Guy Ritchie is an English director who first broke onto the scene in the ‘90s with a pair of hard bitten but quirkily delightful crime comedies called Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch. His style was very much in the wake of Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez coming into cinema and infusing it with professional level panache wedded to a passionate love for grindhouse schlock. Since then, however, Ritchie’s kind of fallen into the background, spending nearly a decade doing nothing but being Madonna’s husband. Even his 2008 return to form with RocknRolla went virtually unnoticed and unimpactful on his future career. Since then Ritchie has successfully followed the route of a lot floundering auteurs such as Bryan Singer or Kenneth Branagh by transitioning into a sought after blockbuster director.
Ritchie’s shot at the big time was 2009’s Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, the film that actually started the Sherlock Holmes craze that persists to this day. Even then Sherlock Holmes was kind of a forgotten blockbuster and more than a little inert, there’s a good reason Sherlock Holmes didn’t blow up the nerd consciousness till Bennedict Cumberbatch slipped into the role a year later. Since then Ritchie’s follow up failed to find a significant audience but he’s still sought for blockbusters with his Man from U.N.C.L.E. remake coming later this year and Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur slotted for next summer.
Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur is the movie I’m talking about today as the first set pics of Charlie Hunam as King Arthur have finally started to filter through. If Guy Ritchie’s career is baffling I understand Hunam’s career even less, he’s one of those curiously serviceable but not really impressive actors who made it big on cable TV and lucked into a shot at the big time. He was alright in Pacific Rim though ended up really subsumed by every other character in the movie and it seems so far his best career move has been dropping out of the Fifty Shades of Grey movie we’ve all agreed to pretend didn’t happen.
As King Arthur he’s so far looking fairly lost and unimpressive, not helped by his very steely modern features. Still that can work in a blockbuster. More often than not in a blockbuster film you need a kind of neutral lead to help the audience vicariously enjoy the thrills while the burden of being cool and interesting falls to the supporting cast. Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur is intended to be the start of a WB Arthurian shared universe because Warner Brothers still isn’t convinced that Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice will really land enough to support a DC Comics movieverse.
It’s still unclear how much of Ritchie’s patented blend of action comedy will be present here, to say nothing of his quirky character introductions and stylish rapid editing. Even Richie’s bad films can boast some directorial flourish like the Sherlock Holmes films or creative set design like Revolver but I'm honestly worried we won’t see either in King Arthur. The visuals so far look more in line with the forgotten Clive Owen King Arthur film from 2004 that attempted to be a historically accurate telling. In these set pics it seems fairly clear Ritchie is grounding his visual tropes in the realm of Game of Thrones.
Game of Thrones has been sneaking into fantasy fiction since 2012 with Snow White and the Huntsman and Vikings and now, between this and The Last Witch Hunter it seems to have come to thoroughly dominant this genre like Lord of the Rings did a decade ago. King Arthur is probably the most egregious iteration of this though given Hunam seems to be wearing Jaimie Lannister’s costume and as far as I can tell is meeting with Melisandre in this last pic.