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There’s something magical about walking into the theater, sitting down, and being completely absorbed by the film taking place. This wonderful experience happened ever so effortlessly while watching The Kid Who Would Be King: a new directorial effort from Joe Cornish (Attack the Block) which captures witty banter among a group of misfit children and their adventure to save Britain from an unstoppable force of evil.
Cornish may not have directly meant to pull influence from The Goonies, but the chemistry captured on screen, along with the mythical “treasure” map adventure story makes this thinking so completely understandable. Cornish’s direction is downright charming, drawing into our inner child and taking them on an adventure with these outcast children and a magical wizard - it’s a childhood fantasy come true. Joe Cornish excels so much in his dry humor and nicely choreographed action scenes that when they take center stage, they capture the magic of what an independent creative mind can do with a bit of a budget.
This film is the legendary King Arthur myth placed within a modern day setting with The Kid Who Would Be King at its core. This adventure plot takes the legend of Excalibur and makes it real - with the inclusion of demonic beings bringing silliness into the storyline, while driving home comedically dry humor the entire way through. The story keeps a steady pace and while it acts like a revolving door at times, the film proceeds to entertain and deliver a story that makes the audience anticipate the characters’ every move. The dialogue is pushed with an intelligent deadpan delivery, and the character motivations are significant to the overarching story with the adventure we are following to seek out whether or not our leading man, Alex, is the true heir of King Arthur. The journey to learn of his destiny is emotionally driven, and the writing is precise, to the point, and delivers a powerful punch.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The film is set in Britain and as such, is led by an all British cast. A mainly young adult cast leads the story, and their chemistry is undeniable, especially after some screen time to establish their somewhat strange connection. The four leading actors play the modern day doppelgängers of King Arthur and the knights of the round table, along with a young (Benjamin Buttons syndrome) Merlin the wizard, who on occasions transforms into his older being as played by Sir Patrick Stewart. The casting for this film is excellent, with no stone left unturned. Every actor fits their role brilliantly, and most even have heart with their character portrayal. Fights break out, emotions run amuck, and enemies become friends. It’s all captured through the fantastic acting placed on display here, from the likes of Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Tom Taylor, Dean Chaumoo, and many other talented actors. The stand out performance goes to Angus Irmie as the young Merlin, who shines brightest with his wacky humor, yet still manages to make it oddly dry, which is a masterclass effort in itself; his transformation into the equally wacky yet dry Sir Patrick Stewart elevates how great this young actor actually is. The weakest part of the crew is the villain, as her motivation is just to be evil and take over the world, which is a classic villainous plan with a small twist - however, this generic villainous plot is helped by a relatively decent performance by Rebecca Ferguson, even though she is barely in the film when compared to the runtime.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score is composed and performed by Electric Wave Bureau, who tries to present a mystical ambiance while representing a present day modern techno aesthetic. The score does this most notably in “Arthur’s Theme,” as it appeals to the senses as an 80s film. The film is similar to The Goonies or Gremlins with its score, as it has a sense of wonder, fun, and adventure. Where sound effects are concerned, the sword fighting packs a rightful punch with every swing and clash being just as impactful as the next. The magical spells cast are minimal, but their appearance is sprung upon the audience with a simple triggering noise that repeats itself.
The Kid Who Would Be King has some stellar set designs throughout, with even the landscape scenes through marshes or farmland feel incredibly real and veiled in mystery. Morgana, the villainous witch, has a great overall look to her, and the witchcraft she possesses is much more in her transformation than anything which is shielded in the cloak of smoke she creates. Morgana becomes an abomination of a dragon at any given moment, and while the transformation is hidden with movie trickery, Morgana’s actual fire-breathing form is less than hidden. The dragon creature is ugly but not in the right ways, as it’s the poor use of CGI that makes her appear this way, and especially when seconds earlier there are hordes of demonic henchman that appear to use a great mixture of practical and digital effects. Beyond this negative element of the film, the effects are simplistic and great. Most memorably with the “heroic” Merlin who uses a combination of hand gestures and movements to conjure his magic, which builds a comedic effect, notably when spontaneously turning into an owl. His magic is unlike anything we’ve seen on film, and it’s wonderful to say the least.
The Kid Who Would Be King is proof that the outline of the legendary Arthurian tale is timeless. For a PG film, it is action packed, charming, and the modern day King Arthur story that you never knew you needed until now. Its dry humor may be a tad overwhelming at times, but as with films similar to this tone, repeated viewings start to share the jokes more and more with the viewer, making those unexplained smirks you got the first showing make more sense with each one after.