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Film / King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

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"You wanted the prophecy?! This is your prophecy: the man who pulled sword from stone! Behold! Your born king!"

A 2017 Guy Ritchie Sword and Sorcery film starring Charlie Hunnam as the titular legendary British king, Jude Law as King Vortigern, Eric Bana as Uther Pendragon, and Katie McGrath as Elsa.

This version reinvents Arthur as a Street Urchin turned Londinium Gangster... until he finds Excalibur, and discovers his royal blood. Now, he must join forces with a resistance movement - including a young woman known only as "the Mage" - in order to dethrone the evil king Vortigern, who usurped the throne of Camelot.

Previews: Comic-Con trailer, "Kingdom" teaser, Trailer 1, Trailer 2.


King Arthur: Legend of the Sword contains examples of:

  • Advertised Extra: The humongous War Elephants that are featured heavily in the trailers only appear in the prologue and in a Bad Future vision the Lady of the Lake gives to Arthur, then play no further role in the story.
  • Aerith and Bob: Names like John, Bill, and George exist in an England with Bedivere, Vortigern, and Uther. Arthur's name is sort of in the middle, since it's familiar and more "ordinary" like the former names but only because it's the name of the iconic title character of the mythos where the latter names come from.
  • After-Action Patch-Up: After Arthur first unleashes the power of the sword in battle, he and the Mage have a quiet scene together where they discuss what just happened while he helps her tend to a wound on the back of her shoulder.
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  • Age Lift: Bedivere is much older than most depictions of the character.
  • And Starring: "With Jude Law and Eric Bana."
  • Animalistic Abomination: The War Elephants, which are bigger than the castles they are attacking. Mordred summons them to fight for him. So does Vortigern in the Bad Future vision the Lady of the Lake gives to Arthur.
  • Animal Motifs: Vortigern's army has a thing for ravens, as shown by their Shoulders of Doom, while Vortigern himself adds a beetle design to his crown and armor.
  • Arrows on Fire: Surprisingly for such a movie they are used for funerals rather than battles. During the chase through the streets of Londinium however, the blacklegs fire signal arrows into the air which explode in a cloud of black smoke to show which way the resistance are fleeing.
  • Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever:
    • More like 500-Foot Whatever. The War Elephants are magical creatures so enormous they would give most Kaijus a run for their money. They carry building-sized siege structures on their backs, and the only way to stop them is killing their summoners.
    • The final battle involves a titanic snake sent by the Mage to lend a captured Arthur a hand against Vortigern's goons. It utterly curbstomps everyone in the room and then leaves again without having suffered a single visible injury.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Having defeated Uther, Arthur gets the Vikings to Kneel Before Zod after they realise he can't be intimidated into keeping their previous treaty.
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: Uther charges into the fight even as his soldiers are turning to flee in fear and the bridge he his riding own collapses under his horse's feet. He ends up defeating Mordred one on one despite Mordred's magical abilities.
  • Awesome Moment of Crowning: The final scenes consist mainly of Arthur's gang knighting each other, naming Arthur himself King of England, and eventually, Arthur receiving the crown in front of his cheering populace.
  • Badass Longcoat: Arthur wears a fur-lined tan number that looks surprisingly modern.
  • Bat Out of Hell: The Darklands are a saturnine world that harbors a lot of vicious oversized beasts, one of which is a species of bats the size of a small plane with a taste for humans and the strength to carry off a grown man with no effort whatsoever.
  • The Beastmaster: The Mage can take control of one type of animal at a time, resulting in her eyes taking the same shape as those she commands.
  • Big Bad: Vortigern.
  • Big "NO!": Blue's reaction to his father's murder.
  • Black Vikings: The film doesn't even attempt to be historically accurate so there are a few non-European characters around. Granted, Londinium appears to be a trade city, which historically did have diverse populations, so this could in fact be one of the few things in the film that actually is historically accurate (in Roman Britain, some black Africans did live there, and into the medieval era too).
    • Bedivere as played by Djimon Hounsou. Counts as a Race Lift, as "Bedwyr" appears in the oldest Celtic layers of the mythos. However, perhaps surprisingly, there is a black knight mentioned in a medieval Arthurian work (by a 13th century Dutch author who attached his work to those of Chrétien de Troyes): Sir Morien. So at least there is precedent, and possibly this was an inspiration. There was also pre-Islamic 'Saracen' (i.e. Kurdish) Knight Palamedes and his brothers/friends Safir and Segwarides.
    • To be fair, around the time Arthurian lore first evolved beyond its Mabinogion roots, i.e. when the Romans officially evacuated Britannia during the Anglo-Saxon and Jeute/Geat invasions, leaving a large population of citizenry and auxiliary forces behind, there already was a large population of non-Europeans within the isles. Londinium, being the capital city, is one obvious example of a city with such demographics at the time, but the polity that would eventually evolve into York is an even more prevalent example, as it not only housed stranded auxiliaries (who in Britain were typically African, Indo-Persiac Dravidians, Bedouin and Canaanite Mesosemetics, Ural-Caucasians, and Sibero-Turkic Orianoasiatics, due to protocols the Romans had regarding auxiliaries serving near their homeland), like Londinium, but also a large merchant populace that included one of the oldest established Jewish communities in Britain.
    • This also discounts the hundreds, if not possible thousands of slaves who used the chaos to either revolt, purchase their freedom, or escape to the Christian and Druid Enclaves Ireland. Ireland itself was becoming a focal point of migration for Christian priests as monasteries were destroyed by Romans, barbarians or other empires, and said monks were known to come from as far as Samarkand. Finally, to the north in Ulster, the Orkneys and Scotland you would also have their occasional Greenlander-Inuit that would wash up on the shore (alive or dead) and be mistaken for a Selkie.
    • Kung Fu George, played by Tom Wu.
    • Wetstick/Tristan, who appears to be mixed race.
  • The Blade Always Lands Pointy End In: Uther impaled himself on Excalibur by tossing it into the air and letting it rotate as it fell.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Arthur lets loose the power of Excalibur and slaughters a whole load of mooks, but isn't covered in blood afterwards. Perhaps its magic includes a Dirt Forcefield?
  • The Cameo:
    • Katie McGrath as Vortigern's doomed wife Elsa.
    • David Beckham as the heavily scarred sergeant (named Trigger) overseeing Arthur pull Excalibur out of the stone.
  • Canon Character All Along: Arthur's friend Wetstack turns out to be Sir Tristan.
  • Casting Gag:
  • Catchphrase: Arthur's survives on charisma and connection so his oft-repeated phrase is "Why have enemies when you can have friends?"
  • Clingy MacGuffin: No matter what Arthur attempts to get rid of Excalibur, it'll end up back in his hands in no time. As the climax implies the spirit of Uther Pendragon lingered in the sword until Arthur finally mastered it, this becomes rather poetic.
  • Color-Coded Eyes: There are multiple magic-wielding characters. Their eye glow gives you a hint to their power level and where they fall on the morality scale.
  • Cool Sword: Excalibur, as per usual. In addition to its usual nature as an unbreakable glowing weapon, this depiction of the sword also grants its wielder magical power as well.
  • Composite Character:
    • Vortigern takes his name, headquarters, and political power from his traditional depiction, but in the original legend he was only responsible for the death of one of Arthur's uncles and was long dead by the time Arthur became king. The film's version of Vortigern combines him with the other kings and usurpers Arthur had to defeat to solidify control of his kingdom. He also replaces Uther's brothers, Constans and the heroic Aurelius Ambrosius.
    • The Mage seems to be teetering on the edge of this and Decomposite Character. She has a similar backstory to Nimue as Merlin's acolyte who takes on her mentor's role as Arthur's magical ally, but due to the movie being about Arthur's rise to power, she becomes what would've usually been Merlin's role in such a story. She also displays hints of Morgana le Fay. The creators said she was originally going to be Guinevere, but with completely different characterization to what is in the final film.
    • Sir Bedivere's role as a older knight and loyalist of Uther, is drawn from knights like Brastias and Ulfius who were King Uther's men and among Arthur's earliest supporter.
  • Costume Porn: The royal court—especially the women—tend to wear gorgeous period finery. Vortigern pimps his with a floor-length white pelt cape.
  • Damsel in Distress: Every single woman except for the Mage. Until the final chapter where she also needs rescuing.
  • Deadly Hug: Vortigern embraces his wife and daughter tightly, tears in his eyes...right before plunging a dagger into their bellies to sacrifice them.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Arthur's go-to manner of speaking (when not having a heart-to-heart with somebody) is very flippant, irreverent, and matter-of-fact...which is par of the course, seeing as this is a Guy Ritchie movie.
  • Death by Adaptation: Mordred is long dead by the time Arthur is grown.
  • Death Glare:
    • Mordred apparently believes this to be an actual weapon. All he does when Uther breaches his various magical fire obstacles is glare at him from below. It works about as well as one might expect it to work when a pissed-off One-Man Army with a mythical sword is out for the glaring person's head. It's likely Mordred can't do anything else as he's focused on controlling the two magical elephants, which go berserk the moment his control is broken. Also we're later shown that whoever wields Excalibur can move in Arrow Time, so he may not have had time to do anything else.
    • Mischief John is on the receiving end when he brings news to the resistance that the King has hostages who will be killed. Although he's a Smug Snake knowing the hostages will be harmed if he's killed; even he's a bit wary of Arthur's glare, though that could just be because he's royalty even if he was raised in the gutter.
  • Decapitation Presentation: The direct result of the above-mentioned Death Glare, although a family-friendly version appropriate to the movie's rating. It's just Mordred's shamanistic headdress that's presented, not his actual head, but the spirit of the trope is invoked regardless.
  • Demoted to Extra: Instead of being Arthur's mentor, Merlin is reduced to a single scene where he is seen forging Excalibur, and never interacts with Arthur.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: Although not the victim of a serial killer per se, the sole woman to die on the heroes' sidenote  just happens to be a prostitute.
  • Dissonant Serenity: King Vortigern's body double is surprising calm, almost amused at realizing that his life is in danger and that he has been sent specifically to draw out an assassin.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: As riots break out in Londonium, the blacklegs form a shield wall and bang on the shields for intimidation, as well as charging the rioters with cavalry to break up their ranks, both tactics used by modern riot police.
  • Double Weapon: Vortigern's One-Winged Angel form wields a double-bladed scythe.
  • Drunk with Power: Vortigern embraces how "intoxicating" being feared is.
  • Ear Ache: Vortigern cuts off Back Lack's ear to encourage him to talk and make his son reveal his true identity. Vortigern then repeats the question he'd been asking into the severed ear.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Vortigern rose to power by striking a deal with a trio of syrens, half-woman squid-like creatures, that dwell in the waters beneath Camelot. They demand a sacrifice of something deeply beloved from any supplicant in return for great magical power.
  • Eldritch Location: The Darklands, a Mordor-like region crawling with lethal oversized predators that can only be reached via a magical teleport of sorts. Arthur gets sent there in an effort to gain control over Excalibur and learn more about his past. Results are ambiguous.
  • Equivalent Exchange: To gain the power to defeat the wielder of Excalibur, Vortigern has to sacrifice a loved one to the Syrens. Years later when the Sword In The Stone is revealed as a portent that the Rightful King Returns, Vortigern accuses them of not living up to the deal. The Syrens point out that they kept their bargain but as his own magical power grows, other forces will arise to oppose him because that's how magic works. Vortigern is told he can either find and kill Arthur, making himself the only surviving member of the bloodline that can wield Excalibur, or sacrifice another loved one.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Vortigern cries bitter tears when he sacrifices his wife and later his daughter to the eldritch creatures that dwell underneath Camelot. Too bad he didn't love them enough to put their wellbeing ahead of his lust for power.
  • Every Scar Has a Story: Arthur has scars on his hands from grasping Excalibur's blade as a child.
  • Evil Feels Good: Vortigern describes being feared as a result of his deeds as a glorious feeling.
  • The Evil Prince: Vortigern is so jealous of Uther's power and position that he plots regicide multiple times, eventually succeeding.
  • Evil Sorcerer: Mordred and later Vortigern.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Mordred's and Vortigern's magical towers. It goes without saying that both go down in flames and debris the moment their creators bite the dust.
  • Evil Uncle: Vortigern seeks to kill his nephew Arthur and claim Excalibur.
  • Evil Wears Black: Well, there's gotta be a reason the Big Bad's goons are called Blacklegs.note 
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Everyone calls the mage "Mage". Nobody in the movie even bothers to ask for her actual name.
  • Excalibur in the Stone: Once again the Sword in the Stone is equated as Excalibur, though they are sometimes distinct in the source material. Similarly, the sword was forged by Merlin and given to Uther. After Arthur removes it from the stone, he flings it into the lake out of his Refusal of the Call mentality. The Lady of the Lake hands it back to him, echoing myth.
  • Faceless Goons: Though their faces are shown on several occasions, the blacklegs have flip-down visors on their helmets that turn them into Malevolent Masked Men when lowered.
  • Final Battle: The culmination of the film is Arthur freeing his crew and having a show down against Vortigern who assumes his demon form.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Arthur and the anti-Vortigern resistance can't stand each other when they meet. The mage in particular doesn't hesitate to put him in his place when he gets too mouthy for her tastes. By the time the credits roll, the new king and the last mage are best friends, and the surviving resistance leaders have been inducted into the famous Knights of the Round Table by Arthur himself.
  • Fisher King: England is shown to be struggling under the weight of Vortigern's greed and ambition while Arthur is unknowingly in exile. The Lady of the Lake implies that it will get even worse if Arthur does not ascend to his rightful position of king. At the end of the movie, as Arthur is presented to the kingdom as the new king, the coloring is brighter than it has been at any point of the movie since King Uther was featured in the opening credits. It is implied that the populace is much happier under Arthur's rule and that the future will be better.
  • Foregone Conclusion: With characters from the Arthurian cycle and Lohengrin, their final roles should be no surprise.
  • For Want of a Nail: Had a certain group of unruly vikings not beaten up the wrong prostitute, Vortigern's evil plan probably would've gone off without a hitch. Also doubles as a nice, convoluted example of Nice Job Fixing It, Villain because those vikings are in England on his personal invitation, their actions lead to Arthur entering the picture, and that in turn ultimately results in Vortigern's downfall.
  • The Gadfly: Arthur will happily tap dance on your nerves when you annoy him, friend or foe.
  • Gilligan Cut: A texbook example halfway into the movie.
    Bedivere: He is not going to the Darklands!
    [Cut to him, Arthur and the Mage travelling in a rowboat]
    Bedivere: These are the Darklands.
  • Godiva Hair: The eldritch creatures' hair artfully clings to their breasts just enough so their nipples have a covering.
  • Graffiti of the Resistance: Backlack catches his son Blue drawing a symbol of a sword in a stone. This graffiti indicates the local populace is unhappy with King Vortigern, supports the Resistance, and believes in the Born King. Naturally, such graffiti is harshly punished and runs the risk of the death of the perpetrator and entire villages and towns being burned to the ground to discourage such sentiment from spreading.
  • Had to Be Sharp: A montage shows Arthur growing from a Street Urchin doing odd jobs for coin who is often robbed and beaten, to a tough Charlie-trained Londinium Gangster with his own gang, running protection for the brothel he was raised in.
  • Hellbent For Leather: How Vortigern and his men dress.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Arthur's first round against Vortigern during their Final Battle doesn't go so well for him. Then Excalibur grants him a vision of his father that restores his resolve, he rises fresh as a daisy and thoroughly kicks Vortigern's shadowy ass.
  • Heroic Suicide: Uther throws Excalibur up and impales himself, turning to stone in the process, so Vortigern can't have the sword.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: The portrayed ladies are shown in a very sympathetic light as the Parental Substitute for Arthur. It's what makes Vortigern's unceremonious murder of one of them early in the film such a kick in the teeth for Arthur and for the audience.
  • Hope Spot: After being wounded, Back Lack has to stay behind because I Will Only Slow You Down, but he's able to make his way to the rendezvous point anyway. Turns out that's only because the backlegs were tracking him with dogs so he'd lead them to the others.
  • Horny Vikings: A warband of bearded, fur-clad, all-around manly Scandinavian vikings play a pivotal role in the story.
  • Human Sacrifice: Vortigern kills both his wife and daughter for power from the eldritch creatures, though he's very upset about it both times. It doesn't stop him though.
  • Iconic Item: The Round Table is shown under construction at the end of the movie. Arthur's friends rib him about it—is it a wheel of cheese, perhaps? And how can you reach for a flagon of wine in the centre?
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Several examples, actually.
    • Arthur's mother falls victim to a wicked-looking javelin hurled by One-Winged Angel!Vortigern that punches cleanly through her chest.
    • It turns out that Excalibur's famous stone is none other than King Uther's petrified body. When Vortigern had him at his mercy, he hurled the sword skywards and let himself get impaled by it in a last-ditch attempt at keeping the weapon out of his brother's hands.
    • In an application of Karmic Death, Vortigern himself meets his end on Excalibur's glowing blade, courtesy of the above-mentioned woman's son.
  • Important Haircut: In the montage of Arthur growing up, he's first shown getting his long prince-like hair cropped short. While it grows out in adulthood, it's never the same length as when he was a child.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills:
    • Goosefat Bill is a master archer capable of dropping targets with pinpoint accuracy over a distance of 175+ yards. For comparison: modern-day Olympic archers with their fancy high-tech bows compete at half that distance, tops, which is close to these bows' maximum effective range already.
    • One of the fighters at George's school also leaps into the air with a bow and arrow and shoots multiple Black Leg archers on th wall, while in motion, before touchline the ground.
  • In Name Only: Wetstick/Tristan has nothing to do with any previous version of the character.
  • In the Hood: The Mage goes hooded most of the time when she's in urban territory. Merlin also wears intricate robes with a cowl that hides his face in shadows in the one scene he gets. The blacklegs wear masks and hoods when adopting the Faceless Goons look.
  • I Surrender, Suckers: Vortigern kidnaps Blue and demands Arthur surrender in exchange for the boy's life. Arthur agrees, but with the help of the Mage and a Mushroom Samba, he regains control of Excalibur and triggers the Final Battle.
  • Just Between You and Me: Not the explain-my-evil-plan version (which the Resistance know about anyway) but Vortigern has a surprisingly amiable chat with Arthur in his cell; this is after all his nephew and he seems to think they are kindred spirits.
  • Keystone Army: Mordred's assault in the prologue is stopped dead in its tracks the moment he's killed by Uther, because the war elephants he was controlling go on a rampage, destroying the soldiers they were carrying.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: What Vortigern's covenant with the creatures below Camelot boils down to. First he sacrifices his wife in order to gain the power to usurp Uther's throne. Twenty-odd years later, he proceeds to kill his only daughter in a desperate attempt at gaining the means to defeat Arthur and Excalibur.
  • Kinslaying Is a Special Kind of Evil: There's no one Vortigern won't kill to gain and maintain power, including his brother, sister-in-law, wife, daughter, and multiple attempts on his nephew.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em:
    • A bunch of Blacklegs lay down their arms and surrender after one of Arthur's Excalibur-powered rampages curbstomped about 90% of their buddies on the battlefield.
    • Realising that the new king isn't going to be intimidated into continuing their treaty, Greybreard and his Vikings elect to Kneel Before Zod instead. So Arthur invites them to dinner.
  • La Résistance: Vortigern's rule is already opposed even before Arthur joins up. They are specifically referred to as the "resistance", as opposed to outlaws or You Rebel Scum!; hardly the only anachronism in the movie.
  • Last of His Kind:
    • The Mage is implied to be one of the few mages that survived Vortigern's purge, if not the last.
    • Also, Arthur is the last member of the Pendragon line. Vortigern kills all of the others during the course of the film - his brother Uther, his sister-in-law Igraine, and even his own wife and daughter. Then Arthur kills him.
  • The Legend of X
  • Limit Break: Arthur's first real use of Excalibur in combat has this feel to it. Everytime he lets loose, an epic Curbstomp Battle ensues.
  • MacGuffin: Excalibur, naturally. The whole plot gets kicked off for real when someone suddenly manages to pull it out of the stone, and the following events continue to revolve around it. To a smaller extent, the magical towers built by Mordred and later Vortigern serve in a fairly crucial role as well - taking them down before they can be put to use by some evil mage ranks very high on their enemies' priority lists.
  • Magical Eye: The Mage's eyes can change accordingly with whatever animal she is controlling.
  • Magic Knight: When wielding Excalibur Arthur and his father before him become this, shattering enemies' swords and tossing them left and right with every swing while their eyes take on the same pale blue glow as Excalibur.
  • Man in the Iron Mask: Vortigern initially imprisons Arthur in the palace dungeons out of a morbid desire to understand how Arthur was able to become a street boss. Despite the fact that the populace is already disgruntled and showing signs of wanting a new king, particularly the rightful born king, Vortigern does not immediately execute the one person who can topple him from power giving word time to spread to La Résistance.
  • Manly Facial Hair:
    • Arthur wears a nice beard. And of course no Viking worth his salt would be complete without one.
    • It seems to run in the family in Arthur's case, as Uther Pendragon's beard is also quite impressive.
  • Mentor Occupational Hazard: Averted with both George (who trained Arthur in fighting as he was growing up) and Bedivere both want to stay and Hold the Line to save Arthur at one point but he harnesses the swords power to save them both.
  • Montages: The movie's preferred exposition tool. Includes: Training Montage, Hard-Work Montage, Travel Montage, Unfolding Plan Montage, and Time-Compression Montage.
  • Moses in the Bulrushes: Uther sends Arthur off down the river in a boat while he fights Vortigern. He's found and then adopted by some kindly prostitutes when it drifts past Londinium. Unlike in most examples, here Arthur is not an infant but a young boy when this happens.
  • Mushroom Samba: The Mage has a venomous snake bite Arthur to prepare him for the coming showdown with Vortigern. It gives him some pretty disturbing visions and a drunken gait on his way to Camelot, but ends up saving his life when it dissuades another, truly ginormous snake from tearing him to pieces.
  • Mystical Waif: The mage.
  • Nature Spirit: While influenced by the snake's venom, Arthur can see dryads peering out of trees at him.
  • No Name Given: The mage.
  • Not in This for Your Revolution: Arthur initially couldn't care less about the resistance against Vortigern's regime. All he wants is being able to go about his business in peace, and eventually get some revenge for friends lost in the struggle.
  • Offing the Offspring: A desperate Vortigern sacrifices his only daughter in order to obtain the power needed to overcome Arthur and Excalibur. It doesn't work.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted by Jack's Eye, when trying to figure out what George, and later Mike, Arthur is referring to.
    "King George, Angry George, George of the Dragon? Be clear, Arthur."
    • And then:
    "Mike the Spike, Kosher Mike, which Mike?"
  • One-Winged Angel: Vortigern has one in the form of a hulking black knight with a skull-shaped helmet and a fiery cape with a double scythe for a weapon.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: A few. Wetstack is actually Tristan. And Kung Fu George is called Kung Fu George in part to distinguish him from other Georges, and because he knows kung fu.
  • Opening Scroll: The first 30 seconds features a text explainer for the battle that kicks off the film.
  • Out-Gambitted: Arthur realises the best way is not to raise a rebel army but to lure out King Vortigern by using himself as The Bait and assassinate him. Maggie brings word of the King traveling to Londinium to raise support from his Barons, so they decide to snipe him with a long bow shot fired by Goosefat. However the King knows Maggie is in league with the rebels and has himself replaced with an imposter. Ironically Arthur realises it's a trap and calls off the assassination, only for Goosefat to spring it anyway by shooting the blacklegs commander Mercia because he has a grudge against him.
  • Overcrank: It's a Guy Ritchie film so what did you expect? In this film, however, it's usually to display how Excalibur grants Arthur with superhuman speed.
  • Past Experience Nightmare: It is implied that Arthur has had night terrors throughout his childhood where a demon impales a woman with a sword, killing her. Because of his young age at the time, adult Arthur does not realize that this is not a dream but rather a memory of an event he actually witnessed.
  • Playing with Fire: Vortigern can manipulate fireballs. Before him, Mordred could incinerate whole platoons of soldiers at once with magical fire shockwaves.
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Jack's Eye served King Uther until he got a better offer from Vortigern. Then he took bribes from Arthur to look the other way until Arthur became a threat to Vortigern, meaning he was also a threat to Jack's position as the king's enforcer.
  • Precision F-Strike: Vortigern delivers one to Mercia:
    "Just do your fucking job!"
  • Prison Escape Artist: While the details are never shown, 'Goosefat' Bill got his nickname because he kept slipping out of custody. Sure enough even though Arthur hands him over to the blacklegs in his initial scene, Goosefat is waiting in the resistance cave to express his annoyance after Arthur is taken there later on.
  • Psychic Nosebleed: Vortigern gets one in the opening scene, when Uther confronts Mordred forcing the sorcerer to maximize all his magic energies, including those being lent to him by others. This is the first hint that Vortigern is working against Uther.
  • Public Execution: Vortigern attempts one of these to set an example of what happens to anyone who challenges the Crown, but it backfires when La Résistance uses magic to help Arthur escape, further cultivating the rumors that Arthur is the rightful king and that he has mystical protection that will help him regain his rightful place on the throne.
  • The Purge: After Mordred's magical rampage in the prologue, Vortigern had all mages hunted down in a purge that was quickly halted again by his brother Uther. Once Uther was out of the way, he got right back to it and apparently was so successful that the Mage is now the Last of Her Kind. All of it was part of Vortigern's plan - he was in cahoots with Mordred from the beginning, and the mage purge was most likely an effort to stamp out any opposition to his own growing magical powers.
  • Putting on the Reich: a lesser example than most—while Vortigern's troops don't wear Nazi-like uniforms, they do have a similar color scheme to the typical image of the Gestapo and, during his attempted execution of Arthur, they all chant his name and the assembled crowd is forced to follow along all while making a salute resembling that of the Nazis'—they may as well have been saying "Heil Vortigern!" In the same scene, Vortigern himself also makes such a salute, stretching his hand out to the entire crowd. He also has people branded, like concentration camp inmates were tattooed, and talks of how he doesn't want the love of his people, only their fear (a saying of Heinrich Himmler).
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: This version of the Knights of the Round Table including their eventual king consists of former street gang criminals and resistance fighters.
  • Rags to Royalty: Arthur's initially a gang leader in the slums of fantasy ancient London, but is destined to reclaim his birthright as King.
  • Rated M for Manly: The mage is the only woman in the entire movie that has anything resembling an action role. All the other heroes are gritty, muscular, fearless brawlers with many a Shirtless Scene who don't take shit from anyone. Arthur in particular is a textbook case of Testosterone Poisoning even before Excalibur turns him into a One-Man Army.
  • Real Is Brown: The entire movie features a highly desaturated color scheme that makes almost everything look blue-grey or black.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The audience immediately knows Mordred is evil because of this.
  • Related in the Adaptation:
    • Here Vortigern is Arthur's Evil Uncle.
    • Inverted with Mordred, who is Arthur's nephew, sometimes bastard son, in the myths.
  • Reluctant Hero: Arthur really doesn't want to be England's salvation from Vortigern. It takes more or less the entire movie for him to accept his role.
  • Revenge Before Reason: When the gang's long-range assassination attempt of Vortigern is busted, Goosefat ignores Arthur's order to call it off and instead starts sniping Blacklegs he has a personal beef with. It triggers a wild chase through Londinium's streets and, ultimately, causes the deaths of several protagonists.
  • Rightful King Returns: Vortigern has explicitly become The Usurper by killing Arthur's father Uther (Eric Bana) and taking the crown himself, and as per usual, Arthur pulling Excalibur from the stone proves he's the rightful king.
  • Rogues' Gallery Transplant: Two from the the original Arthurian legend in a case of role reversal.
    • Vortigern was an unrelated usurper king who served as the nemesis to Uther Pendragon and Uther's brother Aurelius Ambrosius. Here he becomes a Starter Villain for Arthur.
    • Mordred is usually Arthur's bastard son who kills him in the final battle. Here's he's an unrelated Evil Sorcerer who fights Uther.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Vortigern reprimands his daughter for petting a bird in one scene, telling her to put the bird back in its aviary. Later when he goes to her room there are several birds in cages. Overall it seems to be implying she's a prisoner in a Gilded Cage which is true because she's a potential Human Sacrifice if Vortigern needs the help of the Syrens again which he does for the final battle.
    • The Mage makes an eagle carry a snake. Eagles carrying or fighting snakes has a mythical interpretation in several cultures.
  • Run or Die: More than a few epic running sequences occur involving Arthur and his group fleeing to evade pursuing Blackleg soldiers.
  • Sacrificial Lamb:
    • Lucy, Arthur's favorite hooker friend, is unceremoniously killed by Vortigern's enforcer to properly motivate our hero into doing what the bad guy wants. Essentially an instance of Nice Job Fixing It, Villain as it ends up being one of the things that motivate Arthur to join the rebellion instead because now It's Personal.
    • Also Vortigen's daughter who survives over three fourths of the movie but still feels like this for all the character development she gets.
  • Screams Like a Little Girl: Goosefat disses Arthur's gang friends this way when he shows off his archery skills on the target they're carrying between them. Hundreds of yards away.
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy: Arthur had no intention of seeking out the Excalibur or seeking out his rightful throne. If Vortigern hadn't gone to such lengths to avoid the born king's prophesied return, Arthur would've never been anywhere near the sword. Additionally, Arthur repeatedly says he doesn't want to be king or involved in fighting Vortigern. However, Vortigern, not content to have a potential threat living as a commoner in the populace, is determined to completely eliminate Arthur, and begins by engaging in a systematic campaign to kill Arthur's adopted family, childhood friends, and new found allies. You know, the people whose deaths would make the previously uninterested rightful heir suddenly be willing to fight to the death.
    • In their first encounter since Uther's murder:
    Vortigern: You and I have a lot more in common than you think. It's not just the same blood we share, but also the same interests. We both developed a palate for power.
    Arthur: I've never had any power. Or any desire to achieve it. Sire, I could simply drift away never to be seen again.
    Vortigern: As much as I would like to believe you, your character makes that unlikely.
    • Later in the conversation:
    Vortigern: What kind of man would you have become if had you inherited your father's kingdom and all its advantages instead of being raised in a brothel? What gave you such drive? Hmm.
    Arthur: So what happens now?
    Vortigern: You know what happens now. You're quickly becoming a legend.
    • In their last encounter, in the final battle:
    Arthur: You wanted to know what gave me such drive. It was you. You put me in that brothel. You cut me on the streets. I am here now because of you. You created me. And for that, I bless you.
  • Shirtless Scene: Charlie Hunnam has an awesomely sculpted physique, and the movie makes sure everybody notices it. Further examples abound at Londinium's fight club.
  • Shoot the Messenger: Narrowly averted. Mischief John, one of Vortigern's lieutenants, is stuck with giving Arthur and his group a message after Vortigern had taken the Mage and Blue prisoner. He is more concerned about his wife getting to him, because it was his turn to cook that particular evening. Arthur and the others let him go, but the glares they give Mischief John makes it clear they really want to kill him.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Sinister Scythe: Vortigern's One-Winged Angel form wields one with blades on both ends.
  • Slavery Is a Special Kind of Evil: Vortigern seizes the children of those who can't pay their taxes. As part of his treaty he plans to hand thousands of them over to the Vikings. As the children are too young to form attachments, they can be raised to have loyalty only to the Viking king.
  • Small Role, Big Impact: Merlin only shows up for about two seconds and is effectively replaced by the Mage for his role in the story. However, his influence on the overall plot is felt when it's revealed he was the one who forged Excalibur and trained the Mage in the mystic arts.
  • Stupid Evil: Vortigern, Arthur said he has no interest in taking the throne from you and even suggested that he quietly leave the city. You don't have to make a grandiose spectacle out of executing him, you can just either listen to his advice and let him flee or just kill him in his cell without a fuss. Although Vortigern does make a point that Arthur is too ambitious to be out of his way for long.
  • Square-Cube Law: Played straight and thrown out of the window at the same time. Monsters like the Kaiju-sized war elephants should never be able to exist, let alone move in Earth's gravity, although that one's justified because they're explicitly magical creatures. The part the film's creators got right (kinda) is the way the elephants move. Those things look really, really slow and ponderous, but that impression is deceptive thanks to their sheer enormity. They don't even need to charge Camelot's fortifications - all they need to do is walk through them since no stone wall, no matter how thick, can hope to withstand the impact of such an insane mass and the force it applies.
  • Son of a Whore: Arthur describes himself as one to Vortigern during their conversation, since he was raised in a brothel.
  • Sorcerous Overlord: Vortigern becomes this after seizing power due to a pact with some eldritch creatures.
  • Stock Sound Effects: Elephant trumpeting from opening scene is the same sound as Tyrannosaurus roar in Carnivores video game.
  • Street Urchin: Arthur's backstory in the film.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: The preternaturally large war elephants having glowing gold eyes further emphasizing that they are magical creatures.
  • Sword and Sorcery: It ticks enough boxes in the genre to qualify. So much so that this can be considered the most Sword & Sorcery take on the Arthurian Myth yet.
  • Sword Drag: How Arthur goes into the Final Battle once he has Excalibur back - lots of sparks included.
  • Sword In The Stone:
    • Having been warned by the Syrens that the Rightful King Returns, King Vortigern has his blacklegs bring everyone of the right age to be his missing nephew to where the sword is in the stone to attempt to pull it out, branding them after the test—Arthur is brought in when the blacklegs see he doesn't have the brand. In a subversion, Arthur is knocked out and easily captured after removing the sword because he can't handle the power and memories that overwhelm him whenever he grasps the hilt.
    • Invoked later when Vortigern uses Excalibur to kill a snake as it leaps at him from a pillar, but the sword gets stuck in the stone pillar so he can't remove it to defend himself when a much bigger magic snake attacks.
  • Taken for Granite: It's revealed King Uther Pendragon is the stone in which Excalibur was stuck in. As he's cornered by Vortigern, Uther throws the sword into the air and when it falls it runs through him, turning him into a rock. The rock then smashes through the jetty they are standing on, into the lake where it's hidden until the water level falls.
  • Time-Delayed Death: During the resistance's attempt on Vortigern's life, Goosefat's first arrow ends up embedded in the wooden wall behind his target, so everyone assumes he missed. Then the guy drops dead and reveals that the arrow actually punched right through him.
  • Torture Always Works: Rubio is taken captive after he is separated from Arthur's group and ends up betraying the resistance after being tortured. Vortigern also threatens to torture Back Lack, and his son reveals their allegiance with the rebels to try to save his father.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: It's made clear in one trailer that Poppy Delevingne's character dies early on. As both she and Katie McGrath are credited as 'Elsa', it's only logical that a reincarnated or impersonator version of this character turns up later.
  • Training from Hell: Arthur is subjected to this by the Resistance, with their goal being to break his old self and take him a leader. It gets to the point where Bedivere fears it will kill him.
  • Traumatic Superpower Awakening: The middle section of the movie revolves around Arthur being unable to wield the sword. Every time he tries, it overwhelms him and he passes out. However, following the failed assassination of Vortigern, the Black Legs corner Arthur and his crew in Kung-Fu George's court. One of the Black Legs makes the mistakes of holding a knife to the Mage's neck. Mistreatment of the women in his life is a Berserk Button for Arthur and he has already witnessed the murder of both his biological mother and his surrogate mother. This is the push he needs to wield Excalibur and wipe out the forces threatening him.
  • "Uh-Oh" Eyes: Whenever someone's eyes change their color or texture, you know shit's about to get real.
  • Undying Loyalty: Arthur's gang, who refuse to abandon their boss even when he is ordering them to during a raid.
  • Unfolding Plan Montage: The movie leans on this trope for practically half its runtime, jumping back and forth in the story as characters explain plans while we see those same plans carried out.
  • Unkempt Beauty: The Mage.
  • Unproblematic Prostitution: Averted. Though the prostitutes have some protection with Arthur and his gang, they still appear to get beaten up by unruly clients fairly often. Arthur and the others then beat up these men in retaliation.
  • Unscaled Merfolk: Called "The Syren" by one of the Do You Know? promotional films for the movie, they're likely half-woman and half-octopus, but are obscured by their own tentacles. Vortigern strikes a deal with them for power.
  • War Elephants: Big honkin' ones are featured in the film's opening battle sequence and in a Bad Future vision the Lady of the Lake gives to Arthur. Mordred summoned them using Black Magic.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Justified as the characters were likely being held back for intended sequel movies.
    • It's never shown whether Rubio was killed after he's tortured into talking.
    • Merlin's current whereabouts are never elaborated on. All we know is that he forged Excalibur and gave it to the Lady of the Lake.
    • Jack's Eye, the blacklegs sergeant friendly to Arthur's crew. He makes a last appearance while the blacklegs are ransacking the brothel, and is never mentioned again.
  • We ARE Struggling Together: When the resistance tell Arthur they need the support of some rebel barons and their armies, we have the by-now obligatory montage as Arthur explains why that won't work—the barons will argue over who is in charge, mock and patronize his lowly origins and lack of military experience, leading to Arthur insulting them back and getting into an argument with Bedivere (who finds that part Actually Pretty Funny). Instead Arthur convinces them that asymmetric warfare is a more effective strategy.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: The Mage, (played by Spanish-French Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey) has a bizarre accent that sounds vaguely British and vaguely Eastern European, and it isn't helped at all by the fact that she whispers most of her lines.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Invoked by Arthur moments before his upcoming Mushroom Samba. The mage agrees by claiming that nobody likes snakes - a strange sentiment, considering the fondness she herself appears to have for them. Perhaps she just considers them a useful tool though.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: If Vortigern had simply killed Arthur in his prison cell, he would have been able to claim Excalibur and rule with unchallenged authority. Instead, he has to make a huge public spectacle out of Arthur's execution, giving the resistance an opening to rescue him. Justified, since rumors of the true-born king's return are inspiring hope in the populace, and Vortigern wants to stamp them out thoroughly; if the common people don't see the heir's death, they won't believe it's happened. When he has Arthur in his captivity again near the end of the film, he does try to kill him immediately.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Arthur's favorite hooker friend Lucy gets beaten to a pulp by a group of Scandinavian vikings. The revenge he exacts on them is what ends up putting him on Vortigern's radar.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Vortigern threatens to take it out on Blue if Arthur doesn't surrender himself to him, and there's no indication at all that he wouldn't go through with it.
  • You Can't Fight Fate: Vortigern is warned by the creatures that Excalibur appearing heralds the rightful king's return and his downfall. Naturally, his attempts to antagonize and destroy his nephew at every turn only seal his fate.