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The following contains spoilers for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. Go see the film, then come back.
Guy's Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of The Sword is exactly as off the wall as you would expect a Guy Ritchie King Arthur movie would be. It wasn't without its charm, though it must be said a lot of that charm came from other places. While watching this weekend's King Arthur film, I couldn't help but notice all the moments the film had that seemed strikingly familiar.
I'm still not sure if King Arthur: Legend of the Sword qualifies as a good movie, but it certainly qualified as a fun one. Of course, part of that may be all the title touches that the film seemed to borrow from other great fantasy films. Did anybody else watch King Arthur and find themselves thinking of other movies? Here are the ones that came to mind, for us.
Initially, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword doesn't fully explain what happened to Arthur's father Uther. Then, in a later flashback sequence, we discover that he was killed by a swordsman who either has a skull for a helmet, or possibly a face. All I could see when I looked at that was General Kael, the leader of the evil army in Ron Howard's Willow. Here, the skull is clearly a mask, and it's white instead of black, but it's hard to argue that the two characters don't look remarkably alike. When they're mounted on horseback, especially, they could be brothers.
Rodents of Unusual Size
One of the greatest fantasy movies ever is unquestionably The Princess Bride. One of the most famous scenes in that film is when Westley and Buttercup enter the fire swamp and are attacked by the Rodents of Unusual Size (R.O.U.S.s). So it was humorous to see Arthur enter his own fire swamp in this movie, called the Darklands, and see him attacked by his own giant rodents. They're not nearly as big as the R.O.U.S.s, to be sure, but they're larger than your average rat and they're perfectly capable of leaping long distances to bit off Arthur's face.
Guy Ritchie's next big film project will be the live-action version of Aladdin and he's said that because of his four kids, he knows Disney very well. Perhaps this is why one of his characters was so obviously influenced by The Little Mermaid. Jude Law's character needs help to take control of the kingdom and so he goes to a creature who is a large, tentacled sea dweller who is capable of using magic to grant great abilities to others. In both cases, magic has a price. In the Disney movie, the price is a lot less bloody. The only thing missing was having the creature explain the situation in song.
Snakes are an important part of the new King Arthur movie. We see snakes of all sizes in the Darklands and then, at the end of the film, a snake as large as the castle shows up in an act of Deus ex reptilia. But if you're going to bring a giant snake into a movie, you're going to have to do better than Conan the Barbarian. Granted, in that film Conan had to fight the snake, not ally himself with it, but one still can't ignore that everything about that sequence felt a bit familiar. I'm not convinced that this wasn't the same snake.
Seeing Through the Eyes of Animals
One of the most interesting characters in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword that doesn't get nearly enough attention is the Mage. The proof of this is that the name of the character is just Mage. I have a different name for her, Beastmaster. Her magic is more druid than mage, as it appears to be primarily nature based. This includes that ability to control animals and to see through their eyes. This reminds me of the classic sword and sorcery B-movie, The Beastmaster where the hero also looks through the eyes of a golden eagle. King Arthur even uses the same breed of bird.
A Band Of Merry Men
The idea of a group of outlaws hiding out in the wilderness is hardly a new idea. It's been done countless times before. But there was something about the group that ended up surrounding Arthur that made me think of the Kevin Costner version of Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. It was likely the fact that the second in command of the group was, coincidentally, a Muslim in both cases. In Prince of Thieves, it was Morgan Freeman's Azeem. In Legend of the Sword, it was Djimon Hounsou's Bedivere. The trees have been replaced with a cave as the base of operations, but otherwise, it all looks the same.
The final battle of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword might also look familiar. It takes place at the top of the tower and it leads to a sword fight against a magically infused being dressed all in black. Also, the entire thing is bathed in blue. This reminded me very much of the battle on Weathertop from The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. The same blue light surrounds everything and when Arthur appears to be defeated, everything takes on an even more surreal appearance, similar to the way the world looks to Frodo while wearing the ring.