Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur has just achieved the debatable distinction of being this summer’s first major flop. This Warner Bros. release had a production budget of over $175 million but pulled in only $14.7 million in its opening weekend in wide release. This result means that – when adding in the massive marketing budget – King Arthur will almost certainly lose money for Warner Bros. what went wrong?
Opening in 3702 theaters across the United States, Warner Bros. was probably hoping that King Arthur could form the basis of an entire highly profitable franchise in the coming years. Clearly, that’s not going to be the case.
— Variety (@Variety) May 13, 2017
King Arthur went through various treatments and iterations at Warner Bros. over a period of eight years before it finally made it to the big screen with King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. But the disastrous box office results are being matched by equally humiliating critical reviews by professional critics and moviegoers alike. Currently, it has a 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
It’s anticipated that King Arthur will be in third place behind the Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 steamroller and the Goldie Hawn-Amy Schumer R-rated comedy Snatched. Not a promising turn of events for a property the studio had such high hopes for.
English filmmaker and King Arthur director Guy Ritchie is no stranger to big budget films or franchises. His two Sherlock Holmes films – 2009’s Sherlock Holmes and 2011’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows – did well both critically and at the box-office. In fact, it’s assumed that it some point Ritchie, Robert Downey Junior and Jude Law – who makes an appearance in King Arthur as Vortigern – will get back together for a third Sherlock Holmes film.
— Hollywood Reporter (@THR) May 14, 2017
Yet this time, Ritchie seems to have dropped the ball. As noted by Variety, the film can be considered one long sequence of flashy, overwhelming action scenes that never gel as a movie with a definable plot and characters you care about. In other words, King Arthur isn’t very good.
The actor chosen to play the role of King Arthur himself is Charlie Hunnam, who in any other version of King Arthur might seem totally miscast. However, given that Guy Ritchie has chosen to transform King Arthur into a thinly veiled version of Robin Hood, Hunnam does an adequate job of portraying the character he’s being given – however historically inaccurate and anachronistic it might be.
It’s fairly clear that the real problem with this film isn’t with the actors, but with the director and the writing. As made clear by Variety, the underlying concept of King Arthur here is to transform it from what it supposedly actually was – assuming there was a historical King Arthur – into something it wasn’t. While historians might argue whether there was an actual King Arthur or not; if there was, he wouldn’t have been anything like this.
Of course, historical accuracy isn’t everything. But if you’re going to go away from history and do pure fantasy, it seems like you could do something better than this. After all, Lord of the Rings wasn’t historically accurate or based on anything real, but it was still coherent, majestic and enjoyable.
Depth and majesty are the things really missing in Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur. Ritchie has chosen to substitute high-octane action and lots of CGI special effects. This happens all too often in many movies, and the simple fact is it isn’t possible to patch over the holes in a bad – or even mediocre – movie with computer-generated sleight of hand. Fortunately, the embarrassing box office numbers King Arthur is seeing this weekend virtually guarantee that we don’t have to worry about the studio making King Arthur 2: the CGI Continues.
[Featured Image by Warner Bros.]