King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Parent Review

With a shadier past than some of the other tales of this legendary king, this Arthur offers dark, epic battles with only a little redeeming light.

Overall C-

The classic tale of King Arthur is adapted to the big screen again -- this time Charlie Hunnam plays the man destined to be ruler.

Violence D+
Sexual Content C+
Profanity C-
Substance Use A-

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong language.

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The origin story of the ancient British ruler is the topic of interest in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. If you have romantic memories of your grandmother’s musical version of Camelot, or respect for the religious defender depicted in 2004’s King Arthur, you may be a little surprised at this version of the once and future king’s sordid childhood.

Orphaned after the brutal death of his parents, seen umpteen times as the backstory is slowly revealed throughout the film, Arthur (Oliver Barker as a child, Charlie Hunnam as an adult) grows up living in a brothel. His coming of age as a street kid who learns to gamble, cheat and steal is fast forwarded in front of us in a briskly edited montage. Now he’s settled into a somewhat comfortable life as a gang leader and protector of a group of prostitutes, so he would rather stash his cash than deal with the repressive political views of the country’s leader, King Vortigern (Jude Law).

What Arthur doesn’t know is Vortigern is actually his uncle. The power-hungry usurper is obsessed by a prophesy that a direct descendant of the rightful king will one day pull the sword Excalibur from a rock in which it’s planted, and become the new guy in charge. To prevent this, the wicked monarch has been rounding up all the young men in the kingdom hoping to root out possible contenders. So far, Arthur has been able to lay low. But after a visiting Viking (Mikael Persbrandt), who’s doing shady business with the king, beats up one of Arthur’s working girls, the entrepreneur’s interference makes him a man of interest.

Consistent with many Arthurs of past movies, our protagonist is a reluctant hero. Once he discovers his hands can remove the sword, it takes what feels like decades before he finally accepts his calling as the chosen one tasked with reclaiming the kingdom and dispatching its evil ruler. Director Guy Richie does his best to keep the audience engaged with lots of stab-fests while we wait for Arthur to find his big boy pants, gird up his loins and swing the magic weapon.

Battles galore will be the main caution for families considering watching the rise of this supposedly peace-loving king. The film is a shish kabob party offering a menu of virtually every sharp implement imaginable running through countless humans. A few explosions offer a colorful relief from the monochromatic drab of stone and steel. Blood effects are frequent, especially during two very personal skewerings when a man takes the life of his wife and daughter. We also see some strange human-squid-like creatures (with topless human female torsos), dangerous giant animals, enchantments and scary magical transformations. A smattering of profanities, including a sexual expletive, complete the concerns for teen viewing.

The best that comes from these two conflict-fraught hours is a message about accepting responsibility and recognizing the negative consequences of apathy. However, a hero who would rather stay anonymous while working the black market, along with the pervasive violent portrayals, will likely make previous Arthurian tales more tempting.

Directed by Guy Ritchie. Starring Annabelle Wallis, Charlie Hunnam, Aidan Gillen. Running time: 127 minutes. Theatrical release May 12, 2017. Updated

Get details on profanity, sex and violence in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword here.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword Parents Guide

Learn more about the legend of King Arthur.

How does King Vortigern use fear to control his subjects? Why does he find this power so intoxicating? What price is he willing to pay to maintain his rule? Have you ever been tempted to use unethical means to get your way?

Why is Arthur reluctant to get involved in the fight? What illegal things does he do to keep himself feed and clothed? What makes him more honorable than his uncle? What things eventually motivate him? What would it take to inspire you to put your life on the line?

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