How many ways can you tell the same old story? Director Guy Ritchie’s answer is turning the Camelot myth on its arse. In his muddled but muscular re-telling of “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” there is little swash and buckle, but hot damn if Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”) isn’t fit to be king. With that chiseled physique, Hunnam is built for royalty. But as the dude doing the sword pulling, he is given the impossible task of elevating material that fails him miserably. Sexy, dirty swagger can carry you only so far in a movie jammed with gigantic battle elephants, hyper-editing and a career-worst performance by Jude Law (Ritchie’s “Sherlock Holmes”), who repeatedly grinds the movie to a halt.

Ritchie (“Snatch,” “RockNRolla”), working from a script he wrote with Joby Harold (“Awake”) and Lionel Wigram (Ritchies’s “The Man from U.N.C.L.E.”), defies purists by reimagining Arthur as a thief raised by prostitutes living in a fifth century brothel. Reluctantly, he battles his usurping uncle (Jude Law) for the throne. Arthur is abetted by a band of colorfully named merry men in Wet Stick (Kingsley Ben-Adir), Back Lack (Neil Maskell), Chinese George (Tom Wu), Bedivere (Djimon Hounsou) and Bill the archer (Aidan Gillen).

Ritchie struggles to give his movie an identity. It feels like a confluence of “Game of Thrones” (it’s even got Little Finger himself in Gillen) and the Oscar-winning “Gladiator,” yet never comes close to rising to their level. Equally off-putting is the film’s muddy look, taking the term “Dark Ages” literally. Hans Zimmer’s bombastic score is loud and intrusive. It does not amplify the action, it distracts. Even the elaborately staged battle scenes feel stilted because they are confusing to watch, thanks to Ritchie’s trademark fast, jittery style.

Ever since his debut, the 1998 crime thriller, “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels,” Ritchie has been an audacious director, infusing his films with pithy dialogue, quick-cut camera work and plot rewinds. His stylized stamp modernizes the well-worn Round Table lore, but those gimmicks are offset by one-note characterizations, predictable plot points, and Law’s Vortigern. His portrayal of the power-hungry king with a penchant for familicide is laughable. Ditto for Astrid Berges-Frisbey’s turn as the Mage, a mystical girl who helps Arthur handle the strength of the sword -- and his boyhood trauma. What girl wouldn’t want that job?

“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” is reportedly the first in a six-film Arthurian cinematic universe. I doubt even Merlin’s magic can make that happen.

-- Dana Barbuto may be reached at dbarbuto@ledger.com or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.

“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”

Cast: Astrid Berges-Frisbey, Jude Law, Aiden Gillen, Djimon Honsou, Eric Bana, Annabelle Wallis.

(PG-13 for sequences of violence and action, some suggestive content and brief strong language.)

Grade: C