Saturday, 20 May 2017

Legend of the Sword

All things Camelot
I have blogged about King Arthur before (links at the bottom): not as many times as Shakespeare, but looking at the Label tally opposite, more often than Jesus. All things Camelot caught my imagination at a formative age and I am a sucker for lapping up Arthurian projects – not uncritically, I have to say. I was the perfect target audience for a recent book about Arthur as “dragon of the north” – yes, King Arthur from Yorkshire, count me in – but I found it unconvincing and tenuous. So, with a professional interest and a critical eye, I went to the cinema on my own to see King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, just in case it made me weep like a colicky baby. I wasn’t alone on Friday afternoon – one woman (who fell asleep in the middle) was there with a Charlie Hunnam lookalike (might have been him, I suppose); and the rest of the audience were individual men like me, looking like they spent too much time indoors reading….

Swords and Serpents….

My favourite thing in the film was Excalibur. Not just the prop, which was beautifully made, but the way Charlie Hunnam handled it, the way Guy Ritchie filmed it, its place in the story, its journey from the stone to battle to mud to water to more battles to various supernatural nuclear-Moana-goddess–Mordor-fire-Sauron-type explosions and ripples. It was a very busy sword. The script made me laugh – out loud twice. It looked excellent, as far as CGI films can. The spin on the legend was intriguing, though I would have liked more agency from Annabelle Wallis’s Maggie, a potentially beguiling character, Poppy Delevingne’s Igraine and Nicola Wren’s Lucy. The one female character who wasn’t doomed, a Mage played by Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, certainly made her presence felt as an acolyte of (the unseen) Merlin. From my understanding of Arthurian Romance, Guy Ritchie was tapping into Welsh interpretations of Arthur as a hero who battled demons and giant serpents, although in this film, Arthur has his own serpent thing going on.

More please

I believe Guy Ritchie was hoping to use this film to launch a series of Arthurian films and, after seeing this one, I’d sign up for another in the hope that he’ll build in more scenes in the future for his daughters to enjoy. I loved the design angle that Ye Olde Londinium still had plenty of Roman ruins in evidence. And Daniel Pemberton’s score was a rumpy-pumpy blast.
  • Charlie Hunnam is a convincing reluctant hero, pulled up by his boot straps from his childhood as brothel orphan 
  • Djimon Hounsou is magnificently charismatic and noble as Sir Bedivere 
  • Aiden Gillen is always wry value as crack archer, Goosefat Bill (Bill?) 
  • Jude Law eats the scenery and swivels his eyes in demented villain mode 
  • Geoff Bell always gives great geezer, this time as someone called (I think) John 
  • Eric Bana is memorable as the ghost of old Hamlet (not quite, but if you see it you’ll know what I mean).
  • The small parts were sketched quickly and boldly: Kingsley Ben-Adir as Wet Stick, Tom Wu as George, Neil Maskell as Blue’s dad, Black Lack, David Beckham as (did they say Trigger?)
Overall it felt like a version of King Arthur that some mates down the pub might act out. (If they had a multi-million pound budget.) But it passed a rainy afternoon for this Arthurian geek quite nicely, thank you. PS, there was a very smart performance by young actor Bleu Landau as Blue.

Past blogs about King Arthur
Reading Arthurian Romance:
The Sword in the Stone
The Once and Future King
One Brief Shining Moment

Road trip with Emily to Arthurian sites:
Road to Avalon
Road to Glastonbury
Road to Stonehenge and Winchester 
Thanks, Mr Ritchie, for adding to the Arthurian canon