When the child Arthur’s father is murdered, Vortigern, Arthur’s uncle, seizes the crown. Robbed of his birthright and with no idea who he truly is, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword Excalibur from the stone, his life is turned upside down and he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy... whether he likes it or not.
Do we really need another re-telling of the King Arthur Legend? Apparently the studio was pretty convinced about it, as this version was given a budget of $175m. What do we get for that? Well first of all we don’t really get a re-telling, rather Guy Ritchie’s re-imagining of the story. And we don’t get the whole story – there are ambitions for this to be a new Movie Universe with this first movie being Arthur’s origins story; further movies would tell the origins of Merlin, Percival and maybe others, before bringing it all together. With global takings in the first month of $35m those sequels still seem pretty far off though…
So what’s different about this re-imagining? Maybe best to think of it as being set in a Lord of the Rings-like fantasy world with wizardry and aspired-to-be-epic battles including various seriously oversized animals that have nothing to do with the original legend; combined with a Game of Thrones-like level of intrige; and accompanied by a Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels-like non-stop smart banter between Art, Percy and the rest of the crew; all in a fairly frantic visual style that leaves little to no time to marvel in any of its expensive beauty.
But is it any good? Well, sort of but not really. It is pretty fun, lots of things going on, most of it fairly silly and over the top – but you have to accept that straight from the outset as 100 meter high killer elephants walk onto the screen. Charlie Hunnam does a pretty good job making Arthur a lead character, despite wearing what looks like a bomber jacket and sporting a haircut that was probably inspired by David Beckham (who makes a small cameo appearance), and Jude Law and Eric Bana also deliver what one would expect of them.
But a successful start to a new mega-blockbuster franchise this is not. So enjoy it for what it is: two hours of over-CGI’d frantic action that isn’t nearly as epic as its director’s ambitions and which you will have mostly forgotten again already by the time you get home from the cinema.