Forget the Disney cartoon, the 2004 epic starring Clive Owen, or the original Arthurian legends – King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is the latest take on the mythical English king. The fantasy film follows Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) from his tragic childhood, to the moment that he finally sits on the throne as the once and future king.
King Uther Pendragon is betrayed by his uncle Vortigern (Jude Law), who steals the crown from his brother and his nephew, events which lead boy-Arthur to escape downriver on a boat. He ends up being taken in and raised by a group of women in a city far away from his home. When he grows up he will fight his uncle for the crown.
After a pivotal scene in which Arthur pulls the legendary sword Excalibur out from the stone, he is hunted down by Vortigern – but is then rescued by a mysterious woman known only as the Mage, and the duo go on to rise up against his uncle’s tyrannical rule.
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The two-hour-long film uses almost half of that time to build up the plot – we see the death of Uther (played by Eric Bana), and the hardships Arthur faces growing up, but there isn’t much focus on the villain, which makes the sudden focus on Vortigern in the second half jarring.
The lack of cohesive storytelling doesn’t just stop there – the mysterious Mage is so mysterious that there is simply no explanation given of where her powers come from or why she is helping Arthur. Much of the time that could have been spent providing rationales is instead given to a lot of fighting, shot in a shaky, hand-held camera sort of way. It’s supposed to make you feel more involved and a part of the fight, but instead leaves you feeling confused and overwhelmed. Ultimately, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is like a medieval superhero origin story, but one that is too long and too badly written to be entertaining.
Edited by Ginny Wong