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

Advertisements

Movie Review – Spy

TL;DR – It is a film that does not know if it wants to be a PG family action film, or an R ranch exercise, and ends up being neither

Score – 2 out 5 Stars

Review

In the end, my feeling on this film are quite mixed, some aspects of it really worked and others just really didn’t. I would describe this movie as a collage, where the writer/director Paul Feig has taken ideas from a number of movies and melded it all together into this film, and not always successfully. To explain what I mean, I going to break down the different components of the film, and yes this is about to get spoilery (You have been warned).

Firstly the Cast. The casting of this film is a mixed bag, some of it really works and others just falls flat (hopefully you have picked up on this running motif in the review). Generally I think the female leads are actually one of the best bits of this film, you have Susan Copper (McCarthy) as unlikely secret agent, Rayna Boyanov (Byrne) a new mob boss out for revenge, but out of her depth, Nancy (Hart) Susan’s friend and fellow analyst and Elane (Janney) as the CIA Boss (a cross between her CJ Craig and Ms. Perky characters).

Spy 4

Melissa McCarthy gives a great performance

I honestly really liked McCarthy in this film as she is stepping away from the roles that she has to be pigeonholed in since the Bridesmaids (obnoxious fat woman clichés),  her character starts off a bit one note but as the movie progresses she creates a really interesting character, especially when things change up about half way through. McCarthy also showed some really good action beats throughout the film which was quite surprising. Byrne plays this blustering, ruthless but yet very naive mob boss revenging the death of her father sort of, or just trying to of load a nuke, maybe, her motivations are a bit unclear. Hart shows her good comic timing and great use of physical presence in her role as the best friend and when all three of these charterers are working together towards the end it is a real treat.

Then we have the guys, Bradly Fine (Law) the ‘I’m a British spy’, so you know I am a Bond motif, and Rick Ford (Statham) the parody of Jason Statham. Honestly, these gentlemen are only in the movie to progress the plot through their own stupidity (most of the time) and so they can have some big names appear on the credits. Law gets killed off in the first 10 minutes of the film (no shocks that he re-appears as a bad guy at the end, and no shocks that he wasn’t really a bad guy). Statham, playing a parody of Statham is something that seems funny on paper and is amusing for about 15 minutes, but then it sticks around from the whole film and you end and you start to cringe every time you see him reappear.

Jason Statham parodying Jason Statham gets old quickly

Jason Statham parodying Jason Statham gets old quickly

As far as the story goes, I would say the film is serviceable for what it is trying to do but then you have seen it all before. All the agents are compromised so we need to send out the analyst (Get Smart), the Bond surrogate is actually a self-centered narcissist (just about every Bond parody ever), main billed character dies in the first 10 minute to shock audience, only to reappear as a bad guy (like literally the plot of Golden Eye).

The action is fine, but the one thing I have to call out is these weird insert shots the director used. All the action in this film is basically the usual PG/M action beets, interesting but not graphic enough to boost the film out of prime rating bracket. But then there are these really graphic insert shots, which have been added in. You get the feeling that they couldn’t decide what rating they wanted the film to be so the filmed it in a way that they could cut these bits out easily, or conversely, someone at the studio said it was not raunchy enough so they added them in in post. This creates a real dissonance in the tone of the film, which is funny the first time, but loses its appeal and just gets plain weird as the film goes on.

Spy 1

Spy does go to some great locations

Also, while I am sure there is a line somewhere in the credits that go something like this “no money was given from cigarette companies for promotion consideration in this film”, and I am not saying that I think that is a lie, what I will say is that cigarette companies would be very happy with parts of this film.

In the end, I just can’t recommend this film, even though there were some things here that I really liked. If you want to watch a Bond parody done well, watch Kingman, if you want to go watch a good action flick out in the movies, go watch Mad Max , if you want to watch a good comedy, go see Pitch Perfect 2

Directed By – Paul Feig
Written By – Paul Feig
Staring – Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Allison Janney & Jude Law
Rating – Australia: MA15+; Canada: 14A; Ireland: 15A; NZ: R16; UK: 15; USA: R