Tag Archives: Djimon Hounsou

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

The film was pitched to the studio as Lord of the Rings meets Snatch. Charlie Hunnam, who won the role of King Arthur only after promising Guy Ritchie that he’d bulk up for it, and offered to fight (and win) the other two in consideration (Henry Cavill and Jai Courtney), said that the description sold him on the movie: “That’s a film I wanted to see.” Unfortunately, we can now say that Hunnam was the only one who did. King Arthur bombed big time at the box office this weekend, earning just $17M against its $175M production budget. Sean and I were part of that tiny 17 million dollar sliver, but only because it was opening night at our local drive-in theatre and we just couldn’t stay away.

Full disclosure, the moment the movie began, I turned to Sean and said “I really don’t like 1200x675movies that mix fantasy and historical.” Sean let out a breath. “You’re going to hate this.” He was right. I kind of knew it too. But as soon as I’d said those words, I realized they were too general. I can’t think of anything off the top of my head, but I’m certain there are plenty of movies who get it right. I know I was thinking of The Great Wall when I said it, as King Arthur’s opening scene immediately put that to my mind, which was a rough way to start. It would later remind me of the egregious Ben Hur remake, an even worse comparison.

The premise is, of course, familiar: King Uther (Eric Bana) has a rocking sword named Excalibur and a shitty younger brother named Vortigern (Jude Law, who only plays bad guys since he lost his hair) who doesn’t love anyone as much as he loves himself, and loves power most of all. He’ll stop at nothing to win and keep the crown, and he slays his way through his own immediate family, spilling their blood to make himself king. His kingdom suffers from his megalomania for years, but just when things go really REALLY bad, Excalibur reveals itself, the sword in the stone that no one can liberate. Vortigern ka-17714r_-_h_2017knows that only his nephew will be able to handle it, so he rounds up all the age-appropriate young men in the kingdom and eventually Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is revealed. And then it’s game ON. Arthur isn’t really motivated to do battle with his ruthless uncle, but a beautiful mage (Astrid Berges-Frisbey) persuades him that it must be so.

Guy Ritchie’s Arthur was raised in a brothel and is a bit of a thug. His gang is fast-talking, full of the saucy wit we’ve come to expect from a Ritchie movie, only now it’s mixed with magic and sorcery and feels wildly out of place. It’s clear Ritchie is aiming for a stylish, genre-bending effort, with anachronisms he doesn’t quite pull off as well as say, Baz Lurhrmann did in Moulin Rouge or even Brian Helgeland with A Knight’s Tale (although the heavy-breathing score is kind of inspired).  This King Arthur is a muscular and masculine movie that’s devoid of plot or character development. There’s no risk of actual tension so instead Ritchie has made sure that “stuff” is always “happening.” The movie just plops you down in the middle of the action, stuff that Ritchie apparently just made up in his head, and expects you to know what he was thinking. If you feel quite confident about your ability to read Guy Ritchie’s mind vis-a-vis magic and ginormous, fantastical pachyderms, you’re set. Otherwise, you’re in for a world of confusion, and the fact that Ritchie is apparently allergic to linear story-telling doesn’t help. One scene is constantly inter-cut with another because Guy Ritchie JUST CAN’T WAIT TO GET TO THE POINT! But will still make you sit through the dreary stuff as well, edited so its dreary-ACTION!-dreary-ACTION!-dreary-ACTION! and you forget which time line you’re actually in, even though they’re probably only separated by about 6 minutes or so, making it all feeling DREARY-DREARY!-DREARIER-DREARIEST!

This was meant to be merely the first installment of a planned six films series; safe to say the other 5 will soon be scrapped. Ritchie might be good at gritty crime dramas, but audiences just aren’t receiving his douchebag approach (hello, David Beckham cameo!) to King Arthur very well. I’ll tell you one redeeming thing though: Charlie Hunnam is indeed fit to be king. Very, very fit. I thought the wardrobe choice for him was interesting but cannot, for the life of me, understand why he wasn’t just shirtless the whole time. His physicality seemed to be of utmost importance to Ritchie, so why not capitalize on his one good idea and call it a day?

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The Legend of Tarzan

Say what?

I’ve seen dozens of Tarzan iterations over the years, but I was still confused trying to follow this one. What I think happens is that we start out meeting Tarzan as a gentleman in England, living as Lord Greystoke, the jungle far behind him. But then his government asks him to go back to the Congo to act as some sort of diplomat, and his beloved wife Jane follows him. Then we start with the flashbacks – to his infancy when his parents are lost and he becomes an adopted beast of the jungle, and also to his first wild meetings with Jane.

Things go badly for Lord Greystoke during his comeback tour. Evil Christoph Waltz is embroiled in slavery and blood diamonds, determined to make his 01-tarzan_w529_h352monarch extremely wealthy. To get to Tarzan, he of course kidnaps Jane. Christoph Waltz has played versions of the same character over and over since he won the Oscar for it in Inglorious Basterds. It doesn’t work here and hasn’t worked in a while, but he’ll keep getting typecast, and we’ll keep suffering. But there’s a trade-off: Samuel L. Jackson is our comic relief, and he’s almost too good at it, stealing scenes from Tarzan himself.

It seems like this Tarzan movie wants to modernize somewhat, with a social conscience, which is good, or at least would have been had Tarzan not been inevitably cast as the great white saviour, swinging from the trees.

It also wants to be a superhero movie with proper villains and ultimate fight sequences – but with Tarzan’s superpower and only weapon being his amazing 8-pack abs. People love to talk about those abs. Poor Alexander Skarsgard worked out 6-7 days a week for months while consuming 7000 calories a day, and then UPPED the workouts to  fourteen times a week while drastically cutting his caloric intake. Sounds brutal. I would be having veritable taco tarzan_1.jpghallucinations. But that’s 6 months or more perfecting his physique (and what was wrong with it to begin with, I wonder? He wasn’t exactly known for being a slouch), and maybe 10 days of memorizing his lines, and that’s “acting.” To be fair, Skarsgard isn’t really the problem here, but he’s also not much of a help. He’s surrounded by 2 Oscar winners and 2 more nominees. If Tarzan is the weak link in your Tarzan movie, your Tarzan movie’s got a problem. And as pretty as he looks, I did wonder how it was that Lord Greystoke, so long removed from the jungle, still had that amazing King of the Jungle body. Jane’s cooking must really suck. Were there even gyms in 1880s England?

I never stopped being frustrated by the hazy flashbacks – why does this feel like a sequel to a movie that was never made? And Skarsgard never found his footing. And Robbie remains a damsel, even though script writers covered their asses by pretending she was a little more feminist, the reality is that she spends most of the movie tied up. It’s too bad it’s not a better movie, but there’s never been a really good Tarzan movie, so why start now?