Guy Ritchie‘s retake of the legendary Excalibur tale now titled ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword‘ is a strikingly different story from what we’re used to, evidently laying the (Round) table for a franchise that fascinatingly mixes history, lore and fantasy.
Ritchie is a brilliant storyteller, boasting an excellent repertoire of reigniting the ancient; with blockbusters such as Sherlock Holmes and The Man from UNCLE. He has a penchant for using superheroes in other films to draw parallels with tales that are as old as time. So when the first trailer to King Arthur: LotS made its way to the interwebs, I was left waiting with baited breathe for the release, anxious to explore yet again the mind of Ritchie through another classical showcase.
As with most epic fantasies, LotS sets the ball rolling with a starkly tall and dark tower that suddenly ignites itself at the heart of a misty and foggy terrain. Instantaneously transported to a land of magic, it’s revealed that man and mage (a new term for sorcerors) have co-existed in peace for ages, until during the rule of Uther Pendragon (played by Eric Bana) when Mordred, the leader of the mages, develops a hunger for power and conjures dark forces to invade Camelot, the last stronghold of the land of men.
The excalibur puts a comma to those political ambitions, as it is later revealed that Uther’s brother Vortigern (Jude Law) had a hand in an attempted coup. While Uther sacrifices himself for the future of his bloodline and his Kingdom, his young son Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is whisked away to the far city of Londinium when secondary coup efforts prove successful. This cataclysmic event is followed by a dark reign of two decades under the tyranny of King Vortigen, whose true colours are revealed. Vortigen’s thirst for power drive him to do the unthinkable, as he consorts with sea witches to summon a demon warrior that will make him not only unstoppable, but also reverred and feared by his subjects.
While Arthur grows up, hopefully in time to reclaim his rightful place as heir and ruler to the Kingdom of Camelot, Vortigen’s dark powers increase tenfold. He swiftly starts construction of a tower that will channel dark magic and increase his power, making him King for eternity. But that fails to stem the tide of an increasingly oppressed and disatisfied population, fuelled by rebels that look for a legendary hero that will pull Excalbur out of the rock that was once Uther Pendragon, and save them.
It takes quite some convincing from his father’s former general Sir Bevedere (Djimon Hounsou) and a mage, together with his band of friends that grew up as crooks in Londinium, to embrace his destiny and fight back. With man and sword reunited, Arthur lays waste to the dark forces and comes face to face with the demon warrior that murdered his parents.
What may have failed in the revitalised film is the drumming down of historic elements such as the great magician Merlin, the Knights of the Roundtable and Excalibur, elements which have been vital to the story of the famous King Arthur. But while it fails to conjur up faithfulness to its source material, Ritchie suceeds in delivering stunning visual effects and captivating action scenes, of which we wouldn’t expect any less from him.
‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword‘ is afterall a film for entertainment, which it does superbly, but knowing demanding audiences who appreciate the balance of action with cohesion and avoiding the cliche, it will be like walking on a sword’s edge with this one. I loved the film, and would definitely encourage you to go and watch it purely for entertainment, moreso if you appreciate epic fantasies albeit hastily drawn to conclusion.
| King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is now showing in theatres across East Africa from May 12th 2017