There is a thought experiment that is used to help make sense of the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. Say you have a cat, a box and a fragile vial of poison. You put the cat and the poison in the box knowing that the vial may break, you lunatic.
At this point, so goes the thought experiment, until we can perceive whether or not the cat is dead, the cat is dead AND alive simultaneously, and it is only when you look into the box that you know whether you have a friend for life or a Korean meal.
I bring this up because I often insist that I prefer a bad movie with great moments than a movie that’s adequate across the board, but Guy Ritchie’s most recent film certainly puts that to the test. It’s almost my favourite film of the year but is full of nigh-unforgiveable blunders that I don’t think I can watch it again. But I don’t regret seeing it. King Arthur is both good and not good and the cat is still in the box.
Well, I might as well start with what’s good about the film. For one, the character of Arthur himself has a pretty interesting arc. Normally interpretations of the Arthur myth focus on the King bit, so despite it being yet another origin story, it at least is for a character who rarely gets one, and it’s an interesting spin on the reluctant hero arc.
In addition, the world itself feels like it desperately needs a hero. You get the sense that this world is falling apart, which is much better than some other chosen one narratives like Harry Potter, where even when Voldemort took over the wizarding world he didn’t seem to do anything. Also, this is a fantasy film that isn’t just Lord of the Rings again, but a more Celtic mystic mythology that is ripe for exploration.
Then there’s Jude Law, who is so moustache-twirlingly evil that he’s hilarious. He’s clearly having the time of his life playing this cartoon super villain and making him campy enough to be fun while still threatening and compelling when he needs to be.
Shame about the rest of the cast, who all have the same personality, that of “Ah’m just one o’ tha lads, apples and pears, apples and pears.” It’s like a Chelsea game but set in the Dark Ages. So it’s identical to a Chelsea game. The only exception is Astrid Frizbee’s mage, whose intense magic power is so devastating that she manages to put a sleep spell on the audience every time she opens her noise-hole and lets out a monotone bored drone.
There’s also the action, and Hollywood, we need to talk. I thought that shaky cam was just a phase, but I’ve seen you doing it again, and you need to stop. I’ve played VR games where you do nothing but ride particularly unstable cows and came out the other end less motion sick than your sword fighting scenes. Come on, you’re better than this, and we just what’s best for you, so just buy a steady-cam already.
Maybe it’s Guy Ritchie himself, though. Nothing in the film seems to last longer than three minutes aside Arthur’s whining. Sometimes it works, like the very snappy but informative way we see Arthur grow from stupid baby to stupid adult, and sometimes it’s stupid, like when an entire other movie’s worth of content gets squashed into an uninspired montage.
But that’s the great dilemma; the montages are good and bad, like the movie itself. You will only enjoy the movie if you enjoy the movie but if you don’t then you won’t. I write this piece a defeated critic, ladies and gentlemen. Is it worth seeing? I don’t really know. A bigger fan of Guy Ritchie or quantum mechanics than I will probably get something out of it and there are worse movies out there, but it also can’t help but disappoint somehow. The cat isn’t dead, but it has a bit of a cold.
Budget: $175 million – Music: Daniel Pemberton – Runtime: 126 minutes
⭐ ⭐ ⭐
And if you want to hear the same opinion with swearing, how about giving this week’s Battleship Potemkast a listen?