Movie Review – Jax Teller Goes To A Renaissance Festival

Filed under – Getting The Most Out Of Life.

I have always loved movies, even as a child. The stories unfolding on a huge screen, the booming sound thumping in my chest which portends amazing things to come, the animated characters beckoning me to the snack bar, and the dedicated time with parents or grandparents where I felt like I was doing something grown up WITH a grown-up. The whole thing was magical. When I went to college, I majored in theatre and my classes included film analysis and a LOT of movie watching sealing my fate as a cinephile.

Those studies combined with a love of language, photography, history and cinema make me a bit of an enthusiast when it comes to movies. I will watch almost anything, except torture films (Saw, The Purge, etc.) and thoroughly enjoy post-movie discourse, combing through each piece of film-making, usually over coffee and pastry (what else, right?).

Naturally, it was only a matter of time before that passion bled over onto my blog. For this post, I’m reviewing King Arthur: Legend of the Sword from Safehouse Pictures, Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros., Weed Road Pictures, and Wigram Productions and released in the United States last Friday, May 12th and running at just over 2 hours.
IMG_2606Firstly, let me state that I LOVE LOVE LOVE Arthurian legend AND have enjoyed several Guy Ritchie films so I am very conflicted about this movie. Le Morte d’Arthur by Mallory is one of my favorite books, despite being a bit weighty. The movie Excalibur, from John Boorman, is easily in my top 5 movies of all time and London, the tale of the city’s evolution by Edward Rutherfurd, is my absolute favorite book. Adding to my conflict is that I think Ritchie usually weaves intriguing stories with colorful characters and slick action on a consistent basis. Okay, now that we’ve established my perspective and initial feelings, let’s get to the review and the sources of my conflicting opinions about King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
IMG_2605On one hand it is a decent action flick with good CGI and actors who acquit themselves well, for the most part. On the other hand, it is a mash-up of tropes, not quite fitting into any of them. While the name is King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, it is only loosely based on the tale of Arthur. Yes, it has Excalibur, the Lady of the Lake, and the names of a few characters from the story, but that is where the similarities ended for me. Charlie Hunnam does a good job as the reluctant hero who eventually realizes that his actions can improve the lives of thousands and end the rule of a madman but I still see shades of Jax Teller (who was in a similar albeit only slightly more hygienic, situation). He frowns like Jax, saunters like Jax and wisecracks like Jax. I like him but I kept seeing him in his Redwood Original vest. Not a bad thing, just distracting. I could continue in exposition, but for your sake, I’ll use bullet points. =)

What I liked:

  • The cinematography is good overall with stand-out framing, color, and editing in the sword/mud scene and the venom/vision scene.
  • The filming locations were spectacular. There was a lot of CGI laid over the landscape but when it was just forest, mountains, or plains, the landscape of Great Britain really shone.
  • All the actors are pretty to look at. Charlie Hunnam is perfectly served with the modified high-and-tight, scruffy beard, and missed-one-meal-too-many cut physique. Djimon Hounsou looks good (even in his beanie) as do Aidan Gillen and the rest of the merry band of misfits who bond to defeat the big bad, played by Jude Law (who ALWAYS looks good). Special shout-out to Eric Bana for a small pivotal role and looking ever-so-handsome.
  • The snappy pace of the movie (a Guy Ritchie-ism) which serves to move the messy, ill-formed plot forward.
  • The fighting sequences are well-choreographed and the digital effects work to add heft to the plot point of Excalibur being no ordinary weapon. Two thumbs up for the slow-motion gravel-shaking.
  • I did get chills twice. Once when he pulls the sword from the stone and the second time late in the movie when three men are knighted by name. What can I tell you? I am a sucker for Arthurian legend plot points punctuated by a wistful soundtrack.

What I didn’t like:

  • Overall, the movie felt like a mash-up of RocknRolla, Game of Thrones, and Mortal Kombat, all enjoyable for what they are but kind of like mixing every color of tempera paint…..all it does is makes is a muddy grey/brown.
  • There wasn’t a lot of the legend woven into the story. Some token characters and story painted in SUPER broad brush strokes, but is so far off the original that is could have been titled Random Medieval Guy Discovers His Birthright, Fights a Tyrant, and Unites an Island and been just as effective.
  • Camelot looks a lot like Mordor. A LOT.
  • I couldn’t help but think of HeMan when Arthur draws the sword from the stone or picks it up at anytime there after. I have the power!!!!
  • The anachronistic music and certain dialogue was a bit off-putting to me. It knocked me out of the story from time to time. I have no issue with the mother of all curse words, but its use is attributed to 1475 or so, not the supposed time of King Arthur.
  • It seems like the costume department put out an open call to local costume shops that called for “any vaguely medieval garment you can find”. Don’t get me started on the machine-knit caps!! Grrrrrr!
    • What really bothered me was that the legend of Arthur (the real legend) places him in the 5th or 6th century with the stories becoming popular in the 12 century and Mallory writing (allegedly) his collection of stories in that latter half of the 1400s. To me, the costumes should be historical to circa 450AD or so, not the bastardized mix of late 1100s and 1200s garb.

IMG_2604Final Verdict? Go See It But Don’t Say I Didn’t Warn You.

king arthur rating

2 1/2 cups out of 5 (of coffee, of course).

As many issues as I had with this film, I still enjoyed it for what it was, a frothy popcorn flick with decent action and special effects. It is not a movie I would ever purchase, but it was a cracking way to spend a couple of hours and definitely not worth dissecting over coffee and cake.

What do you think? Did you like King Arthur: Legend of the Sword? Do you want me to share more movie reviews?  Let me know in the comments and, as always, thanks for reading!

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