Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur

Have you ever dreamed of a medieval-based two-hours long videoclip with giant elephants and Jude Law? Well, damn, that’s a pretty specific wish… Well, if you have, this King Arthur is the stuff of your dreams. It has them all. Giant bewitched elephants, horned evil wizards, differently horned demons, giant bats like flying monkeys, a […]

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Have you ever dreamed of a medieval-based two-hours long videoclip with giant elephants and Jude Law? Well, damn, that’s a pretty specific wish… Well, if you have, this King Arthur is the stuff of your dreams. It has them all. Giant bewitched elephants, horned evil wizards, differently horned demons, giant bats like flying monkeys, a three-bodied octopus syren, black knights that seems to have jumped out of a Witcher novel, big snakes and bigger snakes, fake Roman ruins and an evil wizard’s tower. And it has what you can rightfully expect from a Guy Ritchie‘s movie: an astonishing use of sound and camera, that makes you feel like you took a ride of two hours within the tunnel of Willy Wonka (the original nightmarish one).

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After the work he did on Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr., Ritchie comes back with Jude Law and takes on another British hero to deliver us a new interpretation of Arthur’s legend. And what’s good in this movie is that it certainly looks like an original interpretation, and not the interpretation of an interpretation in itself. To spin the tale, the original material was chewed and scrambled but still is visible underneath. You have your Uther Pendragon (Eric Bana) and an evil uncle that looks like inspiration for Shakespeare. You have your lady of the Lake (in the double version) and warmonging elephants that look like inspiration for Tolkien. Alongside Jude Law and Eric Bana playing brothers, you have of course Charlie Hunnam wearing (so to say) the clothes of Arthur, even if he’s not wearing many clothes throughout the movie. Not that I’m complaining. He was Nathan in Queer as Folk and you might have seen him more recently in Pacific Rim (that godzilla vs transformers with too much plot).
Then, if you’re into skinny girls with superpowers making weird faces, you’ll like Astrid Bergès-Frisbey playing a mage (she was the captured mermaid in Stranger Tides). This seems to be a thing, recently.

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Also, you have your good set of good actors playing Arthur’s merry men, led by Djimon Hounsou (Guardians of the Galaxy, that horrible Tarzan movie, the 2010 Tempest, ConstantineEragon… he’s always playing the mystical black guy). They are Aidan Gillen as “Goosefat” Bill (Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish in Game of Thrones, if you’re familiar), Freddie Fox as Rubio (he was King Luis in that horrible 2011 Three Musketteers), a pretty much unknown Craig McGinlay as Percival, Tom Wu as kung-fu master George who has his dojo set in late-roman Londinum (you might have seen him in Netflix series Marco Polo or in Da Vinci’s Demons… and if you haven’t, just don’t), Kingsley Ben-Adir as “Wet Stick” Tristan (pretty much unknown aside from the tv serie Vera which I haven’t seen); Neil Maskell as Backlack, which in Italian was oddly translated into Cockeater (you wil see him in the upcoming Mummy, if you’re planning more suffering for yourself). You also have a set of young ladies portraying all the family Jude Law kills and another set of young ladies playing the gentlewomen raising Arthur in the brothel: amongst them I just have to mention Millie Brady, who was Mary Bennet in Pride Prejudice and Zombies, and Katie McGrath who was Morgana in that horrible tv serie about young Merlin. You also get a glimpse of Michael Hadley playing the mage king, Rob Knighton playing Mordred and Kamil Lemieszewski playing Merlin. Just a glimpse The movie doesn’t feature them.

So, as you might have seen, it’s a movie with lots of people. But what does it feature? Hard to say. The story is really really simple: uncle steals throne, kills father and tries to have nephew killed. Nephew grows up with friends as a mob-leader and eventually (but reluctantly) comes back and conquers the throne back. When he has done so, he doesn’t forget the old friends and orders them knights. He even builds a roundtable. So yeah, it’s the Lion King. Or Hamlet with a little more kick, if you prefer. On the background, you have an idea of mages being a race and of a war between them and mortals. Oh, and parallel dimensions with giant bats, too. The story overall is not that bad and not that good either. If you want a reason to see this movie, I’ll give you three:
– direction;
– use of sound, with all those mutes and distorted effects;
– soundtrack.
So yeah, it is as if this movie is some long weird gorgeous videoclip.
The soundtrack is by Daniel Pemberton, who also recently wrote soundtracks for Gold, Steve Jobs (the Fassbender one) and the Man from U.N.C.L.E., also directed by Guy Ritchie. He does an amazing job with a mixture of traditional celtic and electronic techno. You might want to check The Politics & The Life, with Gareth Williams. You might also want to compare it to the trailer of HALO 3. Look up for Light of Aiden. There is one version here. Now I do not know if they both rearrange something traditional I am not aware of.

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If you liked the previous one, you might also want to look up for The Devil and the Huntsman. You can feel the giant elephant. You can feel it.

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The original song of this piece is called The Wild, Wild Berry and is based on the Scottish ballad Lord Randall. The music in this piece, specifically, is based on the work of Ray Driscoll.

Young man came from hunting faint and weary
“What does ail my lord, my dearie?”
“Oh brother dear, let my bed be made
For I feel the gripe of the woody nightshade”

Many a man would die as soon
Out of the light of a mage’s moon
‘Twas not by bolt, but yet by blade
Can break the magic that the devil made

‘Twas not by fire, but was forged in flame
That can drown the sorrows of a huntsman’s pain

This young man he died fair soon
By the light of the hunters’ moon
‘Twas not by bolt, nor yet by blade
[But] of the berries of the woody nightshade

“Oh father dear lie here be safe (?)
From the path that the devil made”

If you want to listen to a traditional version, you might want to check out this one by English folk singer Stephanie Hladowski.

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Another good reason you might want to see this movie, is because of costumes and sceneries. If you are one of those people, of course. The first are by Annie Symons (that Dracula with Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Da Vinci’s Demons again, The Hollow Crown, Great Expectations). They are totally worth a look. And that shot of late-roman London is amazing.

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