Movie Review Of "King Arthur"

The movie, “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” is a 2017 adventure re-imagining tales of the legendary British King Arthur of the late 400s to early 500s AD, who defended Britain against invading Saxons. While some of the legends and folklore stories of a King Arthur, in part, originate in an 1100s AD literature, “History of the Kings of Britain” by Geoffrey of Monmouth, this film is not a documentary of true events.

This 136 minute film, directed by Guy Ritchie (former husband of Madonna, Sherlock Holmes films, "Man from U.N.C.L.E.") does not include some other legendary traditional elements such as King Arthur’s wife, Guinevere, the wizard, Merlin, the Knight Lancelot, and the Round Table Knights. The basic plot involves an evil treacherous brother, Vortigern, (Jude Law, Dr. Watson from "Sherlock Holmes" with Robert Downey Jr.) who covets his brother, King Uther Pendragon, (Eric Bana, The Finest Hours, Star Trek) King of Britain’s throne. King Pendragon had just won a battle against Mordred, an evil warlock and his armies sieging Camelot, who was attempting to allow imaging-wielding wizards to control mankind. Vortigern tries to seize power.

In a movie lacking romance, evil Vortigern even kills his own wife to get sea witches to summon an evil demon, who kills Uther’s wife. The evil demon then slays King Uther Pendragon who is turned to stone to prevent Vortigern from getting his sword. Vortigern, the new king, rules his brother’s former kingdom with an iron fist. Meanwhile, in a story reminiscent of Moses abandoned in a basket on the Nile River, King Pendragon’s baby son, the future King Arthur, (Charlie Hunnan , "Lost City of Z," TV's "Sons of Anarchy") was placed on a boat in a river, probably the Thames, and ended up in Londinium (London). He is rescued and raised by some ladies of the night, and eventually grows into a very strong man who helps to protect them. Through a series of adventures and trials, he outcompeted others of his age to easily pull out the magic sword, Excalibur, from a large stone indicating that he also now possesses unusual powers. However, this becomes a dangerous opportunity for him since he does not understand its power. He collapses due to being frightened of its powers.  In a dungeon, he is met by Vortigern, now the king, who is looking for the young man who could pull out the sword. Vortigern coveted Excalibur’s power to increase his power, but could not pull out the sword himself.

In the meantime, a woman assistant to Merlin, who in another story is a wizard and advisor to King Arthur, appears.  She is called The Mage, (Astrid Berges-Frisbey, "Pirates of the Caribbean," "Alaska") which means a magician wizard.  She meets with Sir Bedivere, (Djimon Hounsou, "Fast and Furious" films) a former King Pendragon general and leader in the resistance to King Vortigern.  With The Mage’s help, two of Sir Bedivere’s men rescue young future King Arthur. They take him to their hideout, and again, when he touches the sword, Excalibur, he refuses to help the resistance and collapses. Through The Mage, young King Arthur is taken to the “Blacklands” where it is revealed that Merlin has wiped out the tower of the evil warlock, Mordred. It is also shown that the now evil King Vortigern has persuaded Mordred to turn against mankind.

The young Arthur begins with the resistance to attack King Vortigern forces. In a series of reverse defeats, the capture of The Mage, and other events, evil King Vortigern succeeds in turning the tables his way. Young Arthur, feeling beaten and incompetent, throws the sword, Excalibur into a lake. Luckily, the Lady of the Lake returns the sword to Arthur, and shows the future misery of the kingdom’s people if Vortigern continues as king. 

At one point, Arthur is nearly forced to surrender himself and Excalibur in trade for The Mage’s life. When released,The Mage creates a giant snake which kills many of Vortigern’s men. Vortigern kills his own daughter to become a new fierce demon knight. In a battle with this new evil super demon, Arthur almost loses, but a vision about his father’s death helps his victory. In the end of the movie, one of the scenes shows a partially built Round Table which may indicate more future King Arthur films. 

This movie is a reflection of legends of the early part of King Arthur’s life. As with many civilizations, cultures, institutions, corporations, and individuals including ourselves, the folklores, legends, mythologies, and embellishments are often so much mixed in with facts and truths, it is hard to know where lies, partial truths, unbiased facts, and truth occur. A June 2017 National Geographic magazine article, “Why We Lie,” discussed these complex ever present issues. This movie is recommended for older youth and on up.

Bob Rittenhouse

I am mostly retired Have had careers as a librarian, high school and college teacher, scientist in the life siences and information science, occasionally work as a Cuyahoga Board of Elections poll worker, have a little consulting business, Rittenhouse Info Trak

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Volume 13, Issue 13, Posted 3:03 PM, 07.05.2017