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King Arthur Legend of the Sword (2017)

Warner Home Video
4K UHD Released: 8/8/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/8/2017

When most people think of Hollywood, they think of an industry which indiscriminately spends millions of dollars on movies without thinking twice. In reality, the film industry can be quite frugal and will cut corners when it can. With the success of Game of Thrones, it's not surprising that producers would want to find something in a similar vein, but, again without breaking the bank to do so. Therefore, why not adapt a tale which is in the public domain so that there wouldn't be a need to buy rights to the story? You're already saving money! That may have been one of the motivating factors behind King Arthur Legend of the Sword.

As our story opens, the evil mage Mordred (Rob Knighton) is attacking the castle of Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana). While Uther is fighting off a mystical beast, he is able to put his infant son, Arthur, adrift in a boat. Arthur is rescued by strangers and grows up on the mean streets of Londinium, where he lives in a brothel and becomes involved in petty crime. With Uther's brother, Vortigern (Jude Law), ascends to the throne which is rightfully Arthur's, Arthur (Charile Hunnam), has grown into a strapping young lad who leads a gang of street toughs and defends the honor of the ladies in the brothel. When a receding body of water reveals the sword Excalibur lodged in a stone, Vortigern orders all twentysomething men in the kingdom routinely round up and brought to the site. For, he knows that whoever pulls the sword from the stone will reveal themselves to be the born king. When Arthur excises the sword, he is immediately targeted for death by Vortigern, but he's swept away by a band of rebels lead by Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou). Assuming Arthur can avoid being assassinated, can he convince others to join him?

As someone who visits Teemagnet every morning, I enjoy a good mashup of seemingly incompatible elements, especially a particularly clever one. King Arthur Legend of the Sword certainly presents us with a story which mixes different themes and tones. On the one hand, we have the familiar Arthurian legend, including the Pendragon family, Excalibur, "The Lady of the Lake", wizards (who are called "mages" here), castles, and fantastic beasts. On the other hand, we have the world of British street gangs which we have seen in other projects from Director Guy Ritchie. In this version of the tale, Arthur is a member of a street gang which dispenses violent justice in order to keep the streets safe. The first act of the film introduces us to these two worlds, and by the second act, we begin to watch them collide.

And, as weird as these threads are, I can see how they would work on paper. We are presented with an Arthur who has grown up in the ghetto, but he's also learned to be a skilled fighter, and despite the fact that he's often involved in illegal activities, he tries to do what's right. We can see how the general public, even those who are fed up with Vortigern, would have trouble falling in line with this street-rat. And Ritchie has brought his flashy visual style to the film, presenting us with an Arthur which has a modern edge.

But, there is simply something off about this movie. Perhaps it's Charlie Hunnam, who, despite his popularity on Sons of Anarchy, can't see to make his way into a successful feature film and often lacks an on-screen presence. Perhaps it's the fact that this version presents us with a reluctant Arthur who must realize that he should be king. (How many times have we seen this plot?) Perhaps it's the tone of the film, which wants to be hip & cool one minute, but very, very dark the next. It's hard to digest a movie which wants to have Michael Bay-like editing in some scenes, while also presenting us with a villain who sacrifices his loved ones to the monster in the basement. King Arthur Legend of the Sword never feels out of control or misguided, but it presents us with a new take on an old story and then proceeds to spoon-feed us a pile of cliched ideas. When the film played in theaters earlier this year, it only managed to make back about of its budget. Did people stay away due to lack of interest in King Arthur, or because this emperor's new clothes weren't quite as cool as imagined?

King Arthur Legend of the Sword thinks that elephants are weapons for some reason on 4K UHD courtesy of Warner Home Video. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an HEVC 2160p HD transfer which runs at an average of 45 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. This is a dark film, but the image is never overly dark and this transfer allows any light sources to really shine through. The image delivers an impressive amount of depth, as the actors are clearly delineated form the backgrounds. The level of detail also impresses, as we can make out textures on objects. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 5.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The action sequences deliver nicely textured and detailed surround sound effects that deliver individual sounds at times. The subwoofer effects are also notable, as they bring us wall-shaking sounds from the outset. The sounds move very smoothly from side-to-side and front-to-back.

The extras for King Arthur Legend of the Sword can be found on the included Blu-ray Disc. "Arthur With Swagger" (10 minutes) focuses on Hunnam's performance as Arthur. We hear from the actor, as well as his fellow cast members, who comment on his performance. "Sword from the Stone" (19 minutes) begins with a discussion of how the Arthurian legend permeates culture and then looks at how the film puts its own spin on the tale. The stunts and the preparation which went into the sword-fighting is examined in "Parry and Bleed" (6 minutes). "Building on the Past" (14 minutes) brings us a lot of models and production art, as we see the work which went into creating the world of the film, some of which is based on true period pieces. "Inside the Cut: The Action of King Arthur" (6 minutes) brings us another look at the action sequences, including the use of wire work and green screen. "Camelot in 93 Days" (10 minutes) is a condensed production diary which provides a variety of comments from the actors and crew. "Legend of Excalibur" (6 minutes) allows a look at the amount of work which went into designing the sword for the film. "Scenic Scotland" (6 minutes) introduces us to the rocky locations which were used.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long