(US - 2017)
Directed by Guy Ritchie. Written by Joby Harold, Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram. Cast: Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Eric Bana, Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillan, Mikael Persbrandt, Neil Maskell, Freddie Fox, Greg McGinlay, Tom Wu, Kingsley Ben-Adir, Peter Ferdinando, Bleu Landau, Annabelle Wallis, Geoff Bell, Poppy Delevingne, Jacqui Ainsley. (PG-13, 125 mins)
Already a costly flop and the first bomb of the summer, Guy Ritchie's extremely revisionist, $175 million KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD is reasonably entertaining if taken strictly--and I do mean strictly--on its own terms. It's an approach not unlike his excellent, steampunkish take on SHERLOCK HOLMES, though not as consistently solid as that or his underrated THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. a couple years back (but it's better than that second SHERLOCK HOLMES movie, which was pretty terrible). Ritchie throws everything but the kitchen sink into his Arthurian world, which is bound to not go over well with purists--indeed, the Three Stooges short SQUAREHEADS OF THE ROUND TABLE might be more faithful to the legend--but it's perfectly acceptable escapism that probably would've done better if released in March or September. John Boorman's EXCALIBUR remains the last word on this subject as far as big screen adaptations go, and I really feel sorry for any corner-cutting junior high and high school students who watch this instead of doing their assigned reading, because giant elephants, snakes, rats, and bats and an Asian martial arts master named "Kung Fu George" are certainly not elements discarded from rough drafts of T.H. White's The Once and Future King or Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur.
THE LOST CITY OF Z. The mage, an obvious reinterpretation of the sorceress Morgan Le Fay (Morgana in EXCALIBUR), functions as a stand-in for the barely-seen Merlin, who here is credited with the forging of Excalibur. Spanish-French actress Berges-Frisbey (ANGELS OF SEX) has an intriguing presence that's reminiscent of a young Isabelle Adjani, while two-time Oscar nominee Hounsou, once again cast in a thankless sidekick role, continues to be arguably the most insufficiently-utilized great actor in Hollywood. The origin story (the Round Table is seen under construction at the end) in what was planned as a six-film series in a Warner Bros. King Arthurverse that's most likely now joined the ranks of THE GOLDEN COMPASS in being whittled down to a series of one, KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD will exit theaters very quickly but should play well on streaming and on cable for the next decade or more. It's enjoyable and filled with rousing action, but it can't stop itself from stumbling when it matters most. And as entertaining as it is most of the time, the $175 million price tag does seem a tad excessive.