“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” is a perfectly passable rendition of the well known Arthurian legend. What it isn’t is inventive, engrossing or even particularly compelling. Starring Charlie Hunman (“Sons of Anarchy”) as the titular character opposite Jude Law (“The Holiday”) as his evil uncle, “Legend” sets its sights low and just barely hits them, going through the motions in a completely perfunctory manner. Directed by Guy Ritchie (“Sherlock Holmes) with his signature style, the movie packs action but pulls almost all of its punches.
The story is told in large chunks by fast-montage-with-voiceover, an effect that begins to wear on the audience as the film progresses. Exposition is the name of the game here, and it is exposition that dominates the scenes not already filled with the swinging of the sword. The sword itself is portrayed as some kind of mystical relic, so powerful that its wielder essentially becomes an invincible warrior when fighting with it. Although this does make for some impressive action sequences, it also has the effect of making Arthur seem like less of a hero and more of a lucky guy with a cool toy. Arthur in general comes off as kind of an ass throughout most of the movie, and by the end it’s difficult to buy into the idea that this man is going to be a just and righteous king.
The film feels simultaneously bloated as well as conceptually empty. Too much is thrown into the mix. Scenes of magic, dreams, flashbacks and visions all play a role. None of it adds up to form a complete whole, however, and as a result, the entire film feels muddled and unfocused. The audience is expected to care about Arthur’s friends introduced before he gets swept up into the adventure but doesn’t get to see enough of them. There is a half-baked love story that never goes anywhere (presumably because they hoped to develop it in later films, films that will clearly never come to be). Even Jude Law’s character, who has entire sequences in the film dedicated to filling in his backstory, doesn’t really have a clear motivation other than “power!”
The film plays like a worse version of other Ritchie movies. With the abundance of slo-mo, the presence of Jude Law and the English setting, one longs for the fun of the Ritchie directed “Holmes” films — but alas it is not meant to be, and as the hours creep by and “Legend of the Sword” slowly limps its way to the finish line, it is left for the audience to decide how this new version of Arthur the King stacks up against the many other versions that are out there. More likely than not though, most viewers will simply not remember it at all. For this one, it is truly the title that says it all, as it isn’t King Arthur whose legend is being told here, but that of his sword, although his own story would surely have been more interesting.