(Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this article. The opinions I share are my own).
WARNING! SPOILERS WITHIN! WARNING!
There were three movies that tanked with a capital ‘T’ this summer: Valerian And The City Of A Thousand Planets, The Mummy and King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword. I’ve read a lot of bad reviews on both and in my experience these kind of “bad movies” are never as bad as they’re often times claimed to be. I wasn’t overwhelmed by King Arthur, but I didn’t think it was even as remotely terrible as everyone said it was. The only flaw I found was that it was the first of a trilogy, and at this point in my life I have extreme franchise fatigue. I blame the proliferation of those superhero flicks, which is an odd thing to say since I tend to want to review them when they hit disc and end up enjoying them too. But too much of a good thing is indeed bad, especially when it starts to bleed into every other thing, making everything look kind of the same. Not that King Arthur looks anything like a Marvel or DC hero flick, its only similarity being it’s essentially a “Chapter One” movie. Remember when Hollywood used to make movies with a beginning, middle and end? Stand alone flicks? I sure do, and that’s the only thing that kills this movie for me. It’s not a bad beginning, but since it tanked we’re never going to see the next chapters, and how do you make a movie about Camelot and not include Merlin for starters? Well, Guy Ritchie did. Merlin does have a cameo in this flick but only as a hooded figure in a flashback seen forging Excalibur. One can only assume his character along with Sir Lancelot, Guinevere and Morgan le Fay were all destined for the next installments.
This film focuses on how Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) lost his family, was raised by hookers in a brothel and became the King of Britain with the help of the Merlin forged super-sword, Excalibur. In the prologue Arthur’s father, Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana), is at war with a power-crazed mage named, Mordred. Uther’s brother, Vortigern (Jude Law), is in cahoots with Mordred as they plan to share power once Uther is dead and defeated, but things don’t work out like that. Mordred meets certain death at the hands of Excalibur during a siege of Camelot that looks like a mini-battle from Lord Of The Rings with these Godzilla-sized elephants. Vortigan has powers, not as great as Mordred, but they could be, and he wants Excalibur, this is when he betrays his brother one night, killing him, and Uther’s wife, and intends to off little Arthur but Excalibur wielding Dad manages to keep his brother at bay long enough for Arthur to get away.
Vortigern’s main power is a transformation into this demonic looking warrior that looks like a Frank Frazetta painting come to life. Though to get that way he has to sacrifice a relative to these three mermaid-types in the “basement” of the castle, except in place of tails they have tentacles.
There are some nice original touches like the stone that Excalibur is stuck in is actually the body of Arthur’s father. During the battle on that wharf when it’s clear he ain’t making it out alive he tosses ‘calibur in the air, kneels and it impales him through the back. His body turns to stone and he falls into the lake. Once Arthur has come of age to reclaim his kingdom, the waters recede revealing the stone and the sword, and Vortigern knows damn well what this means. If he wants that sword, he’s going to have to round up all the males of the right age and make them attempt to pull it out. Once he finds Arthur, and he pulls the sword out, he can kill him and own Excalibur.
This actually happens, the first part, I mean, but right as Vortigern is about to publicly behead Arthur a mage (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) intervenes, she has no character name, and everyone just calls her ‘mage.’ Since we don’t have Merlin for this movie, she’s his replacement, even mentioning he sent her. She saves him and tries to make him understand Excalibur is now his and he needs to march back in and kill that shit of an uncle! Arthur can’t, he’s suffering from blocked memories of what happened to him that night his parents were killed, so he’s sent off to the Dark Lands to try and jog his memory. This is where the movie gets a little creature-featurey. Get your ass stuck in the Dark Lands and you’ll end up being attacked by giant rats, giants bats and giant snakes. One of them giant snakes eats one of them giant bats too. I enjoyed this part of the movie even though it’s really brief. A giant snake shows up again in the final act when Arthur is finally confronting his uncle and the mage sends in a snake to eat up all Vortigern’s goons.
There were two other actors I recognized in this, and both of them end up on Arthur’s side: Djimon Hounsou as Sir Bedivere and Aidan Gillen as Sir William “Goosefat Bill” Wilson. I first saw Gillen in that USA channel horror flick, The Darkling (2000), and he made an impression. Only saw him one other time in a movie, Shanghai Knights (2003). I recognized him in the prologue when he was young (CGI de-aging I’m going to guess since he looked as young as he was in The Darkling). In the rest of the movie I had to look real hard to recognize him at his current age.
The action scenes are fun to watch, especially the ones where Arthur becomes virtually invincible while wielding Excalibur! Once it’s all over we get a tease of him building the famous Round Table for his his knights.
Video/Audio/Subtitles: 1080p 2.40:1 high definition widescreen—English Dolby Atmos, 7.1 English Dolby TrueHD, 5.1 French Dolby Digital, 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital, 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital, 5.1 English Dolby Digital 5.1—English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish subs.
Extras included . . .
- Arthur with Swagger ( 9:41).
- Sword from the Stone ( 18:49).
- Parry and Bleed (5:44).
- Building on the Past (14:00).
- Inside the Cut: The Action of King Arthur ( 6:08).
- Camelot in 93 Days (10:23).
- Legend of Excalibur (6:05).
- Scenic Scotland (5:33)
For me, personally, John Boorman’s Excalibur (1981) is the end all and be all on anything related to Camelot, but having said that I will add this now defunct trilogy had potential and I would have welcomed the next installment.