King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword

Critics Consensus

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword piles mounds of modern action flash on an age-old tale -- and wipes out much of what made it a classic story in the first place.



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Average Rating: 3.7/5

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Movie Info

Acclaimed filmmaker Guy Ritchie brings his dynamic style to the epic fantasy action adventure "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword." Starring Charlie Hunnam in the title role, the film is an iconoclastic take on the classic Excalibur myth, tracing Arthur's journey from the streets to the throne. When the child Arthur's father is murdered, Vortigern (Jude Law), Arthur's uncle, seizes the crown. Robbed of his birthright and with no idea who he truly is, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, his life is turned upside down and he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy...whether he likes it or not.

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Charlie Hunnam
as King Arthur
Djimon Hounsou
as Sir Bedivere
Aidan Gillen
as Goosefat Bill
Jude Law
as Vortigern
Eric Bana
as Uther Pendragon
Annabelle Wallis
as Maid Maggie
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Critic Reviews for King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword

All Critics (252) | Top Critics (48)

Audience Reviews for King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword


So here in old blighty we have this sprawling legend of one Arthur Pendragon, King Arthur, King of the Britons. The King who is said to have defended Britain against the Saxon hordes in, umm...a long long long time ago. Arthur was supposed to have beaten the Saxons and established an empire over Britain, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and Gaul. Along with Arthur other apparent legends have also been scooped up and added such as Merlin, the Sword in the Stone (a different item to Excalibur in some tales), the lady in the lake, the Holy Grail and various knights such as Lancelot. All of this and much more comes under what is known as Arthurian legend. In the opening battle sequence of this movie I was shocked, gob-smacked! Firstly the visuals are undoubtedly incredible, expected but even still, whoa! But wait what's this? Gigantic battle elephants that wouldn't look outta place in a [i]Lord of the Rings[/i] or [i]300[/i] movie?? Yep looks great but literally what the hell? Of course this is just the start of numerous gigantic animals we will see. Later on expect giant bats, snakes, rats, a large eagle and a whopping mega gigantic snake that actually eats people, oh yes. But the other rather silly thing that happens, Arthur's father Uther Pendragon is watching as his army is getting wiped out and Camelot is being destroyed. So he casually grabs his trusty sword Excalibur, gallops towards the giant battle elephants by horse taking out all enemies, leaps across a huge drop between Camelot's ramparts and the elephant (the horse presumably falling to it death) and hacks his way into the huge portable armoured mount on top of the elephant. There he casually takes everyone out including his arch nemesis Mordred and wins the day. All this kinda leaves you wondering why he didn't do this straight away, and why he even needs an army. Its also around this point you start to notice the casting, and I'm gonna have to bring this up. Turns out in this Guy Ritchie directed version of events Sir Bedivere is played by Djimon Hounsou. Not only that but Sir Tristan is also portrayed by a black actor (Kingsley Ben-Adir), and in the end we get a knight who is of an Oriental background (not sure where, I'm guessing China). The fact he's called George gives no clues but at least he seems to be created for the film. OK so let me be straight here, if Ritchie wanted to include diversity in this movie, that's fine with me. It would be perfectly acceptable to have included some new characters that came from other realms, such as Africa, the Middle East or the Far East. In fact it would probably be relatively historically accurate. But to race swap two of Arthur knights, two Englishmen of legend, is honesty unforgivable. As for the cast on the whole, its fine, nothing spectacular, but fine. Everyone speaks with a cockney accent which is completely bullshit but this is a Guy Ritchie movie after all. Apparently Ritchie thinks everyone in the UK has a cockney accent. There are a few scenes which are 100% pure Ritchie which was...awkward. You know what I mean, a group of fast talking cockneys with stupid names describing events which involve other folk with equally stupid names. Pretty sure no one was called Mike or Blue or 'Goosefat Bill'; mind you I'm also pretty sure no one used the word 'fuck' back then either. So its obvious that various elements of the Arthurian legend have been jettisoned or rejigged. This isn't too much of a problem though because the Arthurian legend has many versions, angles, viewpoints etc...But for example, the actual existence of King Vortigern is as equally questionable as Arthur himself. Castles didn't actually exist during Arthur's life, they didn't turn up for at least another 500 years. The same can also be said for armour. Characters such as Merlin and the knights of the round table are thought to be entirely fictional. The sword Excalibur is also thought to be entirely fictional. And alas all the giant creatures, watery squid witches, demon knights and supernatural/superhero abilities we see are of course all bullshit to make this movie more exciting. And that's the real problem here, this movie doesn't really feel like a historical film about King Arthur. It feels more like a superhero movie with Arthur being an X-Men type character with a supernatural weapon. Ritchie has taken a historical piece and revamped it into a videogame/comicbook-esque action movie for the youngsters. Just look at the final battle between Arthur and this [i]Mortal Kombat[/i] character in some dark alternate dimension. Literally the epitome of a modern day movie for youngsters. But that isn't a problem per say, revamping old things can be good and this movie does have good elements. But this whole venture feels so contrived and artificial, the fact they deliberately left out Merlin, most of the main knights and the round table (tacked onto the ending) for future sequels was all too obvious. So obvious in fact I think that one factor really hurt the movie because people are getting really sick and tired of these predictable cinematic universe setups. Apart from all that none of this makes a great deal of sense either. Why are there watery witches living in an underground rock pool in the bowels of the castle? What exactly are they supposed to be? Why do they need dead bodies? I presume they enabled King Vortigern to be able to turn into a demon knight? What was that alternate dimension? I thought it was simply a nightmare Arthur kept having, apparently not? So upon death Uther Pendragon turned himself into the stone that would hold the sword Excalibur...wut??? Or was that just another nightmare from Arthur's mind? Anyways, if you were expecting a film in the same spiritual fairytale-esque vein as John Boorman's cult classic, you might be disappointed. This movie feels more like a loud, in-your-face Robin Hood tale with some fantasy monsters and a roided up King Arthur (who wears very natty stylish clothes including a quarter length coat!). The visuals are admittedly lavish and beautiful and there are some nice touches. Unfortunately its also a typical Guy Ritchie affair mixed with silly videogame-like traits which overall makes it feel, tone wise, very muddled.

Phil Hubbs
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

This story is well known because it's over told. Woe betide the one who dares to update the thing! Yes, this is not your daddy's King Arthur, and thank goodness. Ritchie raises this bad boy up from the grave and instills the sucker with sweet life, and makes it a bad boy all over again. Jude Law is mad impressive. Charlie Hunnam makes relatable the whole "I-don't-wanna-be-king-but-watch-out-if-I-do" dynamic. Just as good of a film as it's forebears, The Adventures of Robin Hood" and "Excalibur" and worthy of that prestigious canon. Time will prove this one out.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Guy Ritchie continues to make overstylized versions of classic stories, only this one is a tedious and derivative action movie that seems like a desperate display of virility - let's be honest, instead of a sword, it would have been more honest to just show Arthur wielding his penis.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

In a time where remakes rule the world and many young viewers have no clue about previous tellings of classic stories, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was still not a film I believe needed to be back in the spotlight just yet. That fear was proven to be pretty accurate as this film is nothing short of a hot mess. It's one thing to revamp a story for a modern age, but another thing entirely to make it seem like it takes place in another time period, only to constantly remind its audience that we live in a post-rock and effects-heavy era. Here is why I believe King Arthur: Legend of the Sword shouldn't have ever received the green light, at least for this version of the story. You'll know exactly what you're in for after the first few minutes. I've always been a Guy Ritchie fan and his style fits most of the films he puts his hands on, but this should've been a property he stayed very far away from. Following an orphaned boy as he grows up on the streets, only to find out he is the heir of a man with many gifts, he is able to pull the sword from the stone and prove his worth. Rushed into training and sent on missions in a heartbeat, this film suffers from many pacing issues. There are times when the film really seems to drag out the premise, but others where it feels cut like a trailer or music video in order to speed things up. This style didn't fit the tone of the movie at all. I quite enjoy the charisma that Charlie Hunnam brings to his performances and including great stars like Eric Bana and Jude Law only seemed to be a plus. While everyone does give their all here, there were many moments that felt like they deserved to be in a better film, delivering better dialogue. They each have their times to shine, but its too far and in between in my opinion. When you have a cast that seems to care about the film they're in, its sad to see waste talent in an otherwise very poor film overall. This leads me to the biggest issue this film suffers from. As aforementioned, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword doesn't know how to cut itself together, making it seem like a true medieval piece of cinema, mixed with a bit of the film 300, only to horribly juggle the two with rock music that brings audiences from point A to point B in a matter of seconds. There are many moments where characters discuss doing something and the following scene already has them accomplishing it easily. I didn't ever fear for Arthur, because he was so powerful and skilled that nobody could touch him. Adding to that, there are quite a few moments throughout his action scenes that felt very CGI heavy, truly making this film feel like one long video game cutscene. In the end, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is about as bland as you can get when it comes down to the final product. I found myself incredibly bored in between action sequences and thought the action sequences were oddly edited and stylistically didn't fit this time period, so there really wasn't much to like about this incarnation of the story. That being said, these actors are giving it their all and I quite enjoyed their performances. Say for a few action sequences early on, most of it feels like a big-budget video game, and that isn't anywhere near what a film like this should be like. I'm aware that I may be in the minority when style in particular bugs me, but I can't bring myself to recommend this film to anyone. There is a cool war film somewhere here and if it was its own thing, not needing to hark back to the King Arthur storylines, it may have been a much better film overall. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword sadly isn't even good enough popcorn entertainment.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

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