King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is an 2017 Australian-American epic adventure drama film directed by Guy Ritchie and written by Joby Harold. The film stars Charlie Hunnam as King Arthur, and Jude Law as Vortigern. It was released on May 12, 2017 in 3-D and conventional formats. The film grossed $148.7 million worldwide against its $175 million budget with critics “warning audiences to stay away”. Originally, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was meant to be the first movie in a six film franchise; however, those planned sequels were cancelled after the film underperformed at the box office and lost Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow Pictures over $150 million.
The young Arthur runs the back passages of Londinium with his crew, not knowing his royal lineage until he draws the sword Excalibur from the stone. Instantly confronted by the sword’s influence, Arthur is forced to decide where to become involved with his power. Throwing in with the Resistance and an enigmatic young woman named Guinevere, he must learn to master the sword, face down his demons and unite the people to defeat the tyrant Vortigern — who murdered his parents and stole his crown — and become king.
Mordred, a corrupt sorcerer, and his armies lay siege to Camelot, seeking to establish the dominance of magic-wielders (Mages) over mankind. Uther Pendragon, king of the Britons, infiltrates Mordred's lair and beheads him, destroying his forces and saving Camelot. Later that evening, Uther's brother Vortigern, who covets the throne, orchestrates a coup and sacrifices his wife Elsa to sea witches in order to summon a demon knight, who kills Uther's wife and slays him in combat. The only survivor is Uther's son, who drifts away in a boat and eventually winds up in Londinium, where he is found and raised by prostitutes, who name him Arthur.
Arthur grows into a skilled fighter and man of the streets, alongside his friends Tristan and Backlack. The three confront a group of Vikings who had mistreated one of the prostitutes, forcing them to pay her a year's wages for their behavior. Afterwards, the brothel is raided by the Blacklegs, Vortigen's minions, and Arthur learns that the Vikings were guests of the king and attacking them, therefore, constitutes a crime against him personally. Arthur tries to escape the city, but is caught and put on a ship with hundreds of other men. He learns that a mysterious sword has appeared near Vortigen's castle, and the Blacklegs have been forcing all men of Arthur's age to try and pull it from the surrounding stone. When Arthur tries, he pulls the sword out and quickly faints from the vast power it contains. Vortigen meets with him in the dungeon, revealing his true lineage. Meanwhile, a woman, identifying herself as an acolyte of Merlin, meets with Uther's former general, Sir Bedivere.
At Arthur's execution, the mage uses her magic to stage a diversion while Bedivere's men rescue Arthur. Taken to his hideout, Arthur initially refuses to help them, but soon collapses again when he tries to wield the sword. Suspecting that he lacks the willpower to control it, the mage persuades Bedivere to take Arthur to the "Blacklands", the realm where, years earlier, Merlin destroyed Mordred's tower in defiance of his evil. It is revealed that Vortigen was responsible for persuading Mordred to rebel against humanity, having grown jealous of Uther's power. Arthur, having restored the sword's magic, returns determined to destroy Vortigen for his crimes.
Together with his friends and Bedivere's men, Arthur stages a series of ambushes and attacks to force Vortigen out of hiding. Aware that his maid is a spy for Bedivere, Vortigen announces plans to meet with his barons in Londonium, sending a body double in his place. The rebels quickly realize the deception, but attack anyway which was all part of his plan. In the process, Rubio is captured while Backlack is severely wounded and left behind. The others take refuge in a fighters' school, run by Arthur's mentor George, where they are quickly overrun by the Blacklegs. Seeing the mage being held at knifepoint, Arthur is overcome by his rage and unleashes Excalibur's potential, single-handly killing all of the enemy soldiers. As night falls and riots break out all over Londonium, the rebels take shelter in a safe house, where they are soon joined by Rubio and his son Blue.
Knowing that he is mortally wounded, Backlack urges the others to go on and promises that he will be coming after them soon. Unbeknownst to them, the Blacklegs' commander, Kjartan, has been following the wounded Backlack, and he and Vortigen interrogate him for information. Blue sneaks back and, when caught, tries to bluff them that he is simply a worker coming to do his shift. But he can't maintain the masquerade when his father is threatened. Arthur comes back and manages to save Blue, but not before Blue watches his father die.
Afterwards, Arthur, angered by his failures, throws the sword into a lake and runs into the forest. When he stops at a small marsh, the Lady of the Lake pulls him into her realm and shows him a vision of the future, where England has been ruined by Vortigen's rule and the people are left to suffer in misery. Recognizing that only he can put an end to his uncle's reign, Arthur reunites with Bedivere, George, and Percival. When they return to the rebel hideout, however, they discover all of their allies dead, Vortigen having found them thanks to information provided by Rubio. They encounter the captain, who delivers a message from the king: If Arthur does not surrender himself by nightfall, both the mage and Blue will die. Bedivere is able to get the former released in exchange for Arthur surrendering both himself and the sword.
Just as Vortigen is about to kill his nephew, a giant snake controlled by the mage attacks and devours the captain and his men, while the others free Vortigen's prisoners and lead them in a revolt against the Blacklegs. A desperate Vortigen sacrifices his only daughter and is transformed into the demon knight, confronting Arthur in a separate dimension. Despite his fighting skill, Arthur is quickly beaten. Just as he is about to submit, he witnesses a flashback of the moment when his father was struck down, having turned his own body to stone to prevent Vortigen from seizing the sword. Arthur snatches the sword before it impales Uther, who gives him the right to wield it. Arthur then destroys Vortigen's weapon and kills him.
In the aftermath, Arthur, George, and Percival begin building the round table, where Arthur and his knights will meet. Arthur also dissolves Vortigen's pact with the Vikings, declaring that they must respect England's power if they wish to avoid war. Blue and the prostitutes arrive with the crown of Uther, which Arthur accepts. King Arthur then addresses his new subjects, holding the sword aloft in the air.
- Charlie Hunnam as King Arthur
- Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey as Guinevere
- Djimon Hounsou as Bedivere
- Aidan Gillen as Goosefat Bill Wilson
- Jude Law as Vortigern
- Eric Bana as Uther Pendragon
- Mikael Persbrandt as Kjartan
- Lorraine Bruce as Syrena
- Hermione Corfield as Syren
- Annabelle Wallis as Maid Maggie
- Kingsley Ben-Adir as Wetstick
- Neil Maskell as Backlack
- Javan Hirst as Borin
- Millie Brady as Princess Catia
- Thomas Metcalfe as Supporting Mage
- David Beckham as Blackleg Leader
- Katie McGrath as Elsa
- Michael McElhatton as Jack's Eye
- Kamil Lemieszewski as Merlin
In January 2014, Warner Bros set Guy Ritchie to direct a new multi-film version of the King Arthur legend. The first film titled Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur, with Lionel Wigram as producer and Joby Harold as screenwriter. It is the first installment of a planned six film series.
Idris Elba was in talks to play a Merlin-esque figure who trains and mentors Arthur. When Elba did not sign on to the film, the director continued to look for an actor to play the role. Charlie Hunnam, Ritchie's choice for the role, will play King Arthur. Elizabeth Olsen was in talks for the female lead. However, on September 18, it was Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey who was cast to play Guinevere. On November 14, Jude Law was in talks to play the lead villain role in the film. On February 11, 2015, Eric Bana was added to the cast to play Uther, the father of King Arthur. Mikael Persbrandt joined the film on March 6, 2015 to play a villainous role.
Filming in Windsor Great Park was underway in February 2015, then later in North Wales from March 2, 2015. Later on March 10, 2015, Ritchie tweeted a photo and confirmed the first day of shooting. In April 2015, filming took place in Snowdonia, where locations used were Tryfan, Nant Gwynant near Beddgelert and Capel Curig. Early in July filming continued in the Shieldaig, Loch Torridon and Applecross areas of Wester Ross in the Scottish Highlands. One day of filming also took place at The Quiraing on the Isle of Skye. Filming also took place at Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden. Filming ended on December 11, 2015.
The film was set for a July 22, 2016 release, but on December 21, 2015 Warner Bros. moved the date from July 22, 2016 to February 17, 2017 alongside Maze Runner: The Death Cure. On January 21, 2016, Warner Bros. announced it would be pushed back from February 17, 2017 to March 24, 2017. The title was changed to King Arthur: Legend of the Sword in July 2016.
The trailer was released on July 23, 2016 during the 2016 San Diego Comic-Con and was attached to screenings of Mechanic: Resurrection, Shut In, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Don't Breathe.
In December 2016, the release was pushed back from March 24, 2017 to May 12, 2017. It was originally planned for an IMAX release, as evident in the Comic-Con trailer, but was cancelled due to it being postponed and will only receive non-IMAX presentations.
The first extended TV spot was released on January 22nd, 2017 and was shown on the 2017 NFC Championship Game on Fox Broadcasting Company between the Atlanta Falcons and the Green Bay Packers and the 2017 AFC Championship Game on CBS between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New England Patriots.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword grossed $39.2 million in the United States and Canada and $109.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $148.7 million, unable to recoup its massive production budget of $175 million.
In North America, the film was released alongside Snatched and was initially projected to gross around $25 million from 3,702 theaters during its opening weekend. It made $1.15 million from Thursday night previews at about 3,200 theaters, but after making just $5.3 million on Friday, weekend projections were lowered to $15 million. It ended up debuting to $14.7 million, finishing third at the box office. Deadline.com noted that due to the film's $175 million production budget, as well as at least an additional $100 million spent on marketing, the film was destined to be a box office bomb. Regarding the cost of the film, the site quoted one finance expert as saying: "Make original IP for a cost effective price. If it works then spend more if necessary on the sequel. King Arthur should have been done for $60M-$80M. Warner Bros. had no reason to spend $175M-plus on this picture." Comparing its opening to cost, IndieWire called the film's failings "historic".
The film debuted at #1 in an estimated 29 countries, including Russia and Scandinavia, with markets to follow in the coming weeks including the origin of the film's plot, the United Kingdom, as well as France, South Korea and Australia.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 27% based on 136 reviews, and an average rating of 4.6/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword piles mounds of modern action flash on an age-old tale – and wipes out much of what made it a classic story in the first place." On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, to film has a score 41 out of 100, based 41 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". On CinemaScore, audiences gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale, with 56% under the age of 35 and 59% men.
Writing for The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw gave the film a generally positive review stating: "Guy Ritchie’s cheerfully ridiculous Arthur is a gonzo monarch, a death-metal warrior-king. Ritchie’s film is at all times over the top, crashing around its digital landscapes in all manner of beserkness, sometimes whooshing along, sometimes stuck in the odd narrative doldrum. But it is often surprisingly entertaining, and whatever clunkers he has delivered in the past, Ritchie again shows that a film-maker of his craft and energy commands attention, and part of his confidence in reviving King Arthur resides here in being so unselfconscious and unconcerned about the student canon that has gone before."
In a negative review of the film for the Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips questioned the long-term longevity of the projected and planned series of six Arthur films from Ritchie stating: "I'm no businessman, but plans for a six-film franchise may be optimistic. Optimism is nowhere to be found in Ritchie's movie itself. It is a grim and stupid thing, from one of the world's most successful mediocre filmmakers, and if Shakespeare's King Lear were blogging today, he'd supply the blurb quote: 'Nothing will come of nothing.'". Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com gave the film one-and-a-half out of four stars, stating that despite the potential for a revisionist King Arthur story with "[t]he Ritchie sense of style", the overall problem is the film's lack of modulation: "Ritchie keeps rushing us along for two hours, as if to make absolutely certain that we never have time to absorb any character or moment, much less revel in the glorious, cheeky ridiculousness of the whole thing."
Alissa Wilkinson of Vox critiqued the film is "surprisingly good, and surprisingly political" in relation to the era of Brexit, which makes a distinct case for moderate English populism in redefining what the country is in the modern day just as it was when Arthur emerged in pre-Christian Britain in the 5th century. She writes the film is "...often good...occasionally, it’s even pretty great.
- King Arthur: Legend of the Sword at Metacritic
- King Arthur: Legend of the Sword at AllMovie
- King Arthur: Legend of the Sword at Box Office Mojo