Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was supposed to be the first in a six-film franchise. But in a classic “the gods punish hubris” result, King Arthur fell on its sword with a $14.7 million opening weekend. This isn’t just a bomb, this is, “Sorry your movie tanked AND you lost your job” territory. (And it’s probably worse in reality: Warner Brothers is reporting a $175 million budget but there’s no way in hell that’s honest and we’re not even talking marketing costs.) It got a B+ CinemaScore, which is not great (on the CinemaScore curve, Bs are more like Cs), and will probably cause a completely redundant second-week crash. So much for six films. We’re all going to pretend we didn’t even see this one. Which is bad, by the way, King Arthur is a bad movie.
The movie opens with Mordred (Rob Knighton, Anti-Social) attacking Camelot because magicians should rule humans which has nothing to do with anything and will later have to be linked to the main action in a very dumb and convoluted way. In what should have been the actual opening of the movie, Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana, renewing his protection against the crone’s curse by appearing in yet another sh*t blockbuster) fights his brother (Jude Law in a silly hat) for the throne. Honestly, I didn’t quite catch Jude Law’s name in this, but it sounds like Verdigris? Anyway, Uther and Vatican fight and he sacrifices his wife so that a demon will show up (??) and kill Uther and his wife and baby Arthur is sent down river like Moses. Also none of the women have names.
Arthur grows up in a “Londinium” brothel and he’s basically White Aladdin and also is Charlie Hunnam who cannot carry a movie. (Sorry, Lainey, but between this and Pacific Rim it doesn’t look good.) We learn that Arthur is a good person because he forces some Vikings who raped a prostitute to pay her a year’s wages which makes total sense and Arthur is a GOOD PERSON and there is nothing gross or wrong about this plot point AT ALL, MOVE ON.
The brothel gets raided because every five minutes of King Arthur must involve PUNCHING and through the raid we learn the Vikings were VIPs of King Verdugo and Arthur is now in trouble and he ends up on a prison ship where he hears about the sword in the stone. He couldn’t just overhear some gossip in the town square while doing something low-key nice like paying for fruit after a kid steals it, oh no, we have to have Viking rape and prison ships because King Arthur is a testosterone nightmare.
Then Arthur is forced to try pulling the sword from the stone, which he does, but he faints because he’s like, so powerful he’s overwhelmed by his own manly energy. He ends up in King Vestibule’s dungeon and instead of lying to Arthur and being like, “Hey man, this means you’re my right-hand good dude, come join my army,” Valhalla tells Arthur exactly who he is, as if that won’t inspire Arthur in the slightest.
So then “The Mage” shows up—the closest a woman gets to having a name in this movie is a noun—and there’s an execution break-out scene except Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves did this a thousand times better and all they had was Mullet Hawkeye. Also The Mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey, for the record) is an acolyte of Merlin because they were saving Merlin for the sequel, which is hilarious. At this point, King Arthur gets way overcomplicated as Arthur learns that really, King Veranda was responsible for Mordred attacking humanity, and Arthur has his training montage and gets his sh*t together to go fight Vaseline and his silly hat. Which he does, and he wins, even though Ventricle sacrificed his daughter to become a demon (???). And then he builds a round table, and we all laugh because they thought there were getting FIVE SEQUELS.
Guy Ritchie can direct the sh*t out of a movie, we know this. And even a not-great movie from him, like Man from U.N.C.L.E., has its charms, mostly deriving from Ritchie’s visual style and action chops. But King Arthur is almost visually incoherent, the action is so over-edited, and the story—in part scripted by Ritchie—is so insanely complicated that even though it’s a relatively lean two hours, it feels like your typical bloated disaster blockbuster. And there’s nothing especially clever here, either, which again, even U.N.C.L.E. offers plenty of fun touches. But King Arthur is the sort of the movie where you know Arthur is the rightful king because he hasn’t got sh*t all over him, and that’s as clever as it gets. If you are at all tempted to watch King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, just watch A Knight’s Tale instead.
Attached - Charlie Hunnam promoting King Arthur on Conan last week.