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Stumbling through Arthurian legend

by Dominic Corry, NZ Herald

After a string of savage initial reviews, a less-than-stellar opening weekend at the US box office, and a widely-mocked David Beckham cameo, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was hastily deemed a blockbuster bomb. It’s actually not that bad. Heck, I even kind of liked it.

It’s not difficult to see why Sherlock Holmes director Guy Ritchie’s take on the Arthurian legend has been dealt such a critical drubbing — there’s a whole bunch of easily-identifiable influences colliding on screen. It’s informed almost equally by Lord of the Rings and Ritchie’s own Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

The resulting mixture of epic high fantasy and street-level geezer shenanigans constantly threatens to spill over into Monty Python territory, and for some audience members, it just might.

But if you’re willing to go along with the movie’s inherent ridiculousness, there’s a whole pile of old-fashioned fantasy adventure fun to enjoy here.

Charlie Hunnam (Sons of Anarchy) plays the young Arthur as a street-smart wheeler-dealer with a string of underground connections. Raised in a brothel, he has no knowledge of his regal lineage, until that is, a chance encounter with a certain sword in a stone.

Jude Law offers up a delightfully preening panto villain turn as Vortigern, the ruling king buoyed by dark magic who seeks to crush Arthur’s prophecised ascension to the throne.

There’s a barrage of anachronistic elements in play, including multiple plot-accelerating montages, insanely bombastic audio cues and CGI-enhanced fight sequences. You will either be carried along, or recoil at the lack of respect.

If nothing else, this is a heck of a lot more entertaining than the staid 2004 King Arthur film starring Clive Owen.