Long ago, in a time called 2011, development began at Warner Bros. on a film called Arthur & Lancelot. Set to star Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington and Robocop’s Joel Kinnaman in the leads alongside Colin Farrell and directed by David Dobkin, it was to be a retelling of the King Arthur tale, but the project ultimately fell through due to budgetary problems; $130m was a bit much for the sword in the stone. Even prior to that, Warner Bros. gave the go ahead on a 2010 remake of the 1981 film Excalibur, with Bryan Singer at the helm – which also failed to get off the ground.
Now Guy Ritchie, who had once attempted to make his own film with a script by Trainspotting writer John Hodge (it fell through when Dobkin’s movie looked like it was going to get made), is teaming with the studio to get back in the sword business with a King Arthur story on a much more massive scale. Massive, as in a six film franchise which will apparently spare no detail in the legendary tale of the war king, the wizard Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table.
While it’s not clear if Ritchie will be directing all six films, or just the first installment, it’s still quite a project for the director to undertake. Considering how long it takes to make a film from The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit franchise (and we’re going on six there), it could be a good while before the end of the Arthurian saga is over. Luckily, there’s plenty of material to draw from when it comes to covering enough for six films. The list of works based on the Arthurian legends is almost endless, not even including the original tales where the legend originated. Those came from Medieval period, starting with Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) and expanding into numerous written and oral tales of the good King’s exploits that lasted until the modern day. Mists of Avalon? Thanks, Geoff.
Warner Bros.’ decision to reboot the King Arthur idea may prove to be smart, given the prevalance and popularity of sword-wielding fantasy dramas right now (read: Game of Thrones). But will the franchise play up the fantasy aspects of the legends and heavily feature the wizard sidekick and Excalibur, or choose a more stoic focus and hone in on the King who led his British troops to victory against the Saxon invaders in the 6th century? With six films, there’s likely room to explore all that and a Holy Grail to boot.