Movie review: King Arthur: Legend of the Sword 

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’m still playing catch up with the summer movies, so let’s review a picture that some people (small numbers of them as it tanked at the box office) saw last month. It’s King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword.

IMDb summary: Robbed of his birthright, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy – whether he likes it or not.

A few general thoughts on the background of the movie: 1. I’m actually a fan of the 2004’s version of King Arthur. It used to be one of my favorite nonanimated childhood movies and the archery sequence on the lake combined with Lord of the Rings: Two Towers final battle were two reasons why I took up archery. 2. While the trailers for the film looked fine, I never expected it to succeed at the box office or to turn a big profit. Neither the two leads are big box office draws, nor is the mythology that the film is based on a hot property. So, bearing that in mind, who, the hell, approved a $175 million budget for this picture?

Writing

2017’s King Arthur’s screenplay was credited to the director Guy Ritchie, producer of HP films Lionel Wigram, and, the writer of the new Robin Hood and The Flash movies, Joby Harold. The Judge’s director David Dobkin contributed to the story as well. In general, the writing was of mixed quality. I thought that the narrative (broadly speaking) was fairly straightforward (an hour of Arthur being called into action, and another hour of him attempting to defeat Jude Law’s character), however, the details within the story were really convoluted and even confused (there was too much happening at once).

Thematically, the concepts of egoism and power were suitably touched upon. The ending teases of the round table and all the knights were also pleasant. Other than that, since I don’t know much of King Arthur mythology from the legends, I can’t comment on the stuff they did or didn’t use.

The script also made a lot of interesting choices with the characters. For example, Arthur was written as a witty, talkative and borderline cocky individual – all these ideas are in opposition to the Arthur I’ve alway imagined – serious, reserved, yet quietly proud (basically, the 2004’s movie’s version). Still, overall, I was quite pleased with a different take on a character. I have also seen a lot of complaints online about the female characters of this film, mostly the lack of them. I can definitely see where these people are coming from – a few female characters that are introduced are either sacrificed, portrayed as obese or sexualized tentacled mermaids or are used for decoration purposes. And yet, the main mage character was also a female and she did shine in the movie and displayed her powers (really vaguely defined ones) in a spectacular fashion. The informant female character did not have much to do but at least she was present. Hers and Jude Law’s characters interactions were actually quite neat.

Directing, Editing and the Soundtrack

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’s and RDJ’s Sherlock Holmes’s director Guy Ritchie helmed King Arthur and did an okay job. The high fantasy medieval setting (which I’m a fan of) was realized quite well (I’m a sucker for the combination of good historical costumes, sword fights, archery, and magic). The epic scope of the film was also worthy of praise. However, the mediocre CGI was quite infuriating, especially in the movie that cost this much to produce. The action scenes – filmed in a video game-like close-ups and slow motion – could have been better too.

The elements of the film, which are the most discussion worthy, were editing and sound design/mixing. The soundtrack on its own (by Daniel Pemberton) was really good and it was, at times, inventively paired with the visuals. However, some combos of image and music did not work. However, even in the bad combos, the song choices weren’t as unfitting as they were in Suicide Squad. A lot of these combination sequences were edited in a music video style – a lot of jump cuts, short snippets of dialogue, and a fast pace. On their own, these sequences seemed quite unique and entertaining (their explosive energy was amazing). However, when these quick sequences were followed by long, drawn-out scenes of people sitting and talking, the final effect turned out to be quite jarring and the whole film – uneven.

 

Acting

  • The two leads of the film were played by Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law. I really liked Hunnam in the titular role and would love to see him getting more cinematic roles but I doubt that that will happen, due to the poor box office of this picture. He previously played the lead in the Pacific Rim and a supporting part in Crimson Peak. The Lost City of Z is his other 2017 release. Jude Law’s (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Genius, Anna Karenina) performance, to my mind, was the best part of this film. He looked good (his armor was basically the silver version of Dominic Cooper’s armor in Warcraft) and he seemed menacing. In the final battle, I would have rather seen him fighting in the said armor rather than a generic CGI monster (his evil form). I also thought that the announcement of Law as the Young Dumbledore in Fantastic Beasts sequel will give this movie a boost and some free promo but it doesn’t seem like the said casting news helped much or at all.
  • The two female characters were played by theFrenchh-Spanish actress Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey from Pirates 4 and by The Mummy’s Annabelle Wallis. I really enjoyed the cool and collected performance of Bergès-Frisbey.
  • King Arthur also employed the talents of two GOT actors that can’t seem to espace the middle ages – Aidan Gillen (Baelish) and Michael McElhatton (Bolton). Gillen (who was also recently in Sing Street) did a good job and I could see shades of Baelish in his performance, while McElhatton’s role was just slightly bigger than a cameo.
  • Another two actors, whose involvememnt is worthy of mention, were Djimon Hounsou (Guardians, The Legend of Tarzan) and Eric Bana (The Finest Hours). They both did a fine job with their limited screeentime.

In short, King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword was, to my mind, not as bad as everyone said. The filmmakers made some weird choices with the editing and music (at least they tried something different) and did overcomplicate the plot which lacked (sort of) female characters, and yet, I was still pretty entertained by the final product.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword

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5 ideas about a movie: Genius

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before Star Trek Beyond, Jason Bourne, and Ghostbusters all roll into theaters, let’s review a smaller film – a historical British drama – Genius.

IMDb summary: A chronicle of Max Perkins’s time as the book editor at Scribner, where he oversaw works by Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others.

  1. I have told you many times that I’m a fan of British contemporary cinema, so I was really excited to see its newest creation. Moreover, I am an English literature student, so the picture’s topic peaked my interest even more. The authors of The Lost Generation are among my favorites, including Hemingway and Fitzgerald. However, I have to admit that, before seeing this film, I was not familiar with the works of Thomas Wolfe. I don’t think that he is as famous as the other two writers, whose works were edited by Perkins. Maybe the length of the novels or their hard subject matter are to blame or maybe I’m just making stuff up. Either way, after seeing and enjoying Genius, I will definitely try reading Look Homeward, Angel as well as Of Time and The River.
  2. Genius’s script was written by John Logan (who is responsible for masterpieces such as Gladiator, The Aviator and Hugo and other pictures like Skyfall and Spectre), based on a book/a true story Max Perkins: Editor of Genius by A. Scott Berg. I did enjoy the writing for the film but I also had problems with it. Nevertheless, if these so called problems or gripes that I had with the plot are historically accurate, I don’t really have a right to complain. I liked the juxtaposition of the rational editor vs. the passionate writer. I enjoyed the literature references (‘War and Nothing?’) as well as the hints to the broader discussion of family vs. career and originality vs. self-discipline. The ideas regarding the role of the editor were also interesting – I do find the question whether the editor changes the book or makes it better rather interesting. In addition, whether the editor should be a ghost in the shadows or a visible part of the book, are both intriguing concepts to explore. The biggest problem/gripe I had with the writing was the character development – I felt that I did not find out enough about any of them and I also always felt that the bodies on screen were characters and not real people who have come to life. This might be the fault of the actors or the direction that the director took.
  3. Speaking about directing, this was the cinematic directorial debut for a Tony-winning  theater director Michael Grandage. I think that he allowed or asked the actors to go a bit over the top – the overacting was obvious. The color palette of the film was weird as well – neither colorful nor colorless – just kinda bland. I wish he would have made a clearer and stronger statement with the visuals, as he should be very skilled in that aspect, having worked with limited spaces of the stage. I also wish that he would have used the setting of Tthe Jazz Era and The Great Depression a bit more – both of these cultural and social epochs were only hinted at in a few scenes. The editing was also kinda uneven – some scenes ended without being resolved or fully explored. I did enjoy the montage where the characters were editing the second book – it was an efficient filmmaking technique, plot-wise. In the  end, I did enjoy the film but didn’t get enough info from it. Then again, it’s a biographical drama and not a documentary.
  4. The main roles of the film were played by Colin Firth (King’s Speech, Kingsman, Magic in the Moonlight) as Maxwell Perkins and Jude Law (Sherlock Holmes, Anna Karenina, Road to Perditionas Thomas Wolfe. I liked their performances, though questioned the slight overacting that Law did. The again, Wolfe was a passionate and energetic person. Nonetheless, the lack of energy on Firth’s side and the too much of everything on Law’s side made them into an odd pair. But maybe that was the point – they had contrasting personalities, but their friendship, although complex, difficult and straining, was indeed transformative and rewarding. However, the question remains, would Wolfe have succeeded without Perkins? He talked about legacy and he even blamed Perkins for changing his manuscripts too much, but they did remain friends until Wolfe’s death.
  5. Other supporting roles were  played by Nicole Kidman (Moulin Rouge!, The Hours, The Paperboy) as Aline Bernstein, Dominic West (Testament of Youth, Money Monster) as Ernest Hemingway, Guy Pearce (Memento, Iron Man 3) as F. Scott Fitzgerald. I didn’t like Kidman’s character at all – Bernstein was portrayed as quite a jealous and stereotypical woman. The scene with the gun was way too much. The again, maybe Bernstein was such a person. West’s portrayal of Hemingway was great – although he only had a single scene, his ironic lines about Wolfe were marvelous. The scenes with Pearce were also great – I really liked the juxtaposition of Fitzgerald and Wolfe.

In short, Genius, sadly, was not a genial film.  I think that fans of English/American literature will enjoy, while casual cinema goers won’t miss out on much if they skip it.

Rate: 3,5/5

Trailer: Genius trailer

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Anna Karenina: the book + the movie

Movie reviews

Good morning!

Welcome to my first ever book v. movie comparison!

Yesterday I’ve finally finished Anna Karenina by XIX century Russian author Leo Tolstoy. This famous novel has been on my radar for a very long time but only last week I actually found time to read it. (My spring break was last week – the week before Easter). As a fan of classical novels and as a history lover, I’ve really enjoyed the book. Prior to reading it, I had no experience with any Russian authors and was kinda bias towards them but Tolstoy’s work completely changed my point of view. Also, despite the fact that I’ve been studying Russian language for quite some time now, I’m still rubbish at it, so I chose to read the book in English instead, though I prefer reading books in their original languages.

The same night, I’ve finished the book, I’ve watched the movie adaptation of it – I chose the newest version – Joe Wright’s 2012 adaptation with Keira Knightley, Jude Law , Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Matthew Macfadyen, Alicia Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson. I believe that the film did justice to Leo Tolstoy’s story and I’m going to explain why I think that.

The director took an interesting approach on the setting of the film. Wright’s choice to portray the story as a theater production was innovative and modern but, at the same time, maintained the feeling of the original material: the posh-ness, the splendor, and the artsy-ness. To my mind, Tolstoy’s characters were very dramatic and sensitive, sometimes even too sensitive. By turning these characters into theater production’s actors, director allowed them to be over-the-top, permitted them to over-react to anything and overanalyze everything. Also, the novel Anna Karenina is extremely long, so I applaud Wright’s ability to tell this complex and lengthy story in 2 hours.  Plus, because all the scenes were set in a theater, they were all shortened but remained true at their core. Moreover, by shortening all of them, the director did not need to cut something out and I always appreciate when book-to-movie adaptations include as much details as they can . (However, in the film one character didn’t attempt suicide as he did in the book and they really compressed the second part of the book into the last 30 minutes of the motion picture). Lastly, the transitions from scene to scene were splendid and flawless.

The visual appeal of the film is unbelievable: the costumes, the hair and the make-up were amazing, the sets – breathtaking and both magical and realistic at the same time. I loved the musical score too! All the actors were perfect in their roles. The dialogue was also really witty and smart. I liked that they cut out all the political discussions: they are interesting to read but not as fun to listen to. (Also, in order to understand some arguments, I usually had to reread those political discussions a few times and you can’t do that in the film).

A few of my favorite scenes:

Both in the book and in the film: Kitty and Levin playing with blocks (if I remember correctly, they used chalk in the book – either way, I loved both versions).

In the book: the first meeting of Anna and Vronsky and the accidental encounter at the train station.

In the film: the ball, the dancing and especially Vronsky/Anna dance.

Both the book and the film explored the themes of society and its judgement if you break certain rules. It also touched on the differences between men’s and women’s rights. In addition, Anna Karenina focuses a lot on the question of adultery and the differences between genders in that aspect. It seems that women are usually the victims: Dolly was the true victim, Betsy – not so much – she could fool around and get away with it while Anna was a completely different story – her circumstances worked against her. Speaking about the men of the book: Stiva was playing with fire and remained unburnt while Vronsky got an unhappy ending. What I’m trying to stay is that, although at first glance it looks like the woman is always the victim, that is not the case sometimes.

Love is another themes explored in this story. To my mind, the story has this nice contrast between its characters: Kitty and Levin were complete opposite of Anna and Vronsky. While one symbolizes the pureness and sensuality of love, the other portrays the passion and the desires. And I, personally, cannot pick one or the other…There is no reason for love…one cannot explain the causes of it…one can just feel it. Additionally, love and jealousy are two sides of the same coin. One cannot exists without the other. This kind of portrayal of love was humane and, though I love fairy-tales (proof), a realistic approach to love is also pleasing and refreshing.

To sum up, despite the fact that I couldn’t relate to any of the characters on any level both in the book and in the movie, I was still mesmerized and completely taken by them. The book broke my heart but the movie just shattered it to pieces completely. From now, both the film and the movie are on my favorite lists and this doomed from the start love story – always on my mind. I only wish that they would make another movie and would focus more on Kitty and Levin this time.

Rate: 5/5 – both the book and the film

Trailer: Anna Karenina (2012)

Next on my reading list – The Perks of being a Wallflower.