BEIRUT: Across the ages of Hollywood history, the legend of the boy-who-would-be-king has been told and retold countless times.
From the very theatrical Knights of the Round Table (1953), to the twisted Excalibur (1981), to the animated Walt Disney feature The Sword in the Stone (1963), to the romanticized First Knight (1995), and an attempt at historical accuracy with King Arthur (2004), it was clear that Hollywood had run out of personifications of the legendary King.
Yet, with the rise in need of franchises, and now catering to a hyperactive super-hero addicted audience, Hollywood decided to tackle the Arthurian Legend once more with King Arthur – Legend of the Sword.
Directed by Guy Ritchie, a director who has constantly polarized audiences and critics with his films, King Arthur – Legend of the Sword reinvigorates the legend with energy and returns it to its fantasy roots.
Setting the stage of the political state within the film, Ritchie places the pieces strategically withholding information from the audience, giving him the ability to journey around the timeline and create the stylistic approach to this film.
The film opens with a betrayal.
King Uther, played by Eric Bana, rushes to save his wife and son Arthur, as Camelot comes under attack and dark magic returns to the kingdom and is the cause of Uther’s wife’s death.
This launches the narrative into an Arthur grows up in the street sequence with Ritchie’s edgy style, all leading to Charlie Hunnammaking his appearance as the well-built street gangster version of the would-be-king.
This is a fresh new take on the King, who audiences have seen either as older and wiser, or young and pompous or even as the Roman militant.
In Ritchie’s film, Arthur is a cocky smart-ass whose past cripples him and is the reason for much of his built-up anger.
As strange as that may seem for Arthur, it works quite well is entertaining to watch, and he becomes an Arthur that one might look up to, and even become.
The friend of the outcasts finds himself being hunted by the false king’s soldiers which lead him to the mythical moment in which Arthur pulls the legendary sword Excalibur from the stone.
Seeing as to how this is a rather well-known moment in Arthurian legend, screenwriters Joby Harold, Guy Ritchie, and Lionel Wigram place it at the film’s first plot point, the moment where the first act ends, and launch the character’s journey forward.
From here, this new account of the tale takes on a life of its own.
Bringing in canonical characters along with new ones, Harold, Ritchie, and Wigram creates a rich and exciting narrative.
The film’s visuals are vibrant and Ritchie uses a unique aesthetic specifically with the architecture and the wardrobe, alongside a dirty and grungy musical score by Daniel Pemberton who fuses a Celtic soundscape with elements of Rock.
This enforces the idea that this is a King Arthur for the modem age.
Kudos have to go to the film’s post-production team, who bring the entirety of the film to life without ever causing the audience to doubt that this is a film about the Arthurian mythos.
Fast-paced, smart dialogue give the film a dynamic rhythm that keeps the audience engaged and invested within this resurrected Camelot.
Both Jude Law who plays the evil False King Vortigern, whose thirst for power results in terrible sacrifices, and Charlie Hunnam deliver fantastic and believable performances.
The rest of the cast also do well in allowing the audience to empathize and even care for their characters.
Thematically, the film tackles the concept of one’s destiny and not being able to run away from one’s fate, as well as the concept of power coming at a price.
The screenwriters embody the Hero’s Journey perfectly, from Arthur’s hesitation and doubt to his eventual acceptance of his fate. This works really well with a character like Arthur and is a joy to witness.
When word first came out regarding the relaunching of a new King Arthur film series, many feared and worried, with those fears and worries strengthening when Guy Ritchie was to helm the film.
Yet, with all of Ritchie’s stylistic faults, they seem to work perfectly with the Arthurian tale. He brings it to light in such way that remains authentic and at the same time never stepping too far away from the path of the legend.
King Arthur – Legend of the Sword is meant to be the first of what the film’s producers hope will be six potential films. If any of the upcoming films are executed with the same adventurous atmosphere, then the Arthurian legend might be around for a while.
The movie is playing at Vox Cinemas.
Alan Mehanna is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker. He received his MFA in Screenwriting from Full Sail University. He is also a film instructor at the American University of Science and Technology and Antonine University.
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