I say "interpretation" because King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is only very loosely based on the classic myths. Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) was once a Prince, until his uncle Vortigern (Jude Law) murdered his father and usurped the throne. After years of living in exile and on the streets he has nearly forgotten his royal lineage, and heads a gang of thieves and thugs in the slums of Londinium. But when a chain of events leads to him drawing the sword Excalibur from the stone, he is thrust into the role of revolutionary against his will, aided by a ragtag group of rebels including a warrior named Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou), an archer called Goosefat Bill (Aidan Gillen) and a mysterious mage (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey).
The best way I can talk about this movie is by separating its narrative and technical aspects. On the one hand, the former category is somewhat lackluster. The plot frequently seems to forget that it is supposed to be a movie about King Arthur, and goes off on tangents that have little to do with the meat of the story. Honestly, it sort of feels like a script that was originally just a normal fantasy film which had Arthurian elements tacked on during rewrites. The acting is hit-or-miss; Hounsou is badass and Gillen gives the film some much-needed levity, while Jude Law has fun chewing the scenery as the obvious card-carrying villain. Hunnam plays a strangely deadpan King Arthur, and Bergès-Frisbey is good though her English is not the most fluent. Overall, the narrative is pretty bog-standard fantasy fare.
On the other hand, the choices made by the creative team for the technical aspects of the film are highly unusual and interesting. Guy Ritchie continues his trend of super slow-mo action scenes he pioneered in his Sherlock Holmes adaption, adding in some weird camera angles and funky fight choreography which gives the action scenes an almost 300-esque style. The editing is often incredibly fast-paced and sometimes non-linear, especially during the exposition scenes, and features such things as cross-cutting montages and flashbacks interspersed with flash-forwards. Most interesting of all is the score by Daniel Pemberton, which I can’t really think of a good comparison to, but suffice to say it is definitely not what you expect from a fantasy film.
This is one of those films which I think is more interesting than qualitatively good. For the most part its a fairly standard fantasy action flick, but it’s not a complete loss. My recommendation is to go see it if you either really like hyper-stylized action/fantasy film, or if you’re intrigued by its unique film-making style. For anyone else, this is one sword that is probably not worth the effort to pull from its stone.
Grade: C- (narrative aspects), A- (technical aspects)