A major blockbuster retelling of the King Arthur legend is an idea that has been stuck in development hell - ever since the 2004 version from Olympus Has Fallen director Antoine Fuqua, starring Clive Owen as King Arthur. For the last four years we've heard rumor of several Arthurian projects (among them the defunct Excalibur) hovering in the background; meanwhile, King Arthur's legend spread to TV with series like Merlin and Camelot.
Now word of a new King Arthur film adaptation has sprung up, and it is an ambitious vision, to say the least.
According to Deadline, filmmaker Guy Ritchie (Sherlock Holmes 1 & 2) is "looking to make" a King Arthur movie series for Warner Bros. - a six-film saga, to be exact. The idea was reportedly fleshed-out by Joby Harold (Awake), who wrote the script for the first film. Also attached are super-producer Akiva Goldsman (Constantine, I Am Legend, Fringe, Lone Survivor) and Lionel Wingram, Ritchie's production partner.
Ritchie and Wingram previously worked with WB developing Excalibur, whose script was written by Trainspotting scribe, John Hodge. It's safe to say that at this point Ritchie has some idea of the world and lore - but six films certainly seems like a huge undertaking... Or does it?
Warner Bros. is still adjusting to a post-Harry Potter world, and while the plan was to make superheroes their new cinematic centerpiece, those plans are moving slower than expected. King Arthur, meanwhile, is a property that could check a LOT of those Harry Potter boxes:
- A well-loved story that could sustain five or more installments.
- An age-based progression that stars off with a young kid and follows him through maturity.
- Films that could deepen in tone and maturity over time - in accordance with the fanbase.
- Action, adventure, magic, mystical creatures, Shakespearian family drama - WIZARDS and WITCHES.
- Shared universe expansion opportunities (TV, spinoff films).
- Merchandising out the whazoo for kids, adults - all demos.
It makes sense for the studio to use this property to their advantage, since shows like Merlin and Camelot had enough support behind them to prove that there are at least some hot embers left burning around the King Arthur brand, just waiting to be fanned into flame by a blockbuster picture. Meanwhile, Guy Ritchie has had to relaunch the Sherlock Holmes film brand in the midst of a resurgence (2 TV series and a film franchise right now, and counting...) but he certainly got it done with both artistic flair and commercial success.
Right now, it's unclear that Ritchie would be in for all six films - or if WB would even try to shoot them Lord of the Rings/Hobbit style in one long succession. Personally, I would go for the Harry Potter model; i.e., let someone direct a few of them and then rotate in new blood. If Chris Columbus had done a third Potter flick, we would never have Alfonso Cuarón's awesome take on Prisoner of Azkaban...
For now, consider us intrigued. Watching the full Arthurian legend play out in blockbuster style is something we've never seen. From his magic birth (influenced by Merlin), to his hard orphan youth, to his destiny with the sword in the stone, to his crowning, Forming The Knights of the Roundtable, their adventures, and the war with Arthur's brother Mordred and half-sister Morgan le Fay - there is definitely material there for an epic film saga.
I'm seeing something that's half Harry Potter and half Game of Thrones. How about you?
We'll keep you updated on the status of the Untitled King Arthur Project as more is announced.
Images from FanPop & Newell Convers Wyeth