On paper, few ideas seem duller than attempting the umpteenth cinematic adaptation of the legend of King Arthur, a story that’s been told and told again, and seems less than conducive to innovation at the levels of both narrative and aesthetics. Then again, since Antoine Fuqua’s ill-received, 2004 imagining is our most recent encounter with the classic tale, maybe precisely what we need is a revamped version that lets us forget the staunch mediocrity of its predecessor, if only temporarily. And from the looks of the latest trailer for Guy Ritchie’s stab at the story of sword in stone, this version just might deliver the goods and then some.
What delights the most about the new footage—and what we’d also seen in the previous trailers—is Ritchie’s blatant use of an anachronistic cinematic style to depict a story set in the early A.D. Obviously, it could be argued that any cinematic depiction of a pre-20th century milieu is considered anachronistic, given that film didn’t exist back then, but whereas many filmmakers try to “transport” us to a bygone era through faithful attention to period details, orchestral music that vaguely suggests archaism and unobtrusive camerawork, Ritchie seems to have embraced the modernity of his own retrospective vantage point through the use of slo-mo/fast-mo effects, a moodily desaturated color palette and a heavy rock soundtrack (the last one may be a feature of the trailer alone, but we wouldn’t be surprised if Ritchie somehow worked electric guitar riffs into his film).
In other words, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword seems to be not just a retelling of the classic tale but a self-consciously modern retelling. If Ritchie does end up taking this approach in the finished film, he’ll be joining the ranks of various directors who have taken gleeful creative license with stories set during pre-modern times (among them Zack Snyder, Nicolas Winding Refn and, on account of certain sequences in fantasy thrillers Night Watch and Day Watch, Timur Bekmambetov). While the results have not always been perfect, they have, without fail, been interesting.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword stars Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Djimon Hounsou, Aidan Gillen and Eric Bana. Check out the full trailer above, and catch the film when it hits theaters on May 12.