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Guy Ritchie's 'King Arthur: Legends Of The Sword' Flops At The Box Office


The mythology of King Arthur has all the ingredients for a hit blockbuster movie - magic, romance, shirtless guys with muscles swinging swords. Guy Ritchie's newest take on the story is "King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword," and it's not good. That's one of the kinder ways of putting it. That's why it may end up losing money at the box office. NPR's Andrew Limbong explains.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: In "King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword," Charlie Hunnam plays Arthur with a touch of bad boy cockiness.


CHARLIE HUNNAM: (As Arthur) I see what you're doing. You're trying to get me to do something razzle-dazzle with that sword.

LIMBONG: But it wasn't quite enough charisma to save the movie. Variety called it loud and obnoxious. Vulture headlined their review with the words formulaic and dumb. Newsday said it was an unsuccessful mix of saucy wit and portentous sorcery. Now, movies can get bad reviews and still do well in ticket sales, but this one didn't.

ANTHONY D'ALESSANDRO: It's a big bomb. There have been bigger, but it's a big bomb.

LIMBONG: That's Anthony D'Alessandro. He covers the box office for Deadline.

D'ALESSANDRO: Sources say it could lose anywhere from 150 to over 200 million.

LIMBONG: That's dollars we're talking. According to the site Box Office Mojo, "King Arthur" made $14.7 million this weekend domestically, just a fraction of its big studio budget. That puts it in the same company as other recent flops like "The Lone Ranger" or "47 Ronin."

D'ALESSANDRO: And then there was "John Carter Of Mars," which actually lost more money at 306 million.

LIMBONG: "King Arthur" doesn't have a history of killing it at the box office.

DORSEY ARMSTRONG: I challenge you to find another figure from literature that is as well-known and as popular throughout time and around the world as "Arthur" is.

LIMBONG: That's Dorsey Armstrong, professor of medieval literature at Purdue University and editor in chief of the academic journal Arthuriana. Dorsey says the inherent bigness of the "Arthur" canon is what makes it so difficult to put into film.

ARMSTRONG: There are so many different Arthurs that I don't think it's ever possible to please everybody.

LIMBONG: Think of the super stern Clive Owen interpretation from 2004...


CLIVE OWEN: (As Arthur) And it would be good for you to mark my face, Saxon, for the next time you see it, it will be the last thing you see on this Earth.

LIMBONG: ...Or Sean Connery's more regal take.


SEAN CONNERY: (As King Arthur) I am Arthur of Camelot, and I command you now all to fight. Fight.

LIMBONG: Dorsey says there was one movie that really nailed it, though.


JOHN CLEESE: (As The Black Knight) I move for no man.

GRAHAM CHAPMAN: (As King Arthur) So be it.

ARMSTRONG: The best King Arthur movie is "Monty Python And The Holy Grail."


CHAPMAN: (As King Arthur) Now stand aside, worthy adversary.

CLEESE: (As The Black Knight) Tis but a scratch.

CHAPMAN: (As King Arthur) A scratch - your arm's off.

CLEESE: (As The Black Knight) No, it isn't.

CHAPMAN: (As King Arthur) Well, what's that, then?

CLEESE: (As The Black Knight) I've had worse.

LIMBONG: Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF REAL ESTATE SONG, "DARLING") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.