04th Nov2022

Rewind: ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ Review

by Chris Thomas

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

As a wise man (or woman) once said, “Good intentions doth butter no Parsnips”

Never have truer words been said, and nor have they fitted better than to The Kid Who Would Be King. Joe Cornish (writer and director) started his career, doing silly skits with Star Wars figures, back when that was cutting-edge comedy. He went on to make Attack the Block, the interesting sci-fi action film, about an inner-city housing estate being attacked by extra-terrestrial monsters. It was dripping with both alien blood and social commentary.

The Kid Who Would Be King introduces us to some beautiful animation, explaining the Arthurian myth of the sword, Merlin, Morgana. It wraps up, with the evil Morgana being defeated and trapped. However, she has vowed to return. It turns out that post-Brexit, “levelling up” Britain is the perfect time for her revenge. People are selfish, forgotten and apathetic. Step in Alex, a 12-year-old boy from an inner city, broken home. He attends an academy, rather than a “school” and he and his kindhearted, best friend are regularly bullied.

The sword finds its way to him, and he creates his own knights of the round table, to battle the forces of evil.

The things to like about the film. Patrick Stewart. Also, the film is made with real talent. It is well shot, well lit and, for the most part, well acted, by a cast of mainly children. The final climactic battle remains a good idea, albeit, like much of the film it feels somehow like a missed opportunity with a fantastic premise. I also enjoyed the Madness of “young Merlin” working in a fried chicken shop and trying to relate to the kids of today. Again, underused.

Bleeding heart lefty, that I am, I should love the film. The problem is, it is painfully slow, and the quest is ponderous. An enormous amount of time is spent recruiting the two, rather dull bullies into the fold. Not much happens, for most of the film, and when the action hots up, it is generally due to some fantastically generic flaming skeletons (albeit well-animated ones).

The fact that an academy of school children, face mortal peril, against an army of enflamed skeletons, on the back of an afternoon of sword training, on the promise of “no lessons today, if you fight”, and then suffer not a single child casualty diminishes the mild peril quite significantly.

Who owns the future? The kids of course. Joe Cornish adds his own, well-meaning slant on that, to include the underprivileged kids. It is meant to be a rousing battle cry to the socially minded among us. We are all in this together. Trouble is. After a decade of austerity, Brexit and Boris Johnson have done their work, and all the film can get out of me is a flicker, a shrug. If only the film was just a bit more rousing than it is. A missed opportunity, and a shame, in that regard.

Judging The Kid Who Would Be King at face value, it’s a mediocre, slightly dull quest to save the world.

Atlas shrugged.


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