In 1981, director John Boorman (formerly of "Deliverance" and "Zardoz") delivered what is generally accepted as the best adaptation of Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur. The actual legend of King Arthur dates back to the 5th century through the writings Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain).


Geoffrey is the one who introduced various characters including Uther (Arthur's daddy), Guinevere (the wife), Mordred and the famous sword. Sir Lancelot was added later by French author Chretien de Troyes (in Le Chevalier de la Charette) as was the quest for the Holy Grail. According to the Vulgate Cycle, Lancelot was entwined with Joseph of Arimathea's keepers of the Holy Grail - thus tying the legend to the bible.


In a sentence, the legend of King Arthur, the knights of the round table, the fabled sword, Merlin, Guinevere, Lancelot, Galahad, Mordred, Gawain, Percival, the quest of the Holy Grail, adventures, and the battle between good and evil is the oldest and greatest tale of fantasy ever told. Boorman's adaptation... was brilliant.

If you get a chance to see it you will note several leser known actors [at the time] such as Helen Mirren, Liam Neeson, Ciaran Hinds and Patrick Stewart. King Arthur was played by the late Nigel Terry. The film is dark but beautifully staged and photographed and may get you to jump up and a cheer during the final battle. In it, you will understand why people enjoy the "Star Wars" saga.


"Exclaibur" was not the first nor the last Arthurian film. According to the movie site IMDB, there are over 200 film references to King Arthur. Now comes Guy Ritchie's version that is so far removed from the legend, he doesn't even reference the story's historic authors. Instead he andJHoby Harold, Lionel Wigram and David Dibkin penned this farce that twists a story so badly, it is barely recognizable.


Briefly, Ritchie's version has Arthur as a knock about lad who grows into Charlie Hunnam, pulls the sword out of the stone then takes on the evil Vortigern (Jude Law). There truly is no story. It is a series of video game-like battle scenes that feature kung-fu and witty 21st century remarks. Displaced characters such as Arthur's street-wise martial arts Asian pal George (Tome Wu) who never would have existed in 5th century Britannia.


The story is so contrived, I half expected a car chase of some sort. Hunnam seems to be revving up his "Pacific Rim" for a possible sequel rather than getting into a true Arthurian mode. Only Law brings even a smidgen of credibility to his evil role as Vortigern - who, even according to Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, never even encountered King Arthur adding a triple bunk to the awful script.


Why make this thing? Because Ritchie seems to be on a mission to get today's youth interested in ancient legends even if it a completely bastardized version of the legend.


"King Arthur: The Legend of the Sword" is a $175 million exercise is tossing flashy trash at an uninformed market and hoping it lands in the profits pit. If today's generation wants to see a kick ass fantasy film, they should rent John Boorman's 1981 "Excalibur" and enjoy the storytelling.   -- GEOFF BURTON