Marco Nievergelt, "Arthur: Legend of the Sword – a film obsessed with effect rather than substance", The Conversation, 22 May 2017 [online]
Seen on May 22nd, 2017, URL : https://theconversation.com/arthur-legend-of-the-sword-a-film-obsessed-with-effect-rather-than-substance-77834
Cinematic adaptations of the King Arthur story have frequently assigned a central place to the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot – most famously in the saccharine Hollywood remake, First Knight (1995). Not so in Guy Ritchie’s latest remake, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. The film lacks any romantic component and instead foregrounds questions of sovereignty, legitimacy, and authority, by focusing the narrative on Arthur’s ability to wield the magic sword Excalibur.
In doing so, Ritchie follows in the footsteps of a long-standing, distinctively British Arthurian tradition, where the interest focuses on military, strategic and political issues. The most influential medieval versions of the legend invariably concentrate on the problem of sovereignty and the establishment of “British” identity in a divided country threatened by foreign invasion.
Often such adaptations also functioned as commentaries on contemporary concerns. Geoffrey of Monmouth’s hugely influential 12th-century account of King Arthur’s rise and fall in the Historia Regum Britanniae (c. 1136), for instance, was written against the background of the recent Norman invasion and settlement in Britain. It also channelled a number of Welsh oral traditions concerning the prophesied “return” of King Arthur, a native British King destined to expel the invaders.
Thomas Malory’s Morte D'Arthur (c. 1469) similarly gives us a King Arthur at pains to establish his sovereignty in a kingdom torn apart by rival factions, in ways that are clearly reminiscent of the contemporary civil unrest bred by the Wars of the Roses.