This article contains spoilers for King Arthur: Legend of the Sword.
Have you seen King Arthur: Legend of the Sword yet? If you have, then you may have been reminded of a few other movies and TV shows during your time in the theater. The Guy Ritchie movie feels significantly more inspired by modern (often British) myth — which is to say contemporary pop culture — than it does Arthurian legend.
Here are all of the movie and TV show references (or at least similarities) we noticed in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword…
Game of Thrones
This movie wants to be Game of Thrones so bad. It even cast not one, not two, but three Game of Thrones actors to fully commit to its devotion: Aiden Gillen (Littlefinger in Game of Thrones; Goosefat Bill in King Arthur), Michael McElhatton (Roose Bolton in Game of Thrones; Jack’s Eye in King Arthur), and Eline Powell (Bianca in Game of Thrones; Syren 2 in King Arthur).
Medieval Londinium was basically King’s Landing’s Flea Bottom (or, if you’d rather, substitute your other favorite working class Game of Thrones neighborhood). And was anyone reminded of Littlefinger’s brothel in Arthur’s childhood home? (It didn’t hurt that Littlefinger actually showed up there.)
Blue is the Arya Stark of the bunch. If this movie does continue on to become a franchise, you better believe that little tyke will start reciting names of the people who have wronged him before he goes to sleep.
If you’d like, you can probably make some comparisons between King Arthur‘s Resistance and Game of Thrones‘ Brotherhood Without Banners. They both live in woods and caves, are devoted to the common people, and have a magician on their side. Then again they are both more inspired by Robin Hood than anything to do with Excalibur.
And we haven’t even gotten to the more general comparisons: King Arthur is literally the story of a game of thrones. Vortigern steals the throne by killing his brother and then gains power, Stannis-style, by killing his own daughter for some wooly blood magic. (R.I.P., Shireen. #NeverForget) He even listens to witches’ advice while conjuring a shadow monster along the way to do his dirty work.
Arthur is the Jon Snow-type who grew up without full knowledge of his royal lineage, honing his skills amongst a band of misfit men, a la The Watch. (And to be fair, traditional Arthurian legend too.) He reluctantly assumes power only when it becomes clear that, if he does not, even more people will die. I could go on… but I won’t. You guys know the story of Game of Thrones, right?
Oh yeah, and The Mage is a Warg. It’s a wonder she didn’t take control of a wolf at some point.
The Princess Bride
“Rodents Of Unusual Size… I don’t think they exist.” *Hero-protagonist is tackled by giant rodent*
The most obvious and seemingly intentional of references came in Arthur’s trip to The Darklands where he encounters all manner of nefarious creatures. This includes R.O.U.S.es in what seems to be a specific homage to The Princess Bride‘s iconic scene. I really enjoyed this moment, though I will say that R.O.U.S. are a lot scarier when rendered using modern visual effect techniques.
The Little Mermaid
While on the subject of 1980s storybook nostalgia, we also think the Syrens (or witches) that Vortigern pays homage to in the film call back to the sea witch from Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid fairy tale… most especially how Disney reimagined her in 1989. In the most iconic version of the tale, the sea witch is named Ursula and is, in a weird bit of trivia, modeled after the drag legend Divine. In addition to being a muse for John Waters, Divine inspired an octopus-shaped aquatic witch.
While two of the witches, including Game of Thrones alum Eline Powell, are quite svelte. Another is closer to Disney’s take on sea witches than any siren of legend we have heard about.
I wasn’t going to put any other Arthurian onscreen stories on this list because obviously King Arthur is influenced by what has come before when it comes to the iconic tale of King Arthur (although, admittedly, not as much as I suspected it would be).
Then, the movie had to go and cast Katie McGrath. The now-Supergirl star is probably best known for her role as Morgana on five seasons of BBC’s delightfully twee Merlin, so seeing her in another Arthur-focused show where Merlin’s name was dropped more than once was too much not to at least mention.
Like Merlin, King Arthur takes on the familiar set-up of an England where magic has been outlawed. This time, it is not by Uther (who is much nicer in King Arthur than he is in Merlin), but by Vortigern. That guy’s a total jerk.
Guy Ritchie’s crime comedies
It’s not really a revelation to note that a director’s movie borrows elements from his previous films. Of course it does! However, King Arthur seemed particularly inspired by Ritchie’s early crime comedies, especially in the scenes that saw Arthur and his Londinium crew running money-making schemes around their medieval neighborhood. I was not expecting King Arthur to feel so much like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. But it’s not surprising that, given Ritchie’s own interests and strengths as a director, these scenes are King Arthur‘s strongest moments.
While not Richie, Zack Snyder also is a fan of playing with the timing of his shots, using speed ramps and jump cuts liberally. He also famously included a montage of children being trained to fight in an ancient looking courtyard in 300, that looks a lot like the one where Arthur learns martial arts in this movie.
As David Crow points out in his review of King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, the film pays weird homage to Shakespeare’s Macbeth in the creation of three witch sisters who aid Vortigern in his plot to rule the kingdom forever. Of course, here, they are also sea squids, but I’m sure Shakespeare would be cool with a few extra tentacles.
Like Justin Kurzel’s 2015 Macbeth film, many of King Arthur‘s picturesque scenes were filmed in the Scottish countryside — specifically, the Isle of Skye.
Lord of the Rings
The opening battle in King Arthur: Legend of the Sword feels straight out of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, complete with oliphaunts and Eye of Sauron imagery.
Following this opening, King Arthur goes more into Game of Thrones mode than Lord of the Rings, but there are several sweeping helicopter shots of the Scottish landscape that are reminiscent of Lord of the Rings‘ own New Zealand landscape shots, used narratively in both cases to give a sense of scope to the characters’ rather ambitious medieval missions.
There are moments in King Arthur when it feels like Guy Ritchie wants to be telling the story of a different iconic British legend: Robin Hood. This is especially true in the film’s Londinium scenes when the upper class-born Arthur is hiding amongst the common people, working to give them all a better life.
In the Londinium assassination chase scene, I was especially reminded of BBC’s Robin Hood TV show, which was similarly interested in fast-paced editing and quippy banter amidst inevitable bloodshed.
If your mind did not immediately jump to World of Warcraft upon hearing the word “Mage Tower,” we don’t know what to do with you. Even those of us who’ve never played the game are well aware of its importance in lore thanks to pop culture osmosis. In the game, it is the most basic tower mages use to gather energy. In King Arthur, it is the end goal of mages (at least in the first movie) to conjure unstoppable power.
The Legend of Zelda
Whenever Arthur places his hands on Excalibur, some CGI-trickery breaks out as he gains the ability to more or less kill everyone in his path instantaneously. This nigh invincibility reminds us of any number of video games where holding such a magical sword gives you an unstoppable advantage. Most prominently, however, we think of the Zelda franchise by Nintendo.
While we cannot think of one specific 1:1 comparison, this personally reminds me of a sword you gain by wearing the Great Deity Mask in The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, whereupon Link transforms into a godlike digital elf whose sword for all intents and purposes shoots divine lasers out of its point, turning the final boss fights into a cakewalk.
You might have thought King Arthur hit peak randomness with its giant elephant battle scene in the film’s opening, but it has a third act surprise up its sleeve (King Arthur reference!) in the form of a giant snake that takes out Vortigern’s men and saves Arthur from certain death. I can’t have been the only one thinking of the basilisk from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, right?
Do you have any TV or movie references we missed? Sound off in the comments below or come bug me on Twitter.