Through some mix of magic and visual effects, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword‘s Excalibur can conjure up a neat little twister. Seemingly cornered by King Vortigern’s (Jude Law) armored goons, King Arthur (Charlie Hunnam) takes up the sword that’s his birthright, and fights the bad guys. Somehow, allergens — pebbles, dust, dirt — fly up and around the mini battle like a sandstorm. Once the king’s soldiers are defeated, the camera spins around Hunnam and then settles on him, center frame. What does Guy Ritchie do with this superhero-worthy framing? He forces us to watch and listen as Charlie Hunnam wheezes. And coughs. And wheezes some more.
Charlie Hunnam may not be a mouth breather in real life, but his King Arthur definitely is. Legend of the Sword finds Hunnam breathing almost exclusively out of his mouth in ways that are impossible to ignore. These aren’t the slow, measured breaths you’d expect from a similarly strong, silent type. No — Hunnam spends a significant amount of time onscreen in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword doing nothing but standing around breathing very loudly. Pre-battle, post-battle, mid-conversation: He’s croaking out deep breaths.
It is, in fact, very boring to watch someone try to catch their breath. And it takes Hunnam what feels like several minutes of screen time to finally wheeze out his punctuating one-liner. This all happens in one laughably long take: Think Goodfellas’ tracking shot, with asthma.
But it’s not just Hunnam who spends the film panting. Hear it for yourself. This is a movie that’s full of men running around for various ridiculous reasons, and every single one of them gets their chance to breathe very loudly and very heavily in the audience’s ears. A few times I shifted in my seat, tugging at my collar before realizing that it’s not only the characters who are mouth-breathing, but this entire movie: The whole hectic, drumming score sounds like a team of horses breathing on my bare face. What’s the opposite of bated breath? At least two tracks on the soundtrack are made up almost entirely of rhythmic breathing — it sounds like LeBron conducting a symphony during Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
By all means, representation for mouth breathers is not the worst thing; they deserve to see themselves onscreen as much as anyone else in this world. But Ritchie’s King Arthur asks — nay, forces — us to sit around waiting for every rascal in the movie’s motley crew to catch their breath. That big Excalibur battle scene is the highlight: How are we to fill that labored gap before Hunnam pants out his punch line? One suggestion: Take a bathroom break, and do some exhaling of your own.