King Arthur films have a plagued past, but Guy Ritchie's taking another stab

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, out this Friday, marks the next big budget film hoping for breakthrough box office success — but it's had a heck of a time getting there and is already earning rotten reviews.

Director's take on Arthurian legend has been getting lacklustre reviews

Charlie Hunnam plays Arthur in a scene from Guy Ritchie's King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, out this Friday. Hunnam stars alongside Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou and Eric Bana. (Warner Bros. Pictures via Associated Press)

With a handful of big releases already out (think Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 and The Fate of the Furious), the blockbuster summer movie season is in full swing.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, out this Friday, marks the next big budget film hoping for breakthrough box office success — and it had a heck of a time getting there.

The movie was slated to hit screens last July but has been pushed back numerous times by Warner Bros. The initial version, which clocked in at a hefty 3½ hours long, had to be slashed to just over two hours. Production started back in 2014, with the hope of having it out in two years.

Delays aside, director Guy Ritchie stays optimistic, hoping his take on the Arthurian legend finds an audience that takes something away from it. The movie delves into the life of Arthur as he becomes king, with the role being played by Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam.

"It's supposed to tick two boxes. One is there is some substance under there and there is a [nod] to the original narrative," Ritchie said at the film's Canadian premiere.

"The next part is simply entertainment. So I want people to go in there, feel as if they've seen something fresh and for them to come out, two hours later, feeling as though they've seen something that they haven't seen before."

Arthur a daunting tale to take on

It's a daunting task, given the tale's storied history. There have been many takes on the Arthurian legend, notably Disney's animated The Sword in the Stone and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

And then there are the string of Arthur adaptations that have fallen flat, both critically and financially. The most recent high-profile attempt at telling the story was 2004's King Arthur, starring Clive Owen and Kiera Knightley, but it ended up flopping.

King Arthur’s Charlie Hunnam on the quest for power

6 years ago
Duration 2:04
The British actor stars in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Guy Ritchie's take on the Arthurian legend.

Initial reviews for Ritchie's movie don't look promising, but that doesn't mean filmgoers won't show up to see it, particularly given its star power with actors like Hunnam, Jude Law and Eric Bana.

Hunnam said his role in the movie marked a big moment for his career, elevating him to the role of leading actor.

"By the end of it, I felt like I had at least stepped into the arena of doing the level of work that I had always aspired to do," he said. "It's a journey of growth but for me, the life makes most sense and I feel most centred and happy and nourished when I'm on a film set doing what I love, which is acting."

Hunnam poses for a photo with a fan as he arrives on the red carpet at the Canadian premiere of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword in Toronto earlier this month. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

And what happens if the film flops? 

Perhaps that was on the mind of Hunnam, who brought up how he deals with failure when CBC News asked him about something else — the role power plays in the film.

"With every failure comes an equivalency to potential to grow so that's really what it's about is about cultivating a robust enough sense of self-belief to be able to withstand the inevitable failures that we all encounter," he said.

"Dust yourself off every time you get knocked down. Pick yourself back up and keep on marching forward to whatever destiny it is that you're trying to reach."


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