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Cinema in Focus: ‘King Arthur - Legend of the Sword’

2 Stars — Dark

Guy Ritchie’s new film, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, is a mixture of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Mad Max. Filled with action, magic, swords, darkness and an unlikely hero, this version is far from the fairytale images of Camelot we’ve all come to love and expect.

This is also seen in that there is no romance in this film. Instead, the lover is sacrificed to gain evil power, and Arthur’s mother dies leaving him to be raised in a brothel instead of a palace. It is not difficult to imagine how this reimagining is a reflection of where our entertainment tastes have taken us.

The title role is played by multiple characters as Arthur grows through the years, but as an adult he is played believably by Charlie Hunnam. Playing Arthur similar to his portrayal of Jax on Sons of Anarchy, this Arthur is handsome, violent and troubled.

At the age of 2, Arthur (Zac Barker) watched the empowered evil Vortigern (Jude Law), a historical name similar to Voldemort of Harry Potter fame, kill both his mother and father. Orphaned, Arthur is cast upon the river as a Moses-figure and is taken from the water by harlots who raise him in their brothel. Living on the streets, Arthur learns to survive and thrive by his intelligence and prowess.

But when Vortigern’s power increases, the water recedes and leaves Excalibur exposed, calling for the son of the murdered king to come and avenge his death. Vortigern attempts to use this threat as an opportunity to discover where Arthur is and kill him.

It is this attempt to destroy any threat to his throne that is the main theme of the film and also reflects another biblical reference to King Herod. Vortigern does not realize either the power that Arthur can achieve through Excalibur or the power of the group working with him.

One such person is The Mage (Astrid Bergès​-Frisbey). As her name implies, Mage uses magic to not only control the elements but the animals. It seems that in this telling of the tale, The Mage and Merlin (Kamil Lemieszewski), who empowered Excalibur, are portrayed to be a practitioners of the occult magic of the Egyptian Book of Abramelin. The battle in the end is between good and evil magic more than between two humans.

The rating of PG-13 is certainly deserved by this dark film. Although good defeats evil, and Arthur does create equality as depicted by his round table and does protect the children being sold into slavery, it is a struggle to get there.

For those who love fantasy it is well-done with amazing cinematic imagery, sets and skills.

Discussion

» How did you experience this remake of the story of Arthur and Camelot? Did you find it an interesting twist of the tale or a disappointment? Why do you answer as you do?

» In this tale there is no romantic element represented by Guinevere, but there are several father-son relationships explored. This is seen not only with Arthur and his father, but Blue (Bleu Landau) and Back Lack (Neil Maskell). Why do you think love is explored this way and not in the traditional romance of the King Arthur tale? Is it just that it is early in Arthur’s life or is there another reason?

» The willingness of Vortigern to sacrifice the life of his beloved wife and daughter to gain power is an analogy for when we are willing to sacrifice family for more money, fame or power. Why do you think people would make such a Faustian bargain?

— Cinema in Focus is a social and spiritual movie commentary. Hal Conklin is a former mayor of Santa Barbara and Denny Wayman is the retired pastor of Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara and lead superintendent of Free Methodist Church in Southern California. For more reviews, visit www.cinemainfocus.com, or follow them on Twitter: @CinemaInFocus. The opinions expressed are their own.

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