21st Feb2019

‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Angus Imrie, Denise Gough, Dean Chaumoo, Tom Taylor, Rhianna Dorris, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Noma Dumezweni, Rebecca Ferguson, Mark Bonnar | Written and Directed by Joe Cornish


Old school magic meets the modern world in this epic adventure. Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) thinks he’s just another nobody, until he stumbles upon the mythical sword in the stone, Excalibur. Now, he must unite his friends and enemies into a band of knights and, together with the legendary wizard Merlin (Sir Patrick Stewart), take on the wicked enchantress Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson). With the future at stake, Alex must become the great leader he never dreamed he could be.

Joe Cornish returns, as director, to cinema screens following an eight-year absence after his critically acclaimed hit Attack of the Block in 2011. His long anticipated and gestating follow up is the rather, on the surface level underwhelming, announcement of a child-friendly adaption of the King Arthur tale in a modern revitalised retelling with The Kid Who Would Be King. A film a million miles away from Cornish’s previous exploits and wonderful tongue in cheek approach to refresh a saturated palette and evoke the sensibilities of such classics as Stand by Me and The Goonies.

The Kid Who Would Be King is a delightfully embellished picture with how it expresses such endearing embodiment of friendship, commitment and loyalty. Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of famed motion-capture performer Andy Serkis, leads the charge with a superb role as Alex. A role that oozes lavish endearing weightiness that stands Serkis tall with material far ahead of his time with his tender age, yet brilliantly ratified with a sizeable performance that rises well above his peers in terms of emotive range. Angus Imrie, son of Celia Imrie, impresses with a largely physically boisterous and verbally dominating performance as Young Merlin. If Serkis handles the more engaging dramatic nature of the film, then Imrie undoubtedly evens the proceedings out with a more comical approach. A somewhat largely in your face depiction but one that is convicted in a charming tongue-in-cheek fashion of playfulness.

Rebecca Ferguson deeply underwhelms and disappoints as villain Morgana. A performance that is completely engulfed and strangled by CGI. Any and all of Ferguson’s talent is lost to poorly constructed special effects and lighting that ultimately, and sadly so, doom any investment or engagement to a character that is non-existent and what unfortunately defines a character that somewhere deep down has remnants of depth but nothing manages to be brought through the threshold of adequate involvement to a film that may have well as crafted a completely CGI character in the same vein as the recent tragically inept D.C.E.U. efforts.

Cornish’s film is also vastly elongated in a bloated second act and results in an overabundant CGI heavy and dire third act that stretches beyond any means of satisfactory running time. For a film that runs at just under two hours long the pacing and structure here is, to say the least, a crux in effect from two aspects of production in the writing from Cornish and the editing from Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss. Both areas of production can be best described as dearly self-indulgent. The latter discussed above with the sheer amount of material wanted to be included in a picture that doesn’t need such prominent sentimentality. The former once again showcases Cornish’s struggle to depict character arcs and/or realistically authentic character growth. Much like Attack of the Block, Cornish writes himself into a hole with no real desire to write himself out, with deeply unlikable characters who in a split second are churned from good to evil and vice versa with tepid conviction and weak sentimentality that feels more condescending than the intended desire.

The Kid Who Would Be King is in cinemas now.


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