Review

Review: A generation before the knights of the round table, Camelot finds itself in turmoil when Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) is betrayed by his brother Vortigern (Jude Law), who has colluded with the sorcerer Mordred (Rob Knighton) to overthrow Camelot using dark magic and sheer force. But the one thing they didn’t count on was Uther’s enchanted sword, forged by Merlin, the mighty Excalibur. After being killed, Uther’s toddler son Arthur is sent down the river on a boat (Moses style) and saved by prostitutes in Londinium. Over the years, Arthur (played as an adult by Charlie Hunnam) is raised in a brothel and learns very quickly how to fight and earn a living extorting money on the streets, and meanwhile Vortigern has become king of Camelot. One day, a stone with Excalibur embedded in it appears, and Vortigern knows that in order to have true, unlimited power, he must find Uther’s son, the only living person who can extract it. Thus, he requires every male of a certain age to take a turn and be branded after attempting to draw it from the stone. Eventually, Arthur takes his turn and draws it, revealing himself to be the rightful king of Camelot. To make an example of him to the kingdom, Vortigern prepares to execute him in public, but Uther’s old allies and a Mage (played by Astrid Berges-Frisbey) stage a grand rescue, and whisk Arthur to the wilderness where they test him and try him in order for him to properly wield Excalibur, the only true weapon that can defeat Vortigern.

A fast-paced, sly, savvy, and fantasy-filled action adventure, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword may have died (sword in hand) a quick death at the box office, but it will go down in cinema Valhalla as one of the great Arthurian cinematics and may quite possibly eventually be considered one of the most underrated flops ever made. Guy Richie’s direction (which feels similar to his Sherlock Holmes movies) gives the movie a distinctive pulse and energy, and it has a strikingly original take on the Arthurian legends. We get to see all sorts of unusual fantastical creatures, the Lady of the Lake, giant, behemoth animals, dark sorcery, and an immeasurably powerful Excalibur, which we’ve never seen the like of before on film. Merlin is mentioned, but never seen, and the film ends with the setting up of the Round Table. It’s pretty glorious.

The score by Daniel Pemberton is exciting and interesting, and will come as a great calling card for the composer. His previous scores to The Awakening, The Counselor, Steve Jobs, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. were mere teasers of what he accomplished with this powerful and memorable score. His infectious (and breathless) action cues are almost nontraditional in how he seems to use heavy synths and a vocal accompaniment that emulates being out of breath, but he does it all do magical effect, giving the film a vibrant, unstoppable palpitation. The music is reminiscent of Hans Zimmer’s scores to Guy Richie’s Sherlock Holmes, and if you like those scores, then you’ll love this score as well.

WaterTower will be releasing the soundtrack to King Arthur: Legend of the Sword on CD and digital formats on May 19th.



About the Author

david j. moore

david j. moore is the author of World Gone Wild: A Survivor’s Guide to Post-Apocalyptic Movies and the upcoming book The Good, the Tough and the Deadly: Action Movies and Stars, coming April, 2016 from Schiffer Publishing.