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Archive for May, 2017

First, let me warn my readers of two things: 1) This blog may contain some spoiler alerts if you have not seen the film, and 2) I seriously thought about titling this blog “Why Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur Sucks” so be forewarned I have little good to say about it. That said, there were a few good surprises. Also note, I may have forgotten some of the bad and ugly points since I only saw the film once, but I am not inclined to view it again.

So here are the good, the bad, and the ugly points about why Guy Ritchie’s new film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is a terrible rendition of the Arthurian legend.

The Good

  1. The Starring Actors: Four of them deserve mention. Eric Bana and Jude Law are both great actors and I have enjoyed their performances in almost every film I’ve ever seen them in, even if I haven’t always liked the films. That said, they could do little with the script and characters they had to play. Eric Bana’s part is far too small to give him room to do much of anything as an actor. Jude Law’s role is that of a stereotypical villain, but he’s convincing and does what he can with it. Also worth mentioning is Charlie Hunnam. Apparently he’s already quite a star though I don’t believe I ever saw him in anything before. And I could tell he is a good actor. He had a crappy script to work with, but he still comes off as likeable and brave in the film, if not as your typical King Arthur. One last actor worth mentioning is Katie McGrath—she’s only on screen for a minute, but because she played Morgana in the BBC Merlin series, which I loved, it was nice to include her as a nod to past Arthurian shows.
  2. The Scenery: The film was shot in Wales—one of the few things it got right.
  3. The Sets: Camelot was over the top but not completely unattractive. Both the throne room and the subterranean chamber were visually attractive. What I was most impressed by, however, was the depiction of London, complete with a coliseum falling into ruin—it showed that the filmmakers at least new the Arthurian legend takes place in the period right after the Romans left.

    Jude Law is a convincing villain, whatever the faults of his character role.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bad

  1. England: Continually, England was referenced. It should be Britain. There was no England until the Anglo-Saxons conquered the island. At this point, it was still Britain.
  2. Vortigern: Vortigern’s story and place in the legend was messed up. He was not Uther’s brother, nor did he kill him. In truth, Vortigern killed Arthur’s uncle Constans. Constans’s brothers, Ambrosius, and Uther then fled to the continent but later returned and killed Vortigern. Vortigern was dead long before Arthur was even born.
  3. The Mage: Who the heck was she? We are never even told her name. She’s the only female character in the film who is even recognizable as a character and yet she’s nameless. I kept waiting to hear that she was Morgana or Nimue or Viviane or someone recognizable. Nor did she have much of a role other than to make weird googly eye faces. Maybe her identity was kept secret so it could be revealed in a sequel, but fat chance there’ll be a sequel.
  4. The Sword in the Stone: Seriously, the sword flies up in the air, lodges in Uther’s back, and then he sinks into the water and turns to stone. Stupid.
  5. Mordred: This one really irritated me. The film begins with Mordred, the evil mage, waging war on Camelot and Uther. Traditionally, Mordred is Arthur’s son or nephew. He has no magic powers. He did not live before Arthur. Couldn’t they have come up with some other villain? Rumor has it that Guy Ritchie is talking about a three or six film series (which won’t happen since the film has flopped at the box office), but if it were going to happen, wouldn’t you want to save Mordred for the end of the series? Poor planning.
  6. Interracial Casting: Now I know some will disagree with me on this one. I am absolutely all for letting actors who are not white have more roles in films, but not at the expense of historical accuracy. There were way too many people in the film who looked like they were of Asian or African descent to make this a believable circa 500 A.D. Britain story.
  7. Minor Characters: I think this includes everyone but the three main characters I mentioned above. None of the men with Arthur are distinguishable. I didn’t even know their names, other than Bedivere (who is the Lancelot equivalent of the Welsh legends; who no way in hell was African), until the final scene when they were knighted. Worse, there are several female characters in the film who are just there—no clue who they are. I didn’t even realize Vortigern had a daughter until he decided to kill her. The cast list even has Merlin included. I don’t remember seeing him at all. And why do we need characters with names like Goosefat Bill and Backlack? And what’s up with an Asian character named George. Speaking of which….
  8. Kung Fu: There were no Asians in Arthurian Britain with who were teaching people martial arts, and King Arthur certainly didn’t know Kung Fu. Please.

    King Arthur learns kung fu fighting.

  9. Vikings: Technically, the Vikings lived in a later period. These people should have been called Saxons. The Saxons were the enemies of King Arthur. It’s true Vortigern did make deals with them and let them into Britain. So why not stick with a more accurate story here if they are to be included?
  10. The Boredom: Frankly, most of the middle of the film was boring. At one point, after a battle scene, we’re subjected to a full minute of just listening to Arthur breathe hard while everyone else stands around looking like they haven’t broken a sweat. The pacing in the middle was slow. The action scenes at the end just made me want the movie to end.
  11. Other Movie Feels: Historically, Vortigern had a tower but it wasn’t like this one—this tower reminded me too much of Lord of the Rings, as did the giant elephants and other creatures. And in one scene there’s a bunch of hooded/masked warriors with glowing eyes who look like Jawas from Star Wars. And yes, a lot of it reminds me of Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes films (see the Ugly section).
  12. No Merlin: He’s mentioned, but he has no role to play. Poor baby Arthur has to be set adrift in a boat like he was Moses. He should have been rescued by Merlin and taken into hiding. Why would you write Merlin right out of the movie?
  13. Bad Background Music: At one point someone is singing but the song can’t seem to decide whether it’s a Scottish ballad or hip hop. I just don’t get the music used in modern films. Ever since A Knight’s Tale we have been subjected to music that doesn’t fit a film’s period and ruins the suspension of disbelief. Medieval movies shouldn’t have rock ‘n roll in them any more than The Great Gatsby needed hip hop. Some nice Celtic background music would have been more appropriate.
  14. Vortigern as Skeletor: Or whatever he’s supposed to be. Do we really need Vortigern to turn into some sort of demon from hell to battle Arthur? Couldn’t he have just been given a magic sword too? Just more over-the-top unnecessary nonsense.

 

The Ugly

  1. Giant Elephants: No one would have brought elephants to Britain, and not these monster-sized elephants that can carry giant house-like structures on their backs. Granted, these are the mage Mordred’s elephants so maybe they are magical, but to see them in the opening scene of the film just made it clear right from the start that the whole film was going to suck.
  2. The Cinematography and Landscape: I apologize if I don’t know the proper terminology but the desolate landscape around Camelot was also over the top and the whole film had that nasty gray look that has become so common in so many films to give a stark depressing view of the film. I’ve seen it in Immortals, Prince of Persia, etc. It’s ugly, Hollywood. Quit using this look.
  3. The Giant Snake: I think the giant snake is thrown in just to balance off the giant elephants so the film could come full circle with over-the-top unbelievable animals. Why do we need a giant magical snake the size of Camelot’s front gate to come slithering through the castle? Let King Arthur do something instead to show he’s the man. Granted, later he gets to kill Vortigern, but this scene was just over the top stupid and unnecessary.
  4. The One–or Was It Three–Creepy Octupussy Women: Just ick. Just make me puke. Ick. Ick. Ick. I don’t care what kind of evil deal with the devil type scenario you need, don’t ever put something that disgusting on the screen again—these women made Jabba the Hut look like a piece of chocolate. Honestly, the way women were treated and depicted in this film, one wonders what kind of misogynist wrote this crap.
  5. The Nod to Detective Shows: We are stuck in the middle of the film with a detective interrogation of King Arthur that feels completely irrelevant and boring. It has a purpose, but the flashing camera angles and everything else made me feel like I was watching Sherlock Holmes, not King Arthur. Guy Ritchie, did you forget which movie you were making at this point?
  6. The Lack of All Things King Arthur: Half of the film I sat there thinking, “What does this have to do with King Arthur?” Basically nothing. This film had about as many true Arthurian elements in it as the TV Show Riverdale has from the original Archie Comic books. The difference is Riverdale is entertaining. This film is not. It’s basically a ridiculous plot with a few Arthurian names and a sword tossed in to pass it off as Arthurian to try to sell tickets. This is what is most disgusting about it. Ritchie is trying to capitalize on a time-honored, much-loved legend that has so much power over us—that is beautiful, heart-wrenching, inspiring, exciting, and magical—none of that comes across in this film. That’s why it is a flop more than anything else. The film doesn’t have the slightest concept of what its source material is.

    Filming in Wales is one of the few things Guy Ritchie did right with this film. Here is King Arthur and the unnamed mage in a pleasant Welsh setting.

 

I’m sure there’s a lot more I could complain about, but it’s not worth wasting more of my time. Bottom line, don’t waste your money on this film. If you’re a huge King Arthur fan like me, you’ll see it anyway, but wait for the DVD/video release. If you’re not very familiar with the Arthurian legend and want to see a good Arthurian film, watch:

  1. Camelot
  2. Excalibur
  3. Knights of the Round Table
  4. The Sword in the Stone
  5. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court
  6. A Kid in King Arthur’s Court
  7. Sword of Lancelot
  8. King Arthur (2004)

They’re all much better. If books are your thing, read the novels of:

  1. Tyler Tichelaar (have to give myself a plug of course)
  2. Nicole Evelina
  3. Marion Zimmer Bradley
  4. Mary Stewart
  5. Nancy Mackenzie
  6. Helen Hollick
  7. Sharan Newman
  8. Jack Whyte
  9. Stephen Lawhead
  10. Bernard Cornwell
  11. T.H. White
  12. Mark Twain
  13. Parke Godwin
  14. Joan Wolf
  15. Vera Chapman
  16. Susan Cooper
  17. Rosemary Sutcliff
  18. And many more including the wonderful medieval works by Sir Thomas Malory and so many others—they’re all better.

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Tyler Tichelaar, Ph.D., is the author of The Children of Arthur series, which includes the novels Arthur’s Legacy, Melusine’s Gift, Ogier’s Prayer, Lilith’s Love, and the upcoming Arthur’s Bosom. He has also written the nonfiction scholarly works King Arthur’s Children: A Study in Fiction and Tradition and The Gothic Wanderer: From Transgression to Redemption, plus numerous other historical novels. You can learn more about Tyler at www.ChildrenofArthur.com.

 

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