King Arthur is neither Guy Ritchie's worst film nor his best, but it might be his most frustrating. A compendium of all the things that make the British director so occasionally exciting and so often irritating, this new, hyper-stylized take on the Arthurian legends veers between genius and idiocy. To be fair, we probably shouldn’t even call this movie a “take.” The plot is more like what a 12-year-old who hadn’t done the reading might come up with when called on in class. Arthur starts off as a child who's cast away when his father, King Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana), is killed by Vortigern (Jude Law), Arthur’s uncle, a practitioner of the dark arts. The boy grows up to be a strapping hustler (played with gruff conviction by Charlie Hunnam).
And so, when the time comes for Arthur to pull the sword from the stone, he has no interest in any of it. But pull the sword he does, and immediately he’s being pursued by now-King Vertigern and his "blackleg" shock troops. Arthur assembles a scrappy band to fight back, bringing together low-bred mates like Backlack (Neil Maskell) and Wet Stick (Kingsley Ben-Adir) with committed resistance figures Sir Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and Goosefat Bill (Aidan Gillen). There’s also Kung-Fu George (Tom Wu), a martial arts master.
But really, why bother to create a dutifully colorful cast of characters, with all those colorful names, if you’re going to do such shockingly little with them? There will be those who hate King Arthur for the liberties it takes and its amped-up blockbuster bluster. But the real problem is that Ritchie's reinvention merely makes the story more predictable and derivative.