Why don't they understand that King Arthur belongs to the books?
Film-wise, King Arthur's lost his touch. Gone are the most simple, golden times where Hollywood modern-day blockbusters were unrealistic, unforgettable film pieces helmed by a young man with no apparent future who, unaware, achieved a life-or-death legacy. We have gone from ageless classics such as "Camelot" by Joshua Logan, "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones and "Excalibur" by John Boorman to insufferable "reimaginations" and lifeless adaptations such as Stuart Gillard's "Avalon High," Michael Bay's "Transformers: The Last Knight," Guy Ritchie's "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" and even Otto Bathurst's "Robin Hood" — which features many of the ingredients that made Ritchie's film what it is.— Exactly in the middle of these two categories lays the latest effort as writer and director of Joe Cornish, which rethinks the timeless legend within a world of smartphones, homework, bullying and chicken wings; while simultaneously trying to condense a fantasy adventure à la Spielberg, a Disney Channel film and a subtle anti-Brexit commentary; of course, not everything works out.
First and foremost, "The Kid Who Would Be King" means an irrefutable improvement over shameful adaptations Hollywood has insisted on producing. 20th Century Fox's delightfully British new take is likely to be far from covering its production and advertising costs, but quality-wise, it does redeem and save Arthur from ending up, again, on a "worst of the year" list in the face of the failures/flops from studios like Warner Bros. and Paramount Pictures.
After the reckless 2011 hybrid between sci-fi, comedy, and horror he used as his directorial debut, Joe Cornish jumps from playground to the most 80s fantasy, which is called Amblin. It opens with a didactic, gorgeously animated introduction to give some context about what sort of film we are about to see, enjoy and suffer in equal parts.
The character introduction is undeniably charismatic, employing about half an hour of its endless runtime to set up a solid bond between the audience and them and their problems. Just like Spielberg, Cornish almost completely restricts parent prominence, using them uniquely as dramatic supporting vehicles. For this reason, Alex, played by Louis Ashbourne Serkis — son of motion capture pioneer Andy Serkis, — his bestie Bedders, portrayed by Dean Chaumoo, and bullies Kaye and Lance, by Rhianna Dorris and Tom Taylor respectively, are the story's eyes. Each one does a great job portraying his roles, especially Serkis, who with his tenderness and unbelievable drama range makes a short part of the film compelling. But when it comes to juvenile performances, Angus Imrie and his hypnotizing and elaborate hand gestures steal the show. His young Merlin is fabulous, with a fierce comical load mixing fish-out-of-water humor and the most hilarious slapstick to bring an interesting pace at least until half the second act.
It's a huge surprise to learn that stars Patrick Stewart and Rebecca Ferguson are here standing by the project; the former with quite short yet meaty appearances as adult Merlin, and the latter as Morgana, a female villain that even though Ferguson tries her best to deliver a credible, menacing antagonist, the script only makes her look like a one-dimensional cartoon figure that wants to take over the world. Her character strangely reminded me of Nicole Kidman's villain for "Paddington," both films full of heart, but also disharmony between storytelling development and acting commitment.
Brilliant moments are at a premium, but still, the film treasures some touches of brilliance. From clever commentary against controversial withdrawal Brexit to writing jokes adapting the well-known Arthurian mythology to the 21st century manners; from dazzling blockbuster-like set-pieces to pieces of training as imaginative as catching, Cornish manages to pull several easter-eggs and comical interludes off thanks to his careful, faithful writing and the professionalism and commitment of his actors portraying their roles.
As for the rest, "The Kid Who Would Be King" has the potential to become a headache for some adults, nonsense for some teenagers and for most kids an endless fascination. Due to its abusively drawn-out running time, many viewers could stand in a position of radical skepticism midway, not receiving equally the other sequences and narrative moments, which can get to be dull, boring and ridiculous if you don't get into it from the beginning. The film tends to use its purpose of kids entertainment as an excuse to produce visuals and narrative threads that don't work well. From ridiculous to boring, young Merlin's slapstick and Bedders' naive humor might not land so well for grownups, because it handles a kind of humor that even today's children don't understand it as children used to.
"The Kid Who Would Be King" by Joe Cornish is not only a taste of its own medicine for majors that don't get tired of re-visiting existing IPs, but a production of British flavor severely diminished by an unnecessary lengthening of the events, a too mild treatment to resonate among today's audiences, some uninspired visuals and a story that fails to create interest for unlikely sequels. Those who grew up in the splendor of the 80s and 90s will certainly be willing to be carried along by the homages and easter eggs of the last century— for starters, the parallelism with films such as "The Man Who Would Be King" —however, those who, like me, belong to the new millennium will have a hard time trying to connect and stay connected with the idea for more than a quarter of an hour.
This title contains:
Positive role models
Violence & scariness