Review THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING by Jonathan Evans

3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Myths and fables are the cornerstones of great narratives. For, if no other reason, they are the oldest stories to survive the test of time. They are journeys and battles of good and evil and are basic but deep so you can throw almost any coat of paint on them you want and they still ring the same emotional core. Not all though have to be set in ancient times. An essence of a story can be picked up and put in almost any aesthetic or time period. Take Star Wars, for example, dark lords, a princess in peril, it takes place a long time ago in a place far, far away, its a fairytale with a science-fiction setting. The Kid Who Would Be King knows this and takes one of the oldest (as well as British) myths and puts it into our modern era with a few new twists and turns.

The tale begins by telling the tale. Literally, the movie opens with a storybook opening and seeing illustrations and narration telling the tale of King Arthur, how it was a time of chaos and dark forces were on the rise and the people needed leadership, so came a young boy named Arthur that pulled the sword from the stone and became king of the land. But his stepsister Morgana was warped by greed and jealousy and sought to take the throne for herself, so Arthur, along with his wizard Merlin battled her and then banished her deep within the earth, but she vowed to return when the land is sick and the people are divided. Then we pull out of the book and are now in modern times. 

We see a young boy named Alex Elliot (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) who is late for school (as it seems all leading children must be when they are the protagonist in movies). When he gets there his friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) is being bullied by Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Doris), he refuses to let his friend be the victim and bushes back, resulting in all of them getting detention. 

You will notice that each character is given their own color and has a unique silhouette. Such detail is important to notice and give credit to because it helps make the character instantly visually recognizable. Which, in a movie where the characters are simple and there’s a lot of running about, is very important. 

While running away from the bullies after detention Alex runs through a construction site. While there he sees a sword sticking out of the pillar of a building, he pulls it out and takes it home. While there he and his friend translate (through the aid of Google) the engravings on it. It read that it will be pulled out by the king of the land, they say that this must be the sword in the stone, which they laugh at the thought of. But when a strange boy suddenly enrolls in their school and one night a flaming skeleton soldier enters Alex’s room, almost killing him, he starts to think that there is merit to some of this. 

This strange boy is in-fact Merlin (Angus Imrie), the great wizard himself. In the actual lore, Merlin would age backward so this decision has some logic and credibility by staying true to the original mythology. Though at times he does revert into his adult form and is then played by Sir Patrick Stewart, who both seems to naturally take to playing a mighty, booming wizard and is clearly having quite a bit of fun with the role. While he is in this state he brings great gravity and seriousness to the moments, as well as comedy, though what would you expect from Stewart. So begins the quest to train, assemble knights of the round table (that is foldable in one of their dining rooms) and defend the land against evil. It’s a classic tale that has been told again and again and holds up. What matters is if it brings something new to the table and how well it executes its concepts. As has already been made clear taking the myth and setting it in modern day is something but there are other examples of this, adding all the modern pop culture references is something though I feel these are more of a deterrent to the movie. They are just there for kids to hear and think “Hey they said that thing I like, yay!” It is something that adds no real substance to the material and will most likely date it terribly, though this is a movie for children and it never forgets that so maybe I’m being too hard on it.

Writer-Director Joe Cornish seems to have found his niche in modernizing fables. His first movie Attack the Block, which I greatly enjoyed, was essentially a fable, just told in modern London with Aliens thrown into the mix. He writes fast-talking, personality-infused characters, with plenty of humor sprinkled about and always stays true to the emotional core of the whole project. If you enjoy the work of Edgar Wright (who Cornish has been writing partner to for many projects), particularly his Cornetto Trilogy, then this is the type of humor, style, and a journey that will appeal to you.

If there’s a definite weak element to the movie it is the acting. These are not great child actors, they are the overreacting type you often get from child actors. When they are shocked or surprised their mouths hang open and eyebrows raise, when they are upset the eyebrows go down and they pout their lips. Though I must give credit to Serkis, who is able to convey pain just through an expression and without dialog. The best actor within the movie is Sir Patrick Stewart but that seems unfair to compare these children to this well-experienced master of his craft. 

I appreciate the incorporation of real problems with these characters. Some are insecure, or have to face truths about the world is harder than they’d like it to be. This grounds it and adds weight to the story, it makes the characters real in a way that goes beyond simply having them say what their favorite drink or color is.

This is one of the oldest stories ever told. About a land in need of a hero and a sword chooses the said hero, about dark forces and a group that unites to slay it. it stays true to that core and wraps it in modern day with the lingo and names so that the youth will find it easy to connect with. It does it’s job well and distinguishes itself while doing it. 

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