Guy Ritchie's new take on the Arthurian legend has arrived on blu-ray. While it seemed to fizzle amongst the crowded Summer slate, is the fantasy film worth checking out at home? Read on for my full review to see.
I've always had a soft spot for King Arthur stories, as so much of that tale has influenced the fantasy genre even today. Couple that with my general enjoyment of Guy Ritchie films and I was interested to see what Legend of the Sword had to offer...The result was decidedly mixed.
The film's plot is relatively simple, presenting a fresh take on the Sword in the Stone story. The movie shows a rougher version of Arthur who grew up in a brothel and essentially leads an extortion gang on the streets of Camelot. After the death of his father Uther, Arthur's power-hungry uncle, Vortigern, has taken control of the crown. The story picks up fairly quickly with Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone, and subsequently thrown into a brewing rebellion against Vortigern.
The story offers some neat surprises along the way which lead to some seriously impressive set pieces (giant elephants dominate the opening sequence). The problem, however, is nothing ever feels like it comes together in any meaningful way. The film's presentation is very much Guy Ritchie's style with time skips, intersecting scenes, and concurrent sequences. Normally this isn't a bad thing (I loved the style in Sherlock Holmes), but for King Arthur it came off entirely disjointed.
Mostly because there seemed to be so many unnecessary sequences thrown in there. I mean, there's an entire scene showing how a hypothetical meeting with sympathetic Barons might go; the whole purpose of which is to show why they AREN'T going to do it. Showing it had no real impact on the story, as they ended up doing things differently anyway. It's made more frustrating by the fact that other scenes which would give insight into the fantastical elements/lore were rushed through. Throughout, it felt as though unimportant scenes were elongated, while the more crucial ones were slimmed down.
Besides that frustration, the other problem is this style of storytelling makes it incredibly difficult to care about any of the characters. The major battles fell flat for me, as the lack of connection to the characters took out all the tension for me. Don't get me wrong, the battles were cool and the fantasy elements were a lot of fun to see in action. There's plenty of eye candy to go around...I just didn't CARE about any of it. As such, it works as a kind of, dumb entertainment, movie; but little else.
Sight and Sound
The blu-ray quality for Legend of the Sword is really sharp. Warner Bros. has a great track record when it comes to the quality of their transfers and this release is no different. The image is crisp with all the details crystal clear, which comes in especially handy for the big monster VFX sequences.
The blacks are deep, offering up a nice contrast without washing out the darker tones. This is a great thing because the film doesn't have the most varied color palette and sticks to muted greys throughout. Considering the time period, the style makes sense, but it would have been nice to spruce things up during the fantasy heavy scenes. Regardless, the blu-ray does a great job highlighting the film visually.
The sound on the blu-ray is equally solid, and gives decent prioritization to the dialog (I only had to adjust the volume once or twice during my playthrough). The film itself doesn't do the soundtrack many favors, however, as there are some bizarre choices made throughout the film. The big action scenes were you expect thunderous sound effects to pull you into the action are instead muted and overlaid with music that fits, but isn't quite what you were expecting. The result is a feeling of distance between the action and yourself.
None of these stylistic choices are the fault of the blu-ray, and in terms of the technical aspects, it's an excellent transfer of the source.
The Special Features
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword comes loaded with these bonuses on the disc:
Arthur with Swagger - Charlie Hunnam is a gentleman, a hunk and a rebel, setting new standards as king and new rules with the ladies.
Sword from the Stone - Director Guy Ritchie as he breathes 21st Century life and luster into England’s most iconic legend and he creates Camelot for a new audience!
Parry and Bleed - Charlie Hunnam and other cast members get a crash course in swordplay. Vikings vs Saxons style!
Building on the Past - Londinium comes to life with a new design of Medieval Urban life, built from scratch.
Inside the Cut: The Action of King Arthur - Join stunt choreographer Eunice Huthart as she teams with Director Guy Ritchie to create the mind-blowing action of King Arthur
Camelot in 93 Days - Friendships and romances strengthen and fray as the realities of a 93 day shoot set in.
Legend of Excalibur - The world’s most famous sword is brought to life for a new generation.
Scenic Scotland - Wrapping a monumental production on location in glorious Scotland.
In terms of giving you a good behind the scenes look at the film/filmmaking process, the blu-ray has plenty to offer. You're treated to a look at the filming location, how they built Camelot, and how they crafted the action scenes (Guy Ritchie definitely has his own action style). Aside from that, unless you're as in love with Charlie Hunnam as he himself seems to be, there's not much else to keep you coming back to the special features.