Game of Thrones cameos are rarely so intrusive as to draw one out of the scene; more often background musicians performing their craft, or the odd extra. That said, we’d almost certainly have noticed Charlie Hunnam, as the Sons of Anarchy star claims he’d once been offered an appearance.
The last King Arthur movie from 2004, the one directed by Antoine Fuqua and starring Clive Owen and Keira Knightley, made just $52 million domestically against a $120 million budget, numbers that don’t exactly suggest a hungry audience clamoring for more Arthurian content. But not even a marginally popular brand is immune to Hollywood’s current reboot fixation, and so here is Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Fuqua’s version, made in the wake of Gladiator, purported to be “the untold true story that inspired the legend.” Ritchie takes more liberties, unless I’m mistaken and the real Arthur’s dad fought elephants the size of mountains and wielded a sword that could stop time. His film draws inspiration from superhero stories and medieval fantasy shows. The target audience for his film appears to be people who wish Game of Thrones was less complicated and didn’t have any sex or nudity.
I’m not sure why, but I’m really excited for Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for a supporting class that includes Eric Bana and Jude Law leveling up his Young Pope to a Young Evil Sorcerer. Maybe it’s because the last few trailers featured music by Led Zeppelin and I really enjoyed the synergy of folk-inspired rock with the film. Or maybe it’s just because there’s something endearing about Ritchie’s fight aesthetic, one that seems about ten years out of date (or whenever it was the last Matrix movie hit theaters).
Less than 100 years ago, there were still uncharted areas of this planet. In an age of cell phones, satellite images, and instantaneous access to the totality of human information, it can be difficult to envision such an era — at least until a film like The Lost City of Z brings it to vivid life.
Popular culture travels in waves. A decade or so ago, when every studio was trying to copy The Matrix and start their own action franchises dripping with self-serious stylization and slow-motion fights, I would’ve killed for a summer movie that took a grounded approach to heroes and villains. Now, after several years of Marvel movies and grimdark blockbusters, the pendulum has swung back the other way. It’s not that Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword looks like a good movie, per se. It’s just that I’m in a place where I can really appreciate its goofiness.
James Gray’s newest film The Lost City of Z has quietly become a hit with critics and Gray devotees ever since debuting at last year’s New York Film Festival. It’s about to hit theaters here, and its newest trailer, while the briefest look we’ve gotten of it so far, shows off the immense scope of what looks like a modern movie that dreams of being an Old Hollywood epic.
It’s amazing how much difference a song makes. We’ve been treated to several teasers for Guy Ritchie’s upcoming King Arthur: Legend of the Sword movie, and to this point, I would have described them all as just OK. Ritchie’s particular brand of historical fiction and modern action aesthetics — including his signature fast-slow-fast brand of fight choreography — is something I’ve gone back and forth on a little bit in the last few years. I’m not a big fan of Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies, but I did rather enjoy The Man From U.N.C.L.E., meaning King Arthur was kind of a net zero in my book.
James Gray got played hard on his last release, the classically-minded drama The Immigrant. The film earned rapturous reviews out of its premiere at Cannes and landed a distribution deal with the power players at the Weinstein Company — who then let it languish in obscurity before quietly releasing it over a year later. The film was a triumph among critics but a huge missed opportunity from an industry perspective. Hopefully, Gray will have a better go with the less domineering Amazon Studios, who will release his new picture The Lost City of Z in April.
Is Guy Ritchie still one of our most interesting Hollywood filmmakers? After beginning his career with indie standouts Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch, Ritchie has settled into a kind of forgettable jumble of big budget movies that hold their own both with critics and at the box office. I would certainly describe the Sherlock Holmes movies and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as solid, but ‘solid’ isn’t the type of praise we typically issue to one of our best directors. And King Arthur: Legend of the Sword seems ready to continue this streak. The Arthurian legend with GoPros? Solid. Not great, but solid.
James Gray's latest effort The Lost City of Z caused no small commotion when it debuted earlier this year to close out the New York Film Festival. The filmmaker already enjoys a small but dedicated fanbase, and after his 2014 film The Immigrant got all but buried by its distributor the Weinstein Company, Gray's devotees were eager to see what he'd cooked up this time. Among the splashy debuts for The 13th and 20th Century Women, Gray delivered a work of knotted moralities and visual splendor, and those parties present left the theatre with a consensus of breathless praise. Now, we commoners can get an eyeful of the film before its debut in April from Amazon and Bleecker Street.