At last I am going to review something that you can actually go and see! In fact, it has only just come out. Herewith my review of the merry tale of King Arthur and his geezers of the Round Table.
Last night I went to the European Premiere of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword in Leicester Square. I stood within spitting distance of stars of the film, including Charlie Hunnam and David Beckham. [Spoiler: I did not spit.]
Yes – I said David Beckham. He’s in the actual movie. It’s a small cameo but in a surprisingly pivotal scene. His delivery is almost indistinguishable from Michael Caine. One of many thoroughly enjoyable moments.
There is no mistaking this film is directed by Beckham’s best mate, Guy Ritchie. And if you like his movies, you’ll love this version of the classic tale. Nowhere else will you hear King Arthur call people to battle with the immortal words “Get the lads!”. This is Camelot filled with loveable London gangsters. Sorry – that should say Londinium.
Ritchie’s editing flourishes are all over this movie, like big dirty paw prints, with a plethora of flash-backs and flash-forwards. Some parts of the story are told in literal fast-forward, which gives the narrative a feeling of ‘blah-blah-blah’. This is no Lord of the Rings – there are some impressive CGI sequences but they are not over-played (loved the elephants). You are whisked along whether you like it or not. To his credit, Ritchie just wants to get to the parts of the story he tells best. And what he likes best is scrapping. The fight scenes are stylish and unadulterated fun.
You can just see Ritchie and his team discussing plot and script and edits, and concluding: “fuck it, that’ll be a laugh”. Never think that Ritchie isn’t in on the joke – he’s way smarter than that.
I always enjoy Jude Law in a dark role, and here he plays the uncle you don’t want to be left alone with, but this film is all about Charlie Hunnam. Hunnam is in his niche, with his unassuming but effortlessly imposing presence. The perfect pick for the street-kid who becomes a king. I am struck by the similarities between his most famous roles: Queer As Folk‘s Nathan, Jax from Sons of Anarchy, and Arthur are all fearless characters, who are entirely unashamed of who they are, fighting for clear space in worlds where friendship and loyalty play a critical role. Just as these men are natural leaders, Hunnam takes command with ease, and it’s hard to look away.
I’ve heard that years of playing a Californian biker has rounded out his Geordie accent, but what I hear now is something closer to Mancunian. It fits the role, and even if it’s not geographically correct, I’m glad we didn’t get an attempt at Cockney. (My apologies if that was Hunnam’s attempt at Cockney.)
And for those who loved Queer As Folk as much as me (Russell T Davies is my screenwriting idol), it’s a wonderful chance to see Nathan and Stuart together again. Aiden Gillen’s Stuart was certainly king of the gays in 1990s Manchester, but this time Arthur is the master. So visceral are my memories of their relationship in Queer as Folk, I was disappointed not to see more of these two together on screen. However, there is a very satisfying moment when Hunnam kneels before his former lover. I feel a box-set binge coming on.
As Arthur reaches his climatic face-off with Jude Law’s evil King Vortigern, corrupted absolutely by power, it’s tempting to draw a topical comparison with the people’s hero fighting Theresa May. But that would do this film a disservice. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is not a political vehicle. It’s not a historic re-enactment. It’s not Tolkien-lite. It’s entertainment for entertainment’s sake, and is no poorer for it. It’s one of those films that critics will point out it not elegant or deep, but if it’s your kind of movie, you won’t be disappointed. I imagined them thinking “that’ll be a laugh” and they were right – it really is.
Also, did I mention I went to the premiere? 🙂