PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Director Guy Ritchie bringing his high-octane style to the Sherlock Holmes mythology worked out nicely for everybody — twice.
But his excursion into the Arthurian legend to conjure an origin story of the rise to power of King Arthur and the Knights of the Roundtable is a misfire.
In this forgettable action-adventure fantasy about magic and power, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, co-written and directed by Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes; Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows; Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels; Snatch; Swept Away, Revolver; The Man From U.N.C.L.E.), Arthur, played by Charlie Hunnam, is robbed of his birthright.
So he has a hardscrabble upbringing and grows up in a brothel and makes his way as a street fighter.
But once he pulls Excalibur, the legendary sword, from the stone, he begins to acknowledge his royal legacy as the once and future king and proceeds to master the sword, unite the kingdom, and take down his uncle, King Vortigern, played by Jude Law, who murdered Arthur’s father (Eric Bana) and stole
Arthur’s rightful crown.
The script by Ritchie, Joby Harold, and Lionel Ingram from a story by Harold and David Dobkin, with half-hearted attempts at humor that barely land. seems disjointed, as if changes were made in mid-stream that were not checked against the rest of the narrative.
But this is unmistakably a medieval action flick in the Guy Ritchie mold rather than a thoughtful or inspired consideration of otherwise familiar subject matter.
Meaning: Character building? Setting establishment? Plot points? Who needs ‘em?
Consequently, drama, excitement, and urgency remain elusive.
Instead, the frenetic action, uneven pacing, chaotic visuals, caffeinated editing, and whirlwind of CGI set pieces leave no room for the source material to breathe.
Hunnam is appealing and Law is effective, but the performances take a distant back seat to the signature Ritchie flourishes, which make the film somehow feel too fast and too slow at the same time.
So we’ll pull the sword from 2 stars out of 4 for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Guy Ritchie’s energetic take on this oft-told tale registers loudly but fleetingly as an also-ran addition to the Arthurian genre.