"Flawed Gritty Fantasy"
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD is a gritty reimagining of the Legend of King Arthur, where Arthur is orphaned and grows up to become a street criminal, but is forced to use Excalibur to stop his tyrannical uncle, who’s made a deal with a demonic sorcerer to rule as king. KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD is more like a fantasy, with more magic in it, but the first half seems too confusing, and the worldview is mixed with positive and negative parts.
The movie begins with Arthur’s father, King Uther Pendragon, using the magical sword Excalibur to defeat an evil magician named Mordred and his army, who are trying to take over England. A title card explains that regular humans have lived in peace with “mages” (another word for sorcerer, magician or wizard) for centuries until Mordred.
That night after the victory, however, Uther’s brother, Vortigern, tries to kill Uther, his wife and Arthur. As Uther and his family are trying to make their escape, a large demonic-looking knight appears and kills Uther and his wife, but Arthur escapes in a small boat to Londinium. There, Arthur is found by some “ladies of the evening,” who adopt the very young boy. Arthur grows up in their residence, and a montage sequence shows Arthur being bullied as a boy and a teenager, but learning to survive on the streets by becoming a low-level criminal in charge of a gang.
However, Arthur’s uncle has now become king, and a ruthless king he is. The movie reveals the uncle has made a pact with fat, demonic female magician who looks like the octopus villainess in Disney’s THE LITTLE MERMAID and is accompanied by two menacing mermaids. The evil king knows that someday Arthur will show up to challenge his rule. So, he periodically rounds up a group of young males of Arthur’s age and force them to try pulling Excalibur from the stone where it has stuck.
Soon, the evil king’s soldiers round up Arthur. When Arthur pulls the sword from the stone, the king’s men surround him, and Arthur’s uncle sentences him to death. However, a female mage uses her magic to stop the execution. Then, she and her men spirit Arthur and Excalibur away to their lair.
They try to encourage Arthur to learn how to use the magic of Excalibur to end his uncle’s tyrannical rule and take his place on the throne. Arthur is reluctant, however, until his uncle starts trying to kill Arthur’s friends, including the women who adopted him.
The question then becomes: Can Arthur learn how to wield the magical sword in time to stop his uncle, who’s becoming increasingly more powerful because of his evil pact with the demonic magician living in the sea.
The beginning of KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD throws viewers immediately into Mordred’s bizarre attack on Camelot and King Uther. The attack includes giant mechanical-looking elephant creatures. It looks like Mordred is simply going to overwhelm Uther and his soldiers until Uther uses the powerful magic of Excalibur to kill Mordred and the men guarding him. The whole thing is rather confusing and over-the-top. It becomes even more confusing when Uther and his wife are attacked by the giant demonic-looking knight and when Arthur’s uncle visits the demonic octopus villain. Apparently, the filmmakers thought this was “too cool for school,” but MOVIEGUIDE® can assure you, it’s not. It’s just bizarre and unexplained.
Happily, the movie becomes less confusing when Arthur and his men start fighting and outsmarting the evil king’s men. Also, about midway through the movie, the magical power of Excalibur is finally explained. Eventually, the secret behind the giant knight from the first act is also explained. In addition, there’s some fun repartee between the characters, and Charlie Hunnum, as Arthur, becomes more comfortable in his role, and more likeable. The pounding soundtrack is sometimes annoying, but it’s also a bit different and, hence, seems to fit the movie’s bizarre take on the legend of King Arthur. Finally, the ending sets up the possibility of a sequel.
Thematically, KING ARTHUR AND THE LEGEND OF THE SWORD has a mixed worldview. It contains more occult fantasy magic than other King Arthur movies, but that content is mixed with some positive Christian, moral elements and allusions.
KING ARTHUR AND THE LEGEND OF THE SWORD also contains some gratuitous foul language and strong violence that includes some scary parts. It’s mostly, however, the occult magic that compels MOVIEGUIDE® to advise extreme caution.
Worldview: Strong mixed pagan worldview with strong occult elements mixed with strong Christian, moral elements where the good guys fight to overcome tyrannical, occult evil but they themselves also use an occult sword.
Language: Eight obscenities (including two “f” words, one of which was muffled), plus man appears to mouth an “f” word when he’s surprised by something.
Violence: Strong, intense and sometimes scary violence with some light blood includes war battles with swords, battles with arrows, some stabbings, man has bloody wound in stomach, it’s implied man cuts off another man’s ear and talks into the severed ear as a joke, but the cutting is not shown, giant snake, man bitten in neck by small snake, man stabs snake with sword and gets blood on his face, villain murders two women (including his own daughter in one scene; they’re implied to be some kind of pagan sacrifice to an evil sorceress giving the man magical power), scary giant elephants attack another army and a castle, scary octopus creature in water, man stabbed in back with magical sword and turns to stone, two me battle giant demonic-looking armored knight, implied torture of captured man who has blood running down parts of his face, man fights multiple soldiers with magical sword, woman falls dead, and it’s implied a thrown spear caused her death, physical combat, etc.
Sex: No sex scenes, but young boy is adopted by women in a brothel, and there are about three shots of women with men in rooms, but the doors are shut.
Nudity: Upper male nudity.
Other Content: Alcohol use; no smoking, but snake bite appears to give man hallucinogenic vision; and, man haunted by tragic dreams of traumatic past event, montage sequence implies some stealing by boy growing up on the gritty streets of a tumultuous city, and a power-mad villain.
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD is a gritty reimagining of the Legend of King Arthur. In this version, young Arthur is sent to Londinium when his father, the king, and mother are murdered. In the city, Arthur’s adopted by young women in a brothel. He grows up in the back alleys, becoming a prince of thieves. When Arthur pulls Excalibur from the stone, he’s forced to acknowledge his heritage. Arthur must learn how to wield the sword’s magical power to lead a rebellion against the evil king, his uncle.
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD is sometimes confusing and over-the-top, especially the first act. The magic doesn’t make much sense. Happily, the movie becomes less confusing and more fun when Arthur and his men start fighting and outsmarting the evil king’s men. Things also become clearer when the magic behind Excalibur is explained. However, this King Arthur contains more occult magic, though it’s mixed with Christian, moral content and allusions. KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD also contains some foul language and intense, scary violence. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution.