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Pick it up. You know you want to.

So if we take a really loose version of the Arthurian mythology, marry it to a cockney London (er… Londinium) gangster story, sprinkle in a bunch of references, some in tribute and some mocking, to other fantasy movies… this is what we get? This is what we get. The result is ridiculous and will offend the sensibilities of just about every type of nerd out there. Your history nerds will scratch their heads about everything from wardrobe to chronology to props, your mythology and literary nerds will want to know why King Arthur is suddenly Robin Hood, and your fantasy nerds might be placated by the most awesome magic sword in the history of magic swords, but their literalist tendencies will be set alight and pissed on by this movie’s utter disregard for consistent or coherent world-building. And we already know what the movie nerds think. Spoiler: they are not happy.

For my money, King Arthur is a more enjoyable movie than either of Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock films mostly because it dares to be far more bonkers and far more often at that. But it also has the same issues, including an overly dour colour scheme which mars some otherwise beautiful compositions and sequences. It also has an overly smug lead, which I’ll talk about more later. The visual issues are compounded by a really bad (in my theater anyway) use of 3D. Like, 2005 bad. This movie is so dark that many of the aesthetic details especially in CG-heavy scenes are lost. I would bet that this is not a theater issue but one with the quality of the post-processing, since many people are complaining about the uninspiring visuals of the movie. They aren’t totally correct, there’s a lot to love visually here, but the movie consistently holds itself back by being 3D for absolutely no fucking reason. When I get to see it again, it will not be in 3D and I’m hoping the visual elements register more clearly more often. On the other hand, the music in this movie is brilliant. Even the non-score anachronistic songs. Forget the term for those, but they are well-used here.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is overall a baffling movie. I don’t want to ruin anybody’s fun here, because this movie actually is plenty fun, it’s just that the whole thing doesn’t really come together the way you want it to. There are many elements that work well, especially when the movie isn’t taking itself seriously, but many more that do not. It’s a huge boys’ club, with almost no female characters and the few present get very little to do besides support the male hero or die trying, but it also wins some diversity points by not pretending the medieval world was lily white the way the racists like to. Some will accuse King Arthur, kind of wrong-headedly, of casting it like it’s taking place in Modern London rather than ~500CE Londinium. It’s a fascinating exercise, really, because here we have this remix, this mash-up, and who better to do that with Arthurian myth, especially with the music video sensibility that King Arthur displays, than Guy Ritchie? But honestly, did they ever stop to think if they should do it? No, they did not. They were planning like five of these. I doubt we’ll even get two.


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“No, we aren’t here to molest you.”

Rise of the Guardians looked like a load of Grade A bullshit, a weirdly children-hating (festive!) engine designed to ape the superhero fad and use it against the wee ones. From its uninspired title to the ridiculous conceit that holiday figures are actually magical guardians protecting kids from evil, this seemed like something that could only be made in a creative landscape devoid of all sense of irony or self-awareness. Even the trailer just screamed “trying too hard” with it’s super-warrior reinvention of classic characters like Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, etc and an obvious Hero’s Journey story just like all the rest.

There’s a certain class of critic who, having formed strong preconceived notions about something, will stick to their guns whether the pot of gold at the end of the marketing rainbow is actually shit or gold after all. I am not that guy, I have realized, because I am here to tell you how very wrong I was about Rise of the Guardians. By now, word is coming in from many critics that this movie is actually pretty damn good, one of Dreamworks’ best and yet another annual entry that successfully competes with Pixar’s. I have the seemingly minority view that Brave is one of Pixar’s best movies, and I don’t think Rise of the Guardians is as good, though it’s close. That said, for many people it’s going to be Guardians (or Wreck-It Ralph for the Toy Story crowd) that leads the pack of 2012 animated films. And it’s quite a pack this year. Read the rest of this entry »


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