Guy Ritchie first applied his frenetic, contemporary action aesthetic to a classic literary figure with his 2009 effort Sherlock Holmes, a film that used little more of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s series than a few names and character traits. The formula paid off and its success spawned a sequel. Now Ritchie brings this formula to his upcoming Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur, which is currently in production.
Those who criticized Ritchie’s Holmes update as being disrespectful to Doyle’s oeuvre may find themselves once more offended as rumor has it that David Beckham, the man equally famous for playing soccer as he is for wearing underwear, will be making a soccer-themed cameo in the upcoming telling of the well-trod and oft-filmed Arthurian legend.
It is said that Beckham’s character, credited on IMDB as ‘Blackleg Leader,’ will be one of the unworthy who cannot pull Excalibur from the stone, only to become incensed when young upstart Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) is successful. Brendon Connelly at Film Divider even states that they’ve already retrofitted the script to include some wry soccer references for fans less concerned with preserving the continuity of the classic story.
Ritchie and Beckham’s professional relationship began with their partnering to produce an advertisement for clothing retailer H&M, as well as one for Ritchie’s own brand of single grain whiskey, Haig. This may not be his first appearance in a Guy Ritchie film, however, as it is rumored that his first cameo will be in Ritchie’s adaptation of The Man From U.N.C.L.E, set to be released August 14th of this year.
Guy Ritchie began his career on a fairly respectable path; it is a good bet you can still find posters for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch hanging proudly on film student’s walls everywhere. Sure, there was Swept Away, but there is always a misstep in the career of a young filmmaker, so the Madonna-starring mess is easily forgiven.
Ritchie now seems to be taking an almost Tim Burton-esque turn in his career, with his last three films being based upon previously existing properties to which he is still bringing his own style but which seem broader and more intentionally accessible. And as with Tim Burton’s career, it may be ill-advised as some might argue his work is starting to seem less like that of a sure-footed auteur and more like a populist gun-for-hire.
Not to say that great films cannot come from the desire to reach a wide audience. His Sherlock Holmes films, especially the first one, was pretty well-received. But once a filmmaker becomes less concerned with maintaining a cogent story and more concerned with dancing their celebrity buddies across the screen … well, the films risk becoming less enduring. Celebrity hubris can be an impediment to great storytelling. Perhaps there is a balance, and Ritchie has yet to fall headlong over that line, so we’ll see.
Knights of the Roundtable: King Arthur is set for release July 22, 2016.