Monday, May 15, 2017

Reserved Seating: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

by Rob DiCristino and Adam Riske
I didn’t vote for him.

Adam: Welcome to Reserved Seating. I’m Adam Riske.

Rob: And I didn’t see the movie. See you next time.

Adam: Way to alienate your base. It’s ok, family, he don’t love you like I love you. I took a solemn vow to cover thy summer, and that includes Guy Ritchie’s latest box office catastrophe. I got you.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is an updated take on the King Arthur legend. After King Pendragon (Eric Bana) is betrayed by his black magic-practicing brother Vortigern (Jude Law), the king’s son Arthur is cast off to be raised in the back alleys of downtown Camelot. Once he grows to a be a man (played by Charlie Hunnam), he proves to be the only one that can threaten Vortigern’s diabolical reign over heartland Camelot. Will Arthur pull the sword Excalibur from stone and reclaim his birthright? Is this a bit of a poo movie? Yes to both.

In this clip, Arthur tells his crew to retreat and they’re all like “Nope,” but then Arthur (of “he who would be king” fame) puts two hands on his steel and the film becomes King Arthur: Cheat Code because the live-action stops and is replaced by a CGI shit cloud with virtual Hunnam eviscerating his adversaries without them being able to land a single blow.


This clip is a good example of the bulk of the film’s action sequences and overall tone, which is that it’s too boring to care about but too loud (visually and audibly) to sleep through. The film culminates in a boss battle between a CGI Arthur (even though there’s a real Hunnam RIGHT THERE) and a Super Shredder version of Vortigern that looks like a combination of the bad guy with the skeleton mask from Willow and the lava monster from the Marines commercial from about ten years ago. All weight to these sequences is forfeited for visual effects and speed ramping, and most of it (save for an exciting pre-title sequence that’s fun) lands with no impact.

Besides the opening sequence, which is a flashback to Eric Bana kicking ass against a caravan of monstrously sized elephants and a pulsating score, there’s not much that I can recommend about Guy Ritchie’s film. I am not a hater of the writer-director (I’m down the middle on most of his movies except for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, both of which I liked when they came out) but here he directs King Arthur in sort of a way that is oblivious to the progression of the modern blockbuster. To borrow a phrase from Patrick Bromley, this movie feels like it should have come out in the year 2000 or around the time of 300 at worst. It’s very reliant on “cool” special effects that have not been cool for at least ten years because of overuse in other films. The dialogue is quippy (especially among Arthur and his merry knights) to adhere to the Guy Ritchie formula, but the freshness is gone and now it just feels like a bunch of old guys who are too old for the bar telling inside jokes to each other while the millennials look on and roll their eyes.
I expected more from the cast to be honest. Faring best are Bana, who is underused but still an interesting screen presence even if he never really panned out like he should have, and Jude Law as a fun villain that goes all the way in his evilness until he’s replaced by a CGI avatar. Law’s scenes are the only ones where you perk up and take notice after the first act. The rest of the time I sank into my seat while I watched scene after scene of Charlie Hunnam try to act like the baddest ass in the room. To be polite, I do not understand the appeal of Charlie Hunnam. Actually, let me rephrase; I don’t know what happened to Charlie Hunnam. In the television series Undeclared and in the film Green Street Hooligans, he was charismatic and cool. But then something happened and now in most films he sounds unsure of how to play every emotion and has grown into nothing but a posturing vessel that is uncomfortable to watch. Granted, I hear he’s great in The Lost City of Z (which I have not seen because of my James Gray allergy), so I wish him the best. As for the rest of the cast, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey is The Mage (I think she’s also Guinevere but I may be wrong) and she isn’t really given anything to do, unfortunately. Djimon Hounsou provides reliable support as Sir Bedivere, but it’s depressing to see the actor that was once a lead has now been relegated to another deep supporting cast part that has been his existence in the last several years (e.g. Guardians of the Galaxy, Seventh Son, Furious 7, The Legend of Tarzan).
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is not terrible or annoying to watch, but it’s a boring and forgettable exercise I wouldn’t remember if not for writing about it. The film is at its worst when it tries to be funny. For example, there’s a scene where the knights are standing around the round table of the Arthur legend and they’re all “Is this a wheel? How did you get it into the room?” and Arthur says (as a punchline) “It’s a table. You sit at it.”

In closing, if you want to be entertained by this film it’s better to just go the Trivia section of its IMDB page. My two favorite bits of information are as follows:

1. This is planned to be the first in a six film franchise. Yeah, that’s not gonna happen.

2. Hunnam beat out Henry Cavill and Jai Courtney for the lead role after threatening to physically fight them both for director Guy Ritchie. When your casting options are limited to those three, I ask, why not think to yourself “Maybe we shouldn’t go ahead with this movie if these are our options.”
This project seemed misbegotten from the beginning. I feel bad it did so terribly at the box office this weekend (I rarely root for a movie to fail) but seriously, how was this ever a good idea?

Join us next time when Rob returns and we’ll review Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Until then, these seats are reserved.

33 comments:

  1. Are you guys taking a week off between now and POTC or does Rob have to do penance and fly solo on a review of Snatched?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Ross. The plan is to take off a week since there's not much coming out next weekend. Rob does not have to see Snatched. Because I did. It's funny for about 10 minutes which is too bad because it is 90 minutes.

      Delete
    2. Your dedication to your craft is impressive (even if you couldn't bring yourself to spend 100 minutes watching Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

      Delete
  2. The writing was on the wall for me with this movie as soon as I saw Charlie Hunnam was attached. That guy's picture should be displayed next to any description of the phrase "block of wood" for visual representation. That being said, I can't really see myself being interested in any of those other names either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I also am not particularly a Guy Ritchie fan. Strike two. I am super curious as to what his live-action version of Aladdin is going to be like, but not especially excited for it.

      Delete
    2. i had the same reaction when i saw the name of Hunnam. Guy Ritchie's stuff is hit and miss with me. i guess i'll see it at some point

      Delete
  3. I actually really liked King Arthur, yet I can't say much of what you said here is wrong. It is the combination of two things I tend to greatly enjoy (ponderous fantasy epics and Guy Ritchie movies) that do not mix at all. And it seems as though at some point Ritchie stopped trying to make them mix and just has two different movies playing out in alternating scenes. Which would have really bothered me if I wasn't enjoying both movies. It was disappointing when he finally used the sword and it turned into a bad video game. My two thoughts coming out of it were "that wasn't a good movie" and "I think I loved it." It is a movie made for my specific tastes and apparently only mine. It is not taking the spot of The Man from UNCLE for the later Guy Ritchie movie I tell everyone is actually great, but I'm glad I saw it.

    As for Hunnam, I thought he did a pretty good poor man's Jason Statham here. He was definitely better here than he was in Pacific Rim.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "That wasn't a good movie" and "I think I loved it." is a feeling I very much understand.

      Delete
    2. I'm in the same boat! I left the theater thinking, this wasn't a good movie, but I had fun watching it, so that makes me like it.

      Delete
    3. I liked the main theme. That made me leave the theater on a high that I didn't have for the rest of the movie.

      Delete
  4. It's depressing to think how much money is used to make films that aren't worth making.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That sounds harsh, sorry. I mean rather "half baked", not "aren't worth making".

      Delete
  5. The bad guy with the skeleton mask from Willow is named General Kael.

    That clip is really something. Why is King Arthur wearing a duster?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's right, General Kael. I need to rewatch Willow. That movie's good!

      As for KA, they're dressed weird. There was one point in the movie where I was like "Is he wearing a leather bomber jacket?"

      Delete
    2. General Kael was played by the late English wrestler and actor Pat Roach, who was the guy who ate a plane propeller in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

      Maybe it ate him.

      The recent BBC drama Merlin sounds like a better bet than this latest iteration of the King Arthur legend. It has a decent CGI dragon voiced by John Hurt. How is the Merlin in King Arthur: Legends of the Fall? With the exception of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, which didn't feature the character, I judge films and television shows about Artie by the quality of their Merlins. Sam Neill rocked that role.

      I love Sam Neill.

      Apropos of Adam's reply just this minute, Pat Roach also played a character called Brian "Bomber" Busbridge in classic British TV show Auf Wiedersehen, Pet.

      Delete
    3. I know they referenced Merlin in the Ritchie movie but I don't remember seeing him anywhere. I think he was being set up for a sequel appearance that will now never happen.

      Delete
    4. It looked like Hunnam raided Tom Hardy's Bane closet for his jackets.

      Delete
    5. I liked how his intro was the classic "I'm having a nightmare and my shirt is so sweaty. Lemme take it off and ooops you're gonna see how much I worked out for the role. Oh well!"

      Delete
  6. As a semi-purist fan of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, I can't help but feel a twinge of satisfaction over this floppage. Ritchie thought it'd be cute if Watson punched Holmes in the face over a minor bit of teasing? Well, congrats, you just made one of the year's biggest box office bombs.

    I suspect if Mr. Ebert were still around, he'd wish the whole movie were built around those mega-lephants. What do they eat? Who trained them? How'd they get to Britain? How is their waste disposed of?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They are magic elephants. I'm guessing they eat magic. Trained by wizards. Teleport to different locales. Never shit because no mage conjures poo.

      Delete
    2. Guy Ritchie also thought Watson was such a dunderhead he'd be fooled by Holmes disguising himself as a couch right in front of him, not just for a fleeting moment but long enough for Watson to write a letter or story about how Holmes was dead.

      Eff Guy Ritchie.

      We did get to witness more of Stephen Fry than I ever thought I'd see. I love Stephen, but if the camera had been an inch lower, we'd have been treated to a vision of his wooster. Kudos for playing Mycroft pretty gay, though.

      Delete
    3. ^I... uh... what?!

      (I didn't see the second movie. When the villain virtually teleported from Tower Bridge to Westminster at the end of the first one, I thought "nope, that's enough.")

      Delete
    4. I don't want to talk about this too much because it seems disrespectful to Adam to discuss a movie that isn't the one he wrote about in his article. The Downey Sherlock Holmes film were directed by the same person who did King Arthur: Legend of NIMH, though, so maybe he won't mind too much.

      Yup, Sherlock Holmes: Book of Shadows — SPOILERS — ends with Watson sitting at a desk typing away about how great his friend was and how much he misses him, and then he leaves the room and the couch stands up and reveals itself to be Iron Man. Watson had been writing his memoirs, Wikipedia has just kindly informed me. Holmes adds a question mark after "The end," and then looks at the camera, if memory serves. I shall repeat that. We get to see "The end" and then an eroteme appears. The laziest media trope in existence used in a big-budget film by a respected director. Hack. Hackety Hackington Hack.

      I did like the scene with Holmes' love interest (or maybe Watson's; I've tried to erase the movie from my memory) and Stephen Fry.

      Stephen is awesome.

      Delete
    5. You can talk about SH:BOS. These columns go off topic in the comments pretty often. I'm used to it and enjoy it.

      Delete
    6. I'd like to take this opportunity to point out that the second Sherlock is called Game of Shawdows. Book of Shadows is the movie where the Blair Witch dresses as a couch.

      Delete
    7. My most lasting memory of Sherlock Holmes: Book of Shadows is that they same the word "game" to a laughable degree.

      Delete
    8. It's not really called King Arthur: Legend of NIMH or Legends of the Fall, either. I was being mischievous, Brian.

      How about SH: POS as a compromise?

      I think Junior bit off more than he could chew when he took on the role of the legendary sleuth. I was born in the States and grew up in England, where Dick van Dyke's 'cockerney' accent in Mary Poppins still provides merriment whenever they put it on at Christmas (they always put it on at Christmas). What a luvverly doi to go for a roide on a magical wooden 'orse. ♫Good luck will rub orf when oi shakes 'ands with you♫. Van Dyke is fantastic in the movie, and it wouldn't be the same without him, but dear god, the voice.

      Same with Downey (not the being fantastic part). Just because you can A-Team up a volitant metal suit out of nothing more than a few bomb casings, thumbtacks and rubber bands doesn't mean you can pull off a convincing middle-class Victorian English accent, Robert. Kudos on the suit, though; no one can take that achievement away from you. James Marsters gets it right in Buffy and Angel, although I might be biased as I love both those shows and the character of Spike. Marsters never sounds convincingly English, but he does come across as someone who's been travelling the world for centuries. If one of us moved to Australia, within a couple of years we'd start to sound like an Aussie to a certain extent. Someone other than myself can put that to the test, though; they have spiders there the size of Volkswagens and these giant rats that hop about like they own the place.

      There isn't anything inherently wrong with attempting to make an action movie about Sherlock Holmes There's plenty of action in the books and in other films and TV shows. The good adaptations know that the mystery is important as well. Plus, if it's a Rathbone/Bruce affair, you sometimes get Rondo Hatton and/or Nazis. The Creeper scared the bejesus out of me when I was a pup. Allardyce Thundersnatch is okay, and Jeremy Brett was great in the eighties. BBC radio adapted all the stories with Clive Merrison over a period of about twenty years, and these would bring shame to no one's iPod. Basil Rathbone is my Holmes, though, and Nigel Bruce my Watson. Rathbone had an amazing life before he became a movie star. He disguised himself as a tree during World War II to spy on Nazis... and they didn't even ask him to. That last part isn't true; I'm fairly sure he was acting on someone's instructions.

      Graham Chapman is my favourite King Arthur, just to get this screeching back onto the road. Charlie Hummer can eat a grail as far as I'm concerned. I bet he doesn't even ask Djimon Hounsou about sheep's bladders and the role these play in preventing earthquakes in his movie. Ni to King Arthur: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, say I. That's right: Ni.

      Delete
    9. @Adam

      I just went to a website that has the script for the movie and did a Ctrl F. Eleven occurrences of this word.

      Michael Jordan didn't have that much game.

      Delete
  7. Great review, still want to see it though and will probably love it in the way you can only love bad action (is it action? It's like a weird action fantasy scifi hybrid) movies

    ReplyDelete
  8. Hunnam wasn't better in Lost City of Z. Just my two cents, but he felt like the worst thing about it, which is unfortunate because he's in 90% of it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Email me a photo of your ticket stub. I don't believe anyone has seen this movie :)

      Delete
  9. Hunnam almost ruined Lost City of Z for me, which is a shame because it's a pretty beautiful film and everyone else (Pattinson especially) is great. The guy is very dashing and all but he can't speak. Green Street is a laugh, partly because of his Van Dykian attempt at a cockney accent. What a genius premise for a movie.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, I just mentioned Dick van Dyke and his cockney accent in a comment too! He was undeniably great in Poppins. I only learned recently that he had no training as a dancer. You wouldn't know it from watching the movie.

      Delete