Brutal ‘King Arthur: Legend of the Sword’ Reviews: Critics Fart in Film’s General Direction

Guy Ritchie’s manic take on the once and future king gets mercilessly panned

The legend of King Arthur has been used as the basis for many films throughout cinematic history. But aside from Disney’s “The Sword in the Stone” and the uproarious “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” few films have ever lasted long in the public consciousness. And critics think Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow’s “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” won’t be a tale that endures through time either.

Early reviews for Guy Ritchie’s latest film have been widely negative, panning the film for relying on a generic origin story formula to try to keep audience interest and for using a manic editing style that has the opposite effect of what it aims to do.

“Ritchie and his regular editor James Herbert cut up the action scenes with the desperation of the life of the party who’s secretly afraid to go home to his empty apartment,” writes TheWrap’s own Alonso Duralde. “‘King Arthur’ seems constantly panicked that the audience’s attention span won’t last another second, so each moment is a frenzy of sight and sound (particularly Daniel Pemberton’s emphatically percussive score), and the ultimate effect is more exhausting than exhilarating,” he added.

“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” overhauls the origin tale of the famed British monarch, recasting Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) as a young man robbed of his birthright when his father is murdered and his evil uncle Vortigern (Jude Law) takes the throne. Arthur spends much of his life as a street peasant until the fateful day when he discovers the sword Excalibur and comes face to face with his true identity. The film is written by Ritchie with Joby Harold and Lionel Wigram and also stars Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou and Eric Bana. Akiva Goldsman, Toby Tunnell and Steve Clark-Hall produced along with the writers.

First reviews have its current Rotten Tomatoes score at a paltry 8 percent — a bad sign as the tally will continue to shift when more reviews get counted. Read more scathing reviews — and a positive one — below:

Tim Grierson, Screen Daily

“After revealing quiet depths in ‘The Lost City Of Z,’ Hunnam comes across as wooden here, focusing on Arthur’s manly, smart-ass posturing at the expense of much nuance or charisma. In this regard, he’s well-matched with the equally one-dimensional Law, who played Watson in Ritchie’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ films and in ‘Legend Of The Sword’ hams it up as the haughty, fiendish Vortigern, letting his eyeliner do most of the emoting.”

Scott Mendelson, Forbes

“There are moments where Ritchie plays with chronology and narrative structure in ways that enliven otherwise routine developments, but you’ll yearn for the moments of fantastical madness promised in the prologue and the few we get after will make you wish that this didn’t have to waste time with the origin story prequel tropes. Without going into spoilers, this is indeed the sort of origin story[…]where we spend the entire film waiting for our heroes to get into the familiar places, with an implicit promise that a sequel will give you what you wanted this time.”

Evan Saathoff, Birth.Movies.Death.

“If you have problems with ‘Refusal of the Call’ heroes, this movie is going to be rough for you. Hunnam’s Arthur has no interest in the sword and yanks it only at the end of another. It takes him almost the entire movie to wield it because it gets into his brain and makes him relive his parents’ deaths whenever he tries. (You will see Arthur’s mom get killed more than in all the Batman movies combined.) Even when the film is near its final act, he’s throwing the thing away.”

Matt Singer, ScreenCrush

“Ritchie’s ‘King Arthur’ values style and cool over everything else, and the results, which are handsome but trite, reflect that. At least the ‘Sherlock’s had extremely charismatic lead performances from Robert Downey Jr.; despite his rugged features, a sweet shearling vest, and a physique that would make a crossfit model jealous, Charlie Hunnam isn’t in Downey’s league, and his legion of ten or so sidekicks have maybe three personality traits between them.”

Drew Taylor, The Playlist

“…the real star of the film here is Hunnam, who after several years of false starts, seems to finally be taking his place as a really-for-real leading man. Ritchie’s Arthur is a powerful fighter and has the courage of his convictions, but he’s also wounded and doubtful, uneasy with the prospect of leading a rebellion much less the whole of England. And it takes an actor with a certain set of skills, a kind of roguish charm armed with extreme physicality and a beset by a tortured sense of self. It’s not as easy as it looks (his abs can’t do all the acting) and Hunnam charts the arc of the character with humor and realism. Somehow, after countless actors have pulled sword from stone, Hunnam makes the role his own.”