King Arthur: Legend of the Sword proceeds from the assumption that someone’s got to jazz up that moldy old Arthurian legend, and Guy Ritchie is just the one to do it. Charlie Hunnam stars as Arthur, who, as a child, was saved from the clutches of demonic King Vortigern (Jude Law) and spirited to safety. Later, he’ll return to Vortigern’s kingdom and pull that stubborn Excalibur from the stone.
But the path to that moment is a morass of scenes soldered together with Ritchie’s trademark chop-shop editing and scrappy, streetwise dialogue–even if the streets in question are muddy paths in mythical 5th century England. It’s all more wearying than fun. Except for Law, whose courtly sangfroid can elevate even the dumbest roles. As power-mad Vortigern, he’s like a medieval knight carved from the coolest marble, sprung from the crypt just to raise hell. His chronically arched eyebrow is the movie’s only real magic.
This appears in the May 22, 2017 issue of TIME.
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