Guy Ritchie, director of the Robert Downey Jr. version of Sherlock Holmes, took a lot of poetic license with the original King Arthur story. I don't remember a morbidly obese octopus woman demanding human sacrifices in exchange for magical intervention. Merlin is conspicuously absent. Instead of noble knights, Charlie Hunnam's companions are a group of peasant misfits.
The plot itself borrows heavily from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Arthur was born the son of King Uther (how's that for a confusing name pair?). Uther's brother Vortigern (Jude Law) wanted the throne for himself and dabbled in black magic. When Arthur was a child, Vortigern murdered his parents.
Set adrift in a rowboat, young Arthur is found and taken in by a group of women who live and work in a brothel. Arthur starts off with simple chores like sweeping the floors and pouring drinks. By the time he's a teenager, he graduates to bouncing unruly customers who refuse to pay or beat up the girls.
Arthur is eventually captured and taken by boat to Vortigern's remote castle, along with dozens of other young men. Vortigern is desperately searching for the Born King, the only one who can pull the enchanted sword Excalibur from the stone and then challenge his rule. As anyone who's heard the original legend knows, the Born King is Arthur.
A further plot twist involves Excalibur itself. The sword possesses magical energy, which Arthur must learn to control. Helping him with this task is a hauntingly beautiful woman known only as The Mage. Arthur at first has no interest in power, but eventually accepts his destiny. The movie avoids the cliche of having Arthur fall in love with The Mage. According to legend, his one true love is Guinevere, a character who's also not in this version.
The writing, sense of humor, and even the score is much the same as Sherlock Holmes. The special effects and fight sequences are impressive. I had a small quibble with the way it was filmed, however. I saw a 2-D screening and it was glaringly obvious (sometimes to the point of distraction) which portions were meant to be in 3-D. The pacing could've been done better. The first 20-30 minutes are slow and contain almost no dialogue, which made me fear I made a terrible mistake deciding to watch it.
Is this movie as good as Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes? Not even close. Were the trailers misleading about the amount of shirtless Charlie Hunnam? A little. Is watching him kick ass with his sword and bare hands an entertaining way to spend two hours? Absolutely.
|"I'm all about the chivalry, darlin'."|