Unsurprisingly, there are many moments in Guy Ritchie’s take on Arthurian legend that aren’t classically Camelot; the use of the phrase “honeyt**s”, the appearance of David Beckham as a blokey solider guarding Excalibur and a grizzled, babe-tastic Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) rousingly calling to “gather the lads”. But, when things are this fabulously flashy, does it really matter?
With a budget of over $100 million and the first in a planned six-part cinematic epic, King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword was never going to be anything less than spectacular-looking. The occasionally flat script might not be in contention for any screenwriting awards at next year’s Oscars, but this isa fun and excellently camp fantasy carry-on, given added flash thanks to the stunning scenery of Wales’s Snowdonia and the Scottish highlands. There’s also plenty of computer wizardry, adding in towering mystical castles and gigantic slithering snakes.
An old-fashioned romp in the Errol Flynn mould, its showy swordmanship and big-ass medieval battle scenes are worthy of Lord Of The Rings, with the street-savvy Arthur attempting to regain his rightful throne. It’s the gaggle of Ritchie’s trademark geezers, however, that set the film apart from your standard fantasy flick, rolling around the wilds of Londinium as if it were Whitechapel c. 1962. Hunnam’s crew – which includes Aidan Gillen, reuniting both actors from 1999’s groundbreaking Channel 4 series Queer As Folk – are sporting animal pelts rather than tracksuits, and battling against evil uncle King Vortigern, played with panto- villain panache by Jude Law.
Ritchie’s stumbling block remains his depiction of women. Never known for his rounded female characters, Legend Of The Sword is no exception. Doe-eyed prostitutes and pretty princesses say little but flutter their eyelashes lots, while the woman with the most screen-time, French-Spanish actress Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey, doesn’t even get a name, playing a one-dimensional magical mage – essentially a Middle Ages manic pixie dream girl. Here’s hoping Guinevere turns up to kick some serious arse if there’s a sequel.