The moment Led Zeppelin kicked in I knew I was watching an ad for a Guy Ritchie movie. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is the next attempt to get in on the fantasy craze started by The Lord of the Rings trilogy and continued by Game of Thrones, but for me this trailer
lands closer to 300. Ritchie is taking the witty popcorn action style he applied to Sherlock Holmes and applying it to the legendary British king. Charlie Hunnam stars as the title character, in a role that seems to suggest an older Arthur; he pulls out the sword in the stone with a thick goatee. Eric Bana plays Uther Pendragon, Arthur’s father, seen here telling his wife to get herself and Arthur out of the castle, suggesting his imminent death. Jude Law is cast as the villain, a British warlord known as Vortigern. Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey plays Lady Guinevere, billed as a figure in the resistance against Vortigern, known to legend as the wife of King Arthur.
This is supposed to be the first entry into a new shared universe based around the legends of King Arthur, similar to the Marvel Universe and DCEU. The overall production design here suggests something like Game of Thrones, but the action rings closer to a typical action-adventure. The trailer presents a dramatic and gritty realistic version of the legends, the only hint of fantasy being the Lady of the Lake and a fiery Excalibur. As much as any high budget fantasy world will always excite me, I can’t help but already detect a hollowness to this film.
The dialogue is quippy but awkward, the action is over-stylized, and the choice to have Arthur discovering his calling so late in life is questionable. Warcraft flopped last year, with the same mix of drama and action, leaning heavily on the latter and leaving little space for characters beyond rote plot driven motivations. A dramatic and epic scale King Arthur series is something I would love to see and there are plenty of sources to draw on, such as T.H. White’s The Once and Future King or Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword looks like it could be another failed start to a cinematic universe, like last year’s flop Warcraft, Sony’s Spider-Man series, or The Golden Compass.