Has it really been 13 years since Antonie Fuguna’s misfire King Arthur? That 2004 attempt to demystify the Knights of the Round Table legend didn’t go over so well with audiences, or critics. It was inevitable that this classic property would be rebooted, and frankly it’s a little surprisingly that it took over a decade. This time around British action director Guy Richie brings some much-needed fun to the material. The end result is a mixed bag of exhilarating spectacle, and trainwreck, much of which Richie seems to pull off at the same time.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’s take on the old as dirt English legend sees Charlie Hunnam stepping into the title role. With a blonde high and tight haircut, and a handsomely manicured beard this Arthur looks more at home standing in line at his Silverlake hipster coffee shop. He might as well be on the way to Crossfit class than welding Excalibur. But this is a 2017 version of a King Arthur after all.

Opening in a bonkers prologue that involves a battle with giant elephants we are introduced to a young Arthur being whisked away by his father King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) as his castle is being overtaken by the conniving Vortigern (a scene chewing Jude Law). Narrowing escaping on a boat the young Arthur finds himself washed ashore on the banks of a whorehouse where he lives until he grows up to be the hunky Charlie Hunnam.

As with all of Richie’s movies it’s stylishly cut, and at times a head scratcher of a story to follow. Here’s the bare bones of the story. When the mysterious cloaked Mage (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) shows up to tell Arthur of his destiny of his King lineage he makes his way to the castle that Vortigern overtook years before. Pulling Excalibur from the stone from which it has been lodged within since witnessing his father murder as a young boy Arthur is instantly confronted by the sword’s influence. Seeing his true destiny of being the true ruler of England Arthur begins to lead a rebellion to defeat the evil ruler who stole his crown.

One has to admire Richie’s manic masculine energy he puts on the screen, but it’s a shame he doesn’t create any action scenes that feel as immersive as they could have been. At times it’s hard to make out what exactly is happening in the big battle scenes. The film also sidesteps many of the traditional King Arthur characters. You won’t find a Lancelot or Genevieve here, and Merlin is only referred to as an off screen character. This might be a mistake they aren’t included. Not a lot remotely resembles the memorable King Arthur characters found in the works of writers like T.H White or Howard Pyle here.

There are a few things that Richie’s does that work quite well. Excalibur itself has never quite been done like this. When Arthur first grabs the giant sword he’s overcome with an overwhelming power, almost force field. (Think of when Frodo first puts on the Ring in Fellowship and you get the idea). The ethereal Lady of the Lake also makes a brief and memorable appearance when she presents Arthur with the sword. It’s a shame she’s only regulated to a blink and you’ll miss it scene of the movie.

To put it bluntly Legend of the Sword is a mess a movie, and it’s hard not to feel every minute of its two-hour run time. It features great actors like Jude Law, Eric Bana in memorable roles but doesn’t give them all that much to work with. It’s a noble attempt to add some life to its legend, but never quite rises to the occasion to tell its story.

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