Cinema’s most iconic King Arthur tale (not made by Monty Python) is probably 1981’s Excalibur, which is both brilliant and terrible, sometimes in the same scene. But while Excalibur is a film that constantly swings for the fences, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword mostly feels like blockbuster-by-committee.
Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is orphaned after his parents (a king and queen) are murdered by his uncle (Jude Law). After growing up into a brawler on the streets of Londinium, he removes the sword Excalibur from its stone and he becomes a hero to rebel factions hoping to overthrow Law.
The King Arthur story beats are pretty bland and rote, even though Hunnam is a fairly charismatic lead. The final act’s swordplay is the dullest part of the movie. Co-writer/director Guy Ritchie is known primarily for his caper movies like Lock, Stock, & Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. Not coincidentally, King Arthur finds a pulse in a few scenes where it resembles a medieval caper flick. There’s enough life in these parts to make you realize that it might actually be pretty cool for someone to make a medieval crime caper film. But alas, Hollywood is mostly interested in rehashing old properties instead of creating original material.