REVIEW / ACTION-FANTASY
KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD (PG13)
126 minutes/Opens tomorrow/3.5/5 stars
The story: Vortigern (Jude Law) orchestrates a coup with the help of sorcerer Mordred. His brother King Uther (Eric Bana) is killed, but Uther's infant son, Arthur, is rescued and hidden away in Londinium. When Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) comes of age, the truth of his parentage, if discovered, puts him in grave danger.
Imagine if Guy Ritchie, the director of Sherlock Holmes (2009), RocknRolla (2008) and Snatch (2000), made an epic fantasy drama.
If he were being completely predictable, he might have cheeky lads knocking about some version of mediaeval London, getting into trouble with the coppers (also known as royal guards).
There would be fights, of course, sped up or in slow motion, set to a rock soundtrack, with plenty of quick-cut montages showing capers being pulled off.
In other words, you would think he would have a gangster-gongfu- superhero version of The Lord Of The Rings and, in this case, you would be absolutely right.
In the universe of Ritchie, who also co-wrote this film, Chinese wushu masters, Viking raiders, mad kings, witches, war elephants, Cockney-tough guys and a sword with the power of Thor's hammer all co-exist in merry old England.
It is hard to imagine anyone other than Ritchie who can make it work.
He's become adept at giving facelifts to old brands. He did it with an old television spy thriller (The Man From U.N.C.L.E., 2015) as well as with the fictional detective Sherlock.
Now, with the legend of Arthur, he has succeeded by going to excess.
His Arthurian tale lifts its story from Hamlet, in that there is a dithering prince who must convince himself to kill the uncle who murdered his father to steal the throne.
The rest is pure Ritchie, and it is a Game Of Thrones-style blast, without the nudity or dragons.
But if this origin story is a hit, there are five planned sequels. The nudity and dragons might come yet.