There are parts of “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” that so clearly belong to director Guy Ritchie.
There are the swirling conversations/interrogations that drive some plot points, adrenaline-high montages and characters always at the ready with a quippy line.
And while all of that worked in the stylish “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” set in the 1960s, all of those Ritchie elements are at painful odds with the rest of the sword-wielding fantasy movie.
The tone is wrongly set in the beginning of the film with a flashback to Arthur’s father and uncle, where characters have period-typical (for movies) accents and little to any levity. Fast-forward 10 minutes and you’re in the throes of the modern British accents of “Snatch” as the characters joke their way through a story regarding improperly behaved Vikings.
That back-and-forth inconsistency continues throughout the movie, and the setting hardly lends itself for making the film an action-drama-comedy hybrid.
That’s not to say I don’t want to give the film some credit for trying.
I caught the film early during a special AMC Theaters screening of the film in Camp Hill two weeks ago. I had concerns about how well a Ritchie film would slot into a sword epic, but I was also interested to see that Ritchie hadn’t dropped what other previous films had forgone—magic.
Previous “King Arthur” tales stayed away from magical elements that may have hurt box office numbers. “Legend of the Sword” embraces that, with—as the title shows—Excalibur being the central plot point in the movie.
The magic gives Ritchie a chance to show off a number of spectacles—though it may take too long to explain why the elephants are stories higher than their earthly counterparts. The Lady of the Lake is what you may expect, but the syrens are a new, gruesome thing to behold.
This also means there’s a new way to show off the skill of the one who wields Excalibur. That effort, however, is almost completely CGI. While I enjoyed the magical look of the villain, the fight also makes it look like two CGI characters battling each other (even with Charlie Hunnam’s face on one). The fight isn’t so much groundbreaking as it is a reminder of better made video game cutscenes.
The actors do what they can to bring all of this together. Hunnam has come a long way since “Pacific Rim” to lead the cast of this film, and Jude Law hams it up with his villainy and some tragedy interspersed in there.
The biggest miscast is also one of the few women in the movie with a speaking role. Spanish actress Astrid Berges-Frisbey simply isn’t capable of stringing some of the English lines together in a manner that befits the sentence or meaning, though Ritchie shares the blame in that for not coaching her otherwise.
Overall, it’s an action romp with some interesting visuals, a rather lackluster grapple for the throne and a heart-pumping soundtrack from composer Daniel Pemberton that is probably the most memorable thing about the movie.