Guy Ritchie’s King Arthur: Legend of the Sword resolutely tanked over the weekend, earning a mere $15 million against a $175 million production budget. What that means is that if I have a #hottake on this movie, I’d better get it out of my system now, before everyone forgets it exists in approximately 15 minutes. Remember
We need to talk about King Arthur’s female lead. No, not one of the 15 underdeveloped female characters Guy Ritchie fridges in order to give the male characters manfeels. Really, there are only four fridged women in this movie, but that’s still a lot! That’s an average of one fridged woman every 31.5 minutes!
Surviving the gauntlet of death King Arthur sets up for its female characters is The Mage (Astrid Bergès-Frisbey), who, befitting this movie’s inability to adequately flesh out its dozen-plus characters, doesn’t get a name. She’s just The Mage. She does things like: Whispertalk! Wear a sweet-ass cloak! Summon a giant snake!
I’m all for any character who summons a giant snake to help her pals deal with their problems, for what it’s worth. Legend of the Sword, for all it doesn’t stray far enough from boilerplate fantasy narratives, is occasionally a bucket full of weird fun.
One of the things I genuinely like about Legend of the Sword—aside from the giant snake, and how Mordred wears a flaming skull mask like a death metal mascot, and the fact that the stone Excalibur is stuck in is revealed to be LITERALLY ARTHUR’S FATHER’S CORPSE. LIKE ERIC BANA STABBED HIS OWN SELF IN THE BACK WITH EXCALIBUR AND THEN HIS BODY TURNED INTO A STONE. GUY RITCHIE WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS YOU ABSOLUTE MADMAN—is that there’s never a shoehorned-in romance between Arthur and the Mage. You’d think there would be. Arthur is the reluctant hero who eventually accepts his Chosen One status largely due to the urging of the Mage, a mysterious, powerful woman who comes from a race of magical creatures. It’s like they’re Aragorn and Arwen, if Aragorn had zero charisma and Arwen were moody and French.
Instead, there appears to be no romantic attraction between Arthur and the Mage, aside from some flirtatious needling on Arthur’s part early on. Here’s when I rolled my eyes: She’s the badass, experienced soldier who’s dedicated years of her life to killing the evil king Vortigern (Jude Law), and he’s this snarky asshole who swans in at the eleventh hour, neggs her a bit, and then Melts Her Ice-Cold Exterior before going on to bogart all the glory with his loyal woman at his side. We’ve seen all this before. Many times. Except the Mage’s ice-cold exterior never melts. She spends less time shooting hearteyes at him than she does suppressing exasperated sighs at how much of a whiny, petulant jerk he is.
Hey, that’s good, I thought. A subversion of tropes, I thought. They had their main female character and didn’t make her Charlie Hunnam’s love interest. Like in Pacific Rim! In the King Arthur sequels“—it was a more innocent time then—”she’ll just be this badass Mage summoning giant animals and quietly side-eyeing the new King for being a showboating dick. La de dah.
And then my attention was drawn to Bergès-Frisbey’s casting announcement and WELL NEVER MIND ON THAT.
Guess we know where they were planning to go with the Mage for the rest of the franchise, huh? The franchise that almost definitely isn’t happening now. Good riddance. S’fine. I’m OK with missing out on this one. I’ll watch Charlie Hunnam do shirtless air punching somewhere else.