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King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Cover Media logo Cover Media 19/05/2017

The gargantuan elephants striding across a digital landscape is the first sign that King Arthur: Legend of the Sword has strayed substantially from the classic Excalibur myth. And given that it is helmed by Snatched director Guy Ritchie, it really should come as no surprise.

The veteran director of Snatch, and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, has transferred his frenetic directorial style to an origin story written by Ritchie, Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram, which focuses on the rise of the reluctant hero who is forced to come to terms with his destiny.

After Arthur's (Charlie Hunnam) parents are murdered, he is raised in a brothel in the ancient settlement of Londinium. Young Arthur grows up living by his wits with his gang of fellow pickpockets and thieves, and helps to protect the women of the brothel where he was raised. The only insight to his past life are the mysterious visions he suffers from the night his father (Eric Bana) was murdered. One day, he is picked up by the guards of King Vortigern (Jude Law) and, along with several other men his age, forced to try and pull the legendary sword Excalibur from the stone in which it resides... cue cringeworthy David Beckham cameo.

Arthur is revealed to be the one true born king, the sole heir of the late King Uther Pendragon (Bana), and a threat to his uncle Vortigern, who wants him dead.

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While he would rather walk away from his birthright, Arthur is soon pulled into the larger resistance against Vortigern led by his father’s old knight Sir Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou), Aidan Gillen's Bill and aided by powerful mage (magician) played by Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey. With their help, he must learn to harness the power of Excalibur and lead the fight against Vortigern – who is in cahoots with dark forces to retain his power by any means necessary.

As he's previously shown Ritchie likes his action fast and furious, and he makes every effort to obliterate all previous incarnations of the legend. The fantasy/historical realm is pretty much owned by Game of Thrones, and Ritchie clearly takes his cue from the hit show, but the visual effects don't quite hit the mark, with the heavily CGIed movie at times looking messy, and overblown.

The film's saving grace is Ritchie's trademark laddish humour, creative editing and Hunnam, who has yet to land a big box office hit, acquits himself well in the action scenes. While Law is perfectly cast as the power-crazed Vortigern.

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