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If Zack Snyder Wants To Do King Arthur, We Have Some Notes

It's not always good to be the King


the knight of the round table look up in horror

We’re just a month away from The Snyder Cut of Justice League moving from myth to reality, and in the meantime, Zack Snyder has indicated he has his eye on another myth: the legend of King Arthur. And well, we have some concerns and hopes if that’s going to happen, because the Arthurian myths are notoriously hard to adapt and it’s a hill many a director has died upon.

Firstly, there are no solid contracts or studios into Snyder’s Arthur project yet, it’s just an idea he’s looking at. In an interview with Minutemen, Snyder explained, per CBR: “I’m working on something but we’ll see,” he said of an Arthurian project. “I’ve been thinking about some kind of retelling, like, [a] real sort of faithful retelling of that Arthurian mythological concept. We’ll see. Maybe that will come at some point.”

We have some notes on this idea, Zack, I hope you’ll indulge us.

First off, we just have to ask: why? And maybe: are you sure? There have been so many bad Arthurian takes (and very few good ones), and the bad vastly outweigh the good. In this climate of endless reboots and revivals, we have to ask if it’s not better to just find an original story or a myth or legend that hasn’t been explored on screen yet.

We’ve done King Arthur over and over, and it’s almost never an idea that works (especially when you add in freaking Transformers to the mix). Arthur’s story is so vast it’s much better suited to a television show and there have been a lot of attempts at that too, with varying degrees of success (slightly better record than movies though).

And there’s a good reason for this: the King Arthur story is hard to tell. And so if Snyder wants to do a version of it, he really has to figure out what that story is. It’s nice that he wants to make it faithful to the legends, but faithfulness to this story is a very tricky thing.

In some ways, it’s impossible to do a “faithful” retelling of the Arthurian myth because, well, there’s a millennium and a half of legends and retellings between us and Arthur. Whether or not there was a “real” King Arthur is a big question, but there’s also no truly definitive version of his story that’s “accurate.”

Sure there’s Le Morte D’Arthur, but that’s just one of many retellings and is as much a product of its time as The Mists of Avalon. So it would be hard for Snyder to be faithful to something specific unless he means the realities of life in Wales in the 5th or 6th century (which sounds cool to me, but I’m weird). Of course, there are basic beats that are generally agreed upon, from The Sword in the Stone to Lancelot and Guinevere’s affair bringing down Camelot, and it’s maybe in the later element where Snyder can do something new.

As we’ve noted, most adaptations of the Arthurian Legends fail because they want the story to be a fun and inspiring action-adventure when it is at its core a violent and unromantic tragedy. The original story of Arthur was a metaphor for the struggle for Welsh national identity in the face of Anglo-Saxon invasions, and that’s not a story with a happy ending. Arthur ultimately fails, the central love story eventually ends in betrayal and pain. There’s also incest and the good guys lose, of and also there’s that whole quest for the Holy Grail thing that … doesn’t involve Arthur that much and also ends poorly.

This violence, sadness, and tragedy are why Arthur has been so hard to get right on screen (just ask Antoine Fuqua or Guy Ritchie) but … it might also be the reason Zack Snyder might be, dare I say it, good for this project? Now, we give Snyder a hard time pretty often here because of his films’ tendencies to lean into the dark and grim when the character and story don’t really lend themselves to that (for instance, Superman). But that exact tendency could work here.

Snyder’s best film remains 300, which combines myth, action, and a bit of magic into a story that, in case you forgot, doesn’t have a happy ending. So if he wants to make a movie about King Arthur in the same vein, that might actually work.

If Snyder does an Arthur project he would actually do well to go full Zack Snyder with it, frowns, blood, homoeroticism, and all. If he can recapture something like he did in 300, I’d see that movie. As long as he resists the urge to make King Arthur perky and romantic and palatable and give it a happy ending, this could work. And knowing Snyder, that might be what he does.

I’m still leery of yet another King Arthur movie, and to be fair this is just an idea in Snyder’s head at this point and he’s working on a lot of things. This could go either way, and since I guess another King Arthur movie is sadly inevitable, a dark, gritty-Snyder-y King Arthur might be the way to go if we have to do it.

(via: CBR, image: EMI Films)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.