This film was not quite what I expected. Instead of being a story about King Arthur growing up and coming into his birthright it was the charming tale of Vortigern (who has a cool name and is a tiny bit-part in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain but is inexplicably Uther’s ambitious brother here) making a deal with Ursula the Sea-Witch but instead of wanting legs so he can be a real boy he wants magic powers so he can destroy the world muhahahaha to no obvious benefit to himself.
I’m going to start off with everything I liked about this film:
- It featured Ursula the Sea-Witch and a sexy version of Flotsam and Jetsam, updated for the modern viewer
- Eric Bana reprises the exact same role he played in Troy but has now gloriously graduated from “dutiful hunk who fights on to protect his people despite knowing he is doomed” to “dutiful silver fox who fights on to protect his people despite knowing he is doomed”
- It was a world in which becoming the most magical magician that ever did magic was a simple matter of building the tallest house – a true meritocratic society which young Arthur rudely disrupts by insisting on his inborn nobility
- Vortigern uses this magic to become a sort of Sauron-styled Nazi and has – it seems – the power to convince Guy Ritchie that making 100,000 CGI extras do a Nazi salute was a good way of “subtly” showing he was evil
- Excalibur was a sort of giant sonic screwdriver, complete with glowing blue light and the ability to pretty much do anything the plot required
- The final fight scene was exactly the same sequence as the ‘Vah Rudania’ boss I just defeated on Legend of Zelda, complete with melting into black mist at the end (that’s not a spoiler because I didn’t tell you who was fighting who, ha ha)
But I come not to praise this film, but to bury it, and – boys and girls – the library is well and truly open in the Collins household.
I approached this film with much excitement and some dread. I’m not a big Ritchie fan, but like all living breathing humans I adored the Sherlock Holmes reboot. I was concerned by the trailer, and I’m afraid it cashed those cheques it wrote about the film being a massive sausage-fest in which the women were pretty, quiet and died whenever the plot demanded with minimum mess, bar one mysterious “mage” that does not get a name. Igraine, who in Malory is a wise counsellor and complex figure even in the first book in which she appears, says the word ‘peace’ and then dies (watch this space for a more interesting, empowering and f-ing up to date Igraine).
That’s the thing – this wasn’t the King Arthur movie that 2017 needed. It’s even less woke than the medieval versions. Malory’s no Simone de Beauvoir, but we still see complex women with things to do and say, influence – and sometimes even power – to wield. I expect GR clapped himself on the back when he wrote that ‘Maggie’ character but she does so little it’s laughable and despite an altercation with Vortigern in a barge, she simply melts back into the background to look obligingly up at men whenever they speak at her.
Likewise, despite claiming a medieval legacy and making some nods towards it, it was so far off the mark it was laughable. It’s like the creators had a drunken meeting where they were like “what’s medieval? Mercia? Vikings? Drinking? Sure, that’ll do”. Thing is, Viking’s weren’t raiding Britain until centuries after King Arthur, let alone coming and making deals with kings. Those could just as easily have been Saxons, who would have fulfilled the same plot role and been right, only Ritchie cornered himself by perplexingly have Arthur and everyone else refer over and over again to England. Eng-land. Angle-land. Land of the Anglo-saxons. I mean, come on. “I am Arthur, King of the Britons.” Then again, Terry Jones knows what he’s talking about. But come on, mate. It would only have taken a cursory google. BTW, Mercia – an Anglo-Saxon kingdom. No Mercia back in dem days. Don’t get me started on the names. William. Lucy. Mike. Those, I could have forgiven, it’s England that really gets me, like the script was written by an EDL member with no access to google.
So there it is. The Legend of the Sword. A man’s man film for a man’s man lads on tour world that, despite the expensive CGI, somehow feels horribly dated.