Susan Granger’s review of “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” (Warner Bros.)
Director Guy Ritchie diminishes the magnificent Arthurian legend and the mythology of the sword known as Excalibur to brutal butchery in this indecipherable medieval muddle.
Intended as an origin story, it begins as King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) and his Queen are killed by his treacherous younger brother, Vortigern (Jude Law), who sacrificed his own wife to Dark Forces, led by the evil sorcerer Mordred, in order to seize the Crown.
Tucked in a basket and sent downriver in a skiff (like Moses, one supposes), their young son is rescued by kindly prostitutes and raised in a brothel in bustling Londinium – with no idea of his Celtic heritage and birthright.
But once hunky Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) pulls the sword Excalibur from the stone, a moment sabotaged by a David Beckham cameo, his quest is clear.
Despite the presence of loyal friends (Djimon Hounsou, Aiden Gillen, Tom Wu) and a supernatural assist from a prescient Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbee), there are many obstacles in his way, prompting Arthur to note (echoing Donald Trump): “I thought leading a revolution against that evil wizard would be easier.”
Working from the simplistic, almost unintelligible screenplay he wrote with Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram, based on a story by Joby Harold and David Dobkin, Guy Ritchie opts for style over substance, relying on swashbuckling swordplay, mumbled dialogue, rock music and a plethora of special effects, including gigantic, fantastical elephants used as war machines and lots of slithering snakes.
Obviously, Ritchie (“Snatch,” “Sherlock Holmes”) was aiming at establishing a new Camelot franchise, perhaps telling the tales of all the Knights who sit at the Round Table but I doubt that will ever happen, particularly since there isn’t even a glimpse of the essential character of Merlin., let alone Lancelot or Guinevere.
If you’re curious, perhaps you should view John Boorman’s far superior “Excalibur” (1981).
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” is a fumbling, fractured 4, unfolding like a frantic video game.