Pointless Nonsense

Posted in movies by Bill on May 13, 2017

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is Guy Ritchie’s adaptation of the Camelot legends with Charlie Hunnam and Jude Law. It’s not very good. 30 minutes into the movie, I believe literally every woman who appeared on screen was either fridged (killed to make the male characters sad and motivate their subsequent actions) or they are prostitutes (and one of the prostitutes would later be fridged!). And there’s a really irritating David Beckham cameo. The only good scenes were the ones that felt completely out of place in a King Arthur movie, the Lock Stock/Snatch type scenes involving telling of stories that jump between the person telling the story and the story itself and frequently interrupted by the people hearing the story.

But really it’s mostly notable for how I amazingly misunderstood a major element of the story, which will contain significant spoilers, because I’m still trying to dissect how it happened:

Ok so until discussing the movie afterwords, I was under the impression that Jude Law’s character, the main villain of the story, was also Merlin. Which I now see is 100% not the case. I was under that impression for a variety of reasons:

  • I don’t know very much about Arthurian legend. Arthur, Uther, Guinevere, Lancelot, Morgan le Fay, the lady of the lake, and Merlin[1] is the complete list of characters I actually know. So I was looking for and expecting a Merlin character. I now believe that though Merlin is mentioned on many occasions, he actually only appears for about 3 seconds? Though I could be wrong, because I was obviously completely wrong about Merlin for the entire movie.
  • I didn’t pay close attention to the trailers, so I didn’t know Jude Law was the villain going into it. Maybe if I’d been expecting him to be evil, I wouldn’t have jumped to Jude Law = Merlin assumptions so quickly.
  • It glosses over a lot of the backstory or jumped around while telling it. Partly, I think this was because they assumed we already knew the gist, so if they didn’t spend much time making everything clear, no big deal. Obviously if everyone in the audience was like me, this would qualify as a big mistake.
  • The movie opens on a giant battle, Jude Law (I think) hands Excalibur to Uther, who then uses it to kill the first bad guy. But he does so with what seems to be magical help from Jude Law (he’s looking all serious and stuff and making great effort even though he’s just standing there and his nose starts bleeding). So I’m thinking “oh he’s like the keeper of Excalibur and a magic guy and he helps defeat Mordred so this must be Merlin right?”
  • Then there’s a big meeting with Uther and his lieutenants, and they discuss Jude Law having studied with mages, and how Merlin did something to get Excalibur from the mages and brought it to them. I think at this point my preconceived notion of Jude Law being Merlin at this point made me assume they were all talking about him in both senses, and not that they were talking about “Merlin, the guy who is not here and who isn’t really in the movie.”
  • Then Jude Law does his big evil thing that involves a bunch of magic. And I’m thinking “WTF?” But I figured that was just a crazy story choice to keep things fresh by making the villain a known good guy. Plus the way I was understanding (or misunderstanding) the backstory, I could see an interpretation where Jude Law is like a bad guy that could go down in history as a good guy, because even though he was an evil king and did a bunch of bad stuff, I thought he was responsible for bringing Excalibur to Camelot, defeating Mordred, and ultimately making Arthur into the person he is to ascend to the throne. I was thinking it was some kind of… modern comment on the gray nature of heroes and villains and all.
  • While doing his big evil thing, he consults with three tentacled underwater magic women. Who I also thought were like a twisted version of the lady of the lake to match this twisted Merlin. Of course they do later introduced the actual lady of the lake… no idea who the tentacled underwater magic women are… but by that point I had cemented my misconception that Merlin was the evil king, so that wasn’t enough to undermine my false assumptions.
  • When Jude Law is king, they keep calling him Vortigern, but… I gather now that he’s a common villain in King Arthur stories, but the name didn’t ring a bell to me. I thought maybe it was Merlin’s last name, or his first name and Merlin was his last name? And they kept saying stuff about Merlin when he was around, that weirdly could apply to him (if, like me, you’d completely misunderstood the movie up to that point). Everything Merlin does that’s relevant to the plot happens before the movie starts, so I thought we were just being filled in on Jude Law’s backstory.
  • There was even a scene where a mysterious girl character is introduced, and Djimon Honsou (I think) is like “you’re with Merlin, aren’t you?” And she doesn’t respond, and then it cuts somewhere else for a while, but she turns out to be a good guy. I assumed that scene meant “you’re evil aren’t you?” and then we’re left to wonder whose side she’s on, but ultimately we’re told that no, she’s not with evil Jude Law Merlin.

Ultimately, in the movie I was watching, Merlin is Uther’s brother who goes to study magic where he befriends Mordred. Together, they decide to become evil and unlock some kinda dark magic, but evil Merlin double crosses him, makes Excalibur, and sneaks off back to his brother. The sword combined with his brother’s kingliness is enough to take down Mordred, then evil Merlin betrays his brother has he planned to all along. He basically used Mordred unlock that evil magic and gather power or whatever, then used Uther and Excalibur to betray Mordred, then in turn betrayed Uther. But in the actual story of the movie, Vortigern and Mordred decide to be evil, Merlin catches wind of it and makes Excalibur and gives it to Uther to defeat Mordred, and when Vortigern makes his power play, Merlin basically doesn’t do anything (though the lady of the lake and the mage are apparently his associates who did do stuff).

It’s possible there was a definitive thing that I should have picked up on at some point or another. I can partly blame some hubbub with the person next to me in the theater, who I think had some kind of minor medical emergency or something? She and her friend made a big production about getting up at some point, and they were gone for like 20 minutes, and then came back. I was worried she might be sick or something or need help, but she did eventually get up and walk out on her own so I guess it couldn’t have been that bad. Anyway I did miss a couple minutes from being distracted by that, but I don’t think it would have mattered. (also, normally I think “how can you miss that much of a movie and still come back?” but they may have been less confused about what was going on than I was).

I think I got more entertainment out of trying to figure out how I got the plot so fucked up than I got out of the whole movie otherwise. So… yay?

  1. Arthur, Uther, and the Lady of the Lake are definitely in this. Morgan le Fay definitely is not. Merlin I think appears on screen kinda from behind in a flashback for a few seconds. The girl from the last bullet point, who I thought was about 15 but the actress is apparently 30, wikipedia indicates she either is Guinevere or was at one point supposed to be Guinevere, but she has no name in the movie I don’t think. Lancelot doesn’t appear, I don’t think, but might be in the movie but isn’t given that name yet? Technically I knew the name Mordred, but I had no idea it was from the King Arthur legends, I just knew him as the never-aging son of Morgan le Fay from the Justice League cartoons.

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