I Didn't like Guy Ritchie's King Arthur & This is Why:
Last night, I bit the bullet and watched Guy Ritchie's "King Arthur" despite the bad reviews and despite the fact that the world didn't really need another dude-bro Camelot re-telling.
Why did I watch it? Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, and the first Sherlock Holmes movies are some of my most favorites. I also enjoyed the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and thought it didn't get the credit it deserved. I like Ritchie's way with dialogue and his distinctive style. I like that his main characters are charming while often being morally ambiguous.
But I know he can be really hit-or-miss (Let's not talk about his Madonna movie), so I wasn't sure what to expect with this one, but was willing to keep an open mind.
Friends, it was as bad as they said.
Once upon a time it didn't bother me as much, but over years I have become less of a fan of the extreme use of CGI creatures unless it's a Pixar type animated movie. He also employed one of my biggest movie grievances which is huge "big boss" fight scenes (see the ends of both Super Man movies for examples). Everyone is a little *too* invincible and the fights reduce to a lot of pointless mass destruction. It feels cheap and lazy every time I see it. This may explain why I don't like natural disaster movies, come to think of it.
Ritchie's characters usually solve their problems with their smarts and wits--outwitting the bad guys instead of out-muscling them. This movie started down that road and there were some bright moments where Arthur was like Turkish or Sherlock or Gaby from The Man from UNCLE. The scene where Arthur explains his plan for getting into the castle to Bedivere (Hounsou) is classic Ritchie good-stuff, but he dropped that ball and diminished the conflicts with CGI brawls, and I was so, so disappointed he took that road.
Pretty much every woman in the story was treated horribly. They were killed, abused, beaten, kidnapped, and victimized mostly to inspire certain actions and reactions in the male cast ("fridged" as they say in the industry). Even the Mage was ultimately reduced to a damsel in distress. I would have preferred there were no women in the story than for them to be treated as fodder and pawns.
Ritchie made a brief, brief attempt at diversity in the cast, including two black men among Arthur's close friends and advisers. There was also one Chinese character. His name was George, also known as "Kung Fu" George. And, you guessed it, he was a martial arts master who taught Arthur and his buddies how to fight. That would have been such an easy trope to bust, and Ritchie could have used it to his stylistic advantage. I could have thought of a dozen ways to do it if it had been my movie.
But it was like Ritchie wasn't even trying. I think he thought he'd crank this thing out, and it would satisfy the super hero crowds, but he's obviously never studied a good super hero ensemble movie (yes there is too such a thing!) The tropes, cliches, and stereotypes? He had them all.
Oh... and Charlie Hunnam screams a lot. A LOT. Lots of Charlie Hunnam beating his breast and screaming and bearing his teeth. Much of the screaming is silent--you know, for dramatic effect. You won't be surprised to hear me say I didn't find it dramatic at all.
To be fair, I liked the concept. I liked the attempt. I saw what Ritchie was aiming to do. Yes, I liked the style, but Ritchie's style is, as I said, one of my favorite things about him. The movie employed a lot of his classic camera work and editing that made me his fan in the first place. But in the end I wasn't satisfied with the final product--just too much of the stuff I don't like in this one. This was a lazy, sad movie and not worth your time or money. Two thumbs and two big toes down.