads to a movie with giant elephants existing at the same time as negotiations with Norse traders, a martial arts master teaching students in an abandoned Roman bathhouse, and people of legend working within the social structures that existed at the time.

Charlie Hunnam is a really good Arthur

Charlie Hunnam is a really good Arthur

Part of what worked for me is that it’s clear that the cast was on board for whatever Guy Ritchie threw at them. We have Charlie Hunnam as Arthur, who I’ve not see much of before but he really brings a command performance here, a sort of suave cockiness but also being a bit down to Earth, I wouldn’t be surprised if his name is on a Bond shortlist somewhere.   Jude Law as Vortigern, is just eating up the stage stealing almost every scene he is in. The rest of the cast is given good performances, hell even the David Beckham cameo was incredibly watchable. Also, it’s just great to see Eric Bana back on the big screen, Hollywood needs to cast him in more movies.

Something that I really found interesting with King Arthur is how Guy Richie took a film set in the Middle Ages, or a weird alternate reality where after the Romans left mages traipsed around England in giant elephants, but also embodied it in what is a very modern style. The outfits, the hairstyles, all feel a bit out of time, but it is more than that. In many ways, there is also this undercurrent of a modern gangster film beating just under the surface. I mean at one point Uther (Eric Bana) literally goes ‘hold my crown’ before jumping straight off a collapsed bridge into the previously mention giant elephants. This is also reinforced with editing style of the film, uses a combination to frantic montage scenes, this might have some of the best montage scenes I have seen in a very long time. As well as this, King Arthur has some really interesting sequence editing, which for the audience has a way of keeping you always on your toes. A good example of this is where Arthur plays out what would happen if he is introduced to the great families of England.

Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey plays 'The Mage' or 'I am an important character from the myth whose identity won't be revealed until the sequel'

Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey plays ‘The Mage’ or ‘I am an important character from the myth whose identity won’t be revealed until the sequel’

One big standout for me was the musical score by Daniel Pemberton. I’m a big fan of bending musical styles, or taking something familiar and putting a new spin on it, or using music as a juxtaposition and it is here where King Arthur shines. Most high fantasy films or medieval period pieces use a classic orchestral score, which I’m not knocking at all, I mean just listen to the power of Howard Shore’s score for Lord of the Rings or Ramin Djawadi’s score for the latest episode of Game of Thrones. But it is nice to see someone put a spin on the familiar, which is what we get here. The standout has to be what I think was an electric violin or a real violin that has been modified in post-production. Using an instrument that couldn’t exist at the time creates this interesting dichotomy and helps create that modern veneer that the movie sits in. As well as this, King Arthur also has a fantastic driving drum beat during some of the action and montage scenes, which really jells with the slight frenetic pace of the editing. All of this is combined to create a really interesting soundscape in the film.

Now while there are some interesting parts in King Arthur there are a couple of things that do really hold it back, though how big of a problem these are might change for you. While I did like the story overall there were some issues, for example, it did start to feel that this was a film with some great action scenes and other sequences, but in-between them there was a lot of treading water waiting for the next moment of action. [Spoilers] As well as this, it does feel like a lot of character motivations ended up on the cutting room floor so we are left with some weird scenarios. You can see this with Goosefat Bill (Aidan Gillen) who is shown throughout the film to be incredibly smart and knowledgeable, who forgets all of that when he risks everyone’s lives to kill Earl of Mercia for no reason. Also, at one point Arthur is betrayed by one of his own, but we see no reason for why this person turned it’s just like they’re good, oh wait, nope not anymore. Another big issue was that some of the fight scenes it became very clear that it was a CGI model fighting and not an actor. This is disappointing because other than this, the rest of the CGI and visual effects are really good. [End of Spoilers]

Jude Law revels at being the big bad

Jude Law revels at being the big bad

In the end, even with its problems, I did really enjoy this weird ride called King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword. When you have actor throwing themselves into the roles, a story that is bonkers but people care how portrayed, beautiful sets, and a rocking score, well you have the components of an interesting film. Of course, that being said, if you really like the Arthur legend and you are not a fan of big diversions well this might not be the film for you.

 

 Trailer – Click Here to View (all trailers have heavy spoilers)
Directed by
– Guy Ritchie
Screenplay by – Guy Ritchie, Lionel Wigram & Joby Harold
Story By – David Dobkin & Joby Harold
‘Based on’King Arthur Legend
Music by – Daniel Pemberton
Cinematography by – John Mathieson
Edited by – James Herbert
Starring
– Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Craig McGinlay, Tom Wu, Neil Maskell, Freddie Fox, Annabelle Wallis, Bleu Landau, Mikael Persbrandt, David Beckham, Michael McElhatton, Peter Ferdinando, Poppy Delevingne & Eric Bana
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: 14A; NZ: M; UK: 12A; USA: PG-13

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Movie Review – The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

TL;DR – While not the best movie I have seen this year, it’s full of charm and a lot of fun, well worth a look
Score – 4 out of 5 stars

Review –Before I start I should mention I have not seen the source TV show, unlike Get Smart, MASH or Hogan’s Heroes etc. it just did not get a lot of reruns on TV where I live, so I no idea if this is a faithful adaption or not, on a side note can you imagine how bad a remake of MASH would be, so I am just judging on what I saw in the movies.

Henry Cavill shows that he has charisma

Henry Cavill shows that he has charisma

The basic premise for the film is that the world is in the middle of the Cold War, and Europe is divided between NATO and the Warsaw Pact. However, a new threat is rising (or an old threat is resurfacing, the movie needed to be more clear on this) that has forced the two enemy’s the USA and the USSR to work together. As far as settings go, it’s a pretty good one, it allows you to create tension easily among the characters, but it also allows you to revel in the 1960s and all its charm.

This is a film that if the two leads didn’t work, then the rest of the film would be a total mess. Thankfully this is not the case. Henry Cavill is great as the American agent Napoleon Solo, even if that is a ridiculous name for a character. Napoleon, is a womaniser, a conman and a thief, but at the same time, he has a sense of composure that fits his character well. The real stand out for me is Armie Hammer as the Soviet agent Illya Kuryakin, he has a charm I was not expecting and also a physical presence unmatched by the rest of the cast. He also has an understandable motivation for everything he does. Together both Cavill and Hammer help drive the film and give the movie a lot of its strength. Alicia Vikander works well as Gabby Teller, a mechanic from East Berlin caught up in the villain’s plot, and the rest of the supporting cast works quite well, with special mention to Elizabeth Debicki who give the main villain Victoria Vinciguerra a sense of power and importance.

UNCLE 2

From the sets, to the locations, to the costumes, everything screams the era

While the casting is quite good another key aspect of why the film works is the style it uses throughout. The production design is really quite spectacular, they really work hard to recreate 1960s Europe and it is a lot of the small touches that ground the film. There is a really good use of sound, using the lack of music, or the lack of sound effects to give a scene heightened tension. Also, it was nice to see at times the use of zooms and pans (CGI-assisted of course) to help give a sense of geography in the big fight scenes. It today’s tendency to cut to a new shot every second, taking that moment to let you know where everyone is, is kind of refreshing.

While this is a good film there are some things that don’t quite work. Generally, the special effects are quite good but there are a couple of shots that really do look like CGI. The story needed a little work, like a lot of Guy Richie films (see Sherlock Holmes) the story tends to lack a sense of scope which they then try to make up for with character interactions and stylish filmmaking which is good, but it would also be nice to have an in-depth story as well. Also as this is an origins type of film, it does feel like they have held back a bit so as to leave room for a sequel and some of the pacing at the start is a bit off.

UNCLE 3

Even the geopolitics of the time work out

Look this is not going to be my favourite film of the year, but the tone is spot on, the characters are compelling, the action is good, and overall it is an enjoyable 2 hours. With this in mind, I recommend The Man from U.N.C.L.E. even if United Network Command for Law and Enforcement is once again a really silly name.

 

Directed by – Guy Ritchie
Screenplay by – Guy Ritchie & Lionel Wigram
Story By – Jeff Kleeman, David Campbell Wilson, Guy Ritchie & Lionel Wigram
Based on – ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ by Sam Rolfe
Starring – Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Elizabeth Debicki, Jared Harris, Luca Calvani & Hugh Grant
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: PG; Ireland: 12A; NZ: M; UK: 12A; USA: PG-13