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King Arthur - Legend of the Sword Early Preview Review (2017)
King Arthur - Legend of the Sword is set to release in theaters May 12, 2017 and stars Charlie Hunnam (Arthur), Jude Law (Vortigern), Djimon Hounsou (Sir Bevidere) and Eric Bana (King Uther Pendragon) and is directed by Guy Ritchie. This film was made with an estimated $102 million budget and includes music by Daniel Pemberton.
The film is rated PG-13 and runs approximately 2 hours and 6 minutes. There are also several familiar faces to watch for when you see this movie but I won't ruin that by telling you who to look for while you watch.
While this is in many ways a familiar story dealing with the legend of Excalibur and King Arthur this film turns the story slightly so while familiar, it is not simply a retelling of the same plot line you have seen. In the Guy Ritchie adaptation of the King Arthur story the young Arthur is raised in a brothel and has to fight for survival and respect. His uncle is on the throne after murdering Arthur's parents and Arthur is unaware of his birthright until he is forced to attempt to draw the sword from the stone. As the legend goes he claims that sword, unwillingly, and battles, both internally and with his uncle, to claim the throne begin.
Since I was lucky enough to score a couple of free passes from Warner Brothers and AMC to see this movie early under the "King for a Day" preview I will not have plot spoilers in this review but share with you my thoughts and reactions after seeing the movie. I have to start by saying that I am a fan of the King Arthur and Excalibur legends and have probably seen every Arthurian legend based movie and television show. As a fan of the Arthurian legends I always find it interesting to see a new direction and vision based on this heroic legend.
Much like the many adaptations of Romeo and Juliet, the Arthur legend has been rewritten many times but the core of the legend remains and that is the strength of the trilogy of power between Arthur, Excalibur and the Lady of the Lake. This current adaptation is a modern storytelling of a classic tale of greed, betrayal, murder, survival, friendship and strength. While this version of the legend plays a little loose with the traditional "facts" most people will expect this can be overlooked or forgotten as we dive into the movie. I have read some reviews that decry the lack of character motivation and development but I, as a typical movie goer and not "professional" reviewer, did not really feel this was an issue.
The movie opens with a slightly confusing battle scene and introduces us to Uther and his brother Vortigern. If you remember The Lion King, let me introduce you to the medieval version of Scar played by Jude Law. Uther is portrayed as loyal and loving, unlike his typical portrayal as a power obsessed Merlin puppet. While there is magic in the form of Mage people there is no direct visual of Merlin but he is still part of the story. After Uther's death Vortigern assumes the throne and Arthur is lost to survive in the city of Londinium.
We pass quickly through the growth of Arthur from child to man and see his fight for survival and witness him survive and thrive. I was okay with this progression through childhood that had a pretty quick pace since I am not a fan of 3 hour movies. This Arthur is not the naïve and innocent character we are usually given at this moment in the Arthur tales. Rather this Arthur is a fierce, confident, loyal and good hearted person who has survival instincts and a toughness that seems to make more sense than the innocent Arthur we are normally fed in other movies.
Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law are able to pull off the Guy Ritchie sardonic humor and even though Law's Vortigern character is evil somehow you still care about what happens to him. There is not a lot of character development for Vortigern as some have lamented but really, we know the greed and desire for power of the second born son, we have seen this before so does Ritchie really need to spoon feed it to us? The movie has a storyline and plot that keep moving forward and I enjoyed the true power that Excalibur is able to wield in the right hands. So often the sword is portrayed as a sword but the power of Excalibur is an integral part of the story Ritchie tells and that was a refreshing change. The humorous moments balanced well with the darker elements and did not drag this film into that depressing dark plot line.
We know that Arthur will reclaim his throne so that really isn't a spoiler but the how he gets to that point from street life survivor to king is the interesting journey that Arthur takes. Along the way we get to enjoy several great supporting characters that help him achieve his birthright and free the country form the dictator.
I would love to tell you some of the lines that got a great crowd reactions from the screening that I watched but I don't want to ruin the movie for you in advance. I will say that I enjoyed the movie and the reactions of the crowd in the theater I attended demonstrated that they were engaged and enjoying the film. Hunnam, Law and the supporting cast all do a great job in telling this classic tale. The soundtrack really gives it a more modern retelling (can you even go wrong with Led Zeppelin in the soundtrack?) and was done very well. The bottom line for me was that I would tell my friends to go and see this movie and enjoy a couple hours of adventure, action and a touch of humor. I enjoyed this movie as a modern twist on the classic Arthur legend with a great cast!