During the opening scene of Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, I was convinced that I was about to watch the biggest blockbuster disaster of the year. The scene was completely baffling in how badly constructed it is, with shots cutting to others with no flow whatsoever and with no sense of proper pacing to be found.
But after the title card, it finds its flow and ends up becoming the most bugnuts blockbuster we’re going to see all year. Guys, gals and nonbinary pals, look no further: we have found 2017’s Gods of Egypt.
The story, a street-centered take on the classic myth, focuses on Arthur (Charlie Hunnam), a bouncer raised in a brothel who, through a series of coincidences, realizes that he’s the heir to the throne stolen by his uncle, King Vortigern (Jude Law). Arthur reluctantly falls in with a resistance group, led by Sir Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and a woman only known as The Mage (Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey), and needs to master the secrets of the magical sword Excalibur in order to claim his rightful throne and bring peace to England.
One thing that’s for sure going to make or break this movie for a lot of people is that this is definitely Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur. His directorial stamp is all over this movie, from silly character nicknames (highlights include “Goosefat Bill” and “Kung-Fu George”) to an energetic, non-traditional score by Daniel Pemberton (who previous worked on Ritchie’s underappreciated Man From UNCLE) to his trademark non-linear editing, used during several sequences in the movie for the sake of both easy plot progression and to show off Arthur’s intelligence. Ritchie’s style is not for everyone, and I’m going to go ahead and suggest that those who are not fans of it skip the movie. However, Ritchie’s frenetic direction ultimately contributes more to the movie than it detracts from it, providing a welcome wave of energy that differentiates it from other films in the “gritty fairy tale” genre, such as Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood.
While at first it seems disappointing that Charlie Hunnam is stuck playing another version of Protagonist Man, especially after his acclaimed turn in The Lost City of Z, here he’s able to do one thing that he wasn’t allowed to do in his previous roles like this: speak in his native accent. As a result, Hunnam’s able to let his emotional range shine through, letting audiences in on what this take on Arthur’s arc is meant to be: a man using brute strength and snarky humor as a crutch instead of dealing with the big emotional trauma that he had gone through as a child by witnessing the death of his parents and growing up in a hostile environment.
Jude Law, however, is just having a fucking blast. Between this and the title role in Paolo Sorrentino’s gloriously over-the-top The Young Pope, 2017 looks like it’ll be Law’s hammiest year ever. He’s essentially playing the same character as he is in Young Pope, save for the occult arts stuff: a man deprived of power his whole life finding a leadership position and using it to bend everything to his will (literally, in one case.) Law doesn’t quite reach the level of Jeremy Irons in Dungeons and Dragons, but it’s some great ham nonetheless.
Which leads me into the topic I teased at the beginning: this movie is stuffed to the gills with out-there, silly-as-hell elements that just filled me with absolute glee. Whether it’s Jude Law sacrificing his wife to an evil entity that turns out to be a gigantic octopus-like creature that speaks through three separate female avatars, the existence of Chinese martial arts in medieval England, or a climactic event involving a giant magical snake, the movie completely embraces both the ridiculousness and the fantastical, which is what makes this the true heir to Gods of Egypt in my eyes. It knows what it is, and it’s a blast as a result.
This is a movie that I imagine will not work for a lot of people (a friend of the site with comprehensive knowledge of the mythos surrounding the character has been against this movie from the beginning), and I don’t think I’m shocking anyone by saying that the planned six-film franchise this movie was supposed to start will probably not happen. But at the same time I was endlessly fascinated and entertained by this monstrosity of a feature. If you’re a lover of Guy Ritchie and trash cinema, like I am, this one is a real hoot.