Movie Review: The Kid Who Would Be King

"The Kid Who Would Be King"

Written and Directed by Joe Cornish

Starring Rebecca Ferguson and Patrick Stewart

Review by James Stone

The Kid Who Would Be King is a modern day retelling of the legend of King Arthur. For those that don’t know the story, Excalibur was an ancient sword, embedded into a stone through magical means. The mystical weapon could only be removed from the rock by the one, true King: Arthur; destined to be the savior of the land with the help of his Knights Of The Round Table.

The legend of King Arthur is a story that continues to be told over and over, much like that of Robin Hood. What makes this movie stand out is that this version is targeted at a younger audience, in the present day, unlike Guy Ritchie's version from 2018.
As a father I know it’s difficult to sell a story of knights and dragons to young children in today’s world. If it’s not super-heroes or big stompy robots they don’t seem to be interested. Joe Cornish had a tough task here, making a story that not only appeals to the younger audience of today but also by making it relevant.

Writer and director Cornish is best known for his gritty, urban sci-fi hit Attack The Block. He's also credited with writing the screenplay for the Marvel Movie Ant-Man and Steven Spielberg’s 2011 Tin Tin movie. This résumé should give you the confidence of knowing that he's capable of writing young characters and delivering comedy in group or team situations.
This was a well written screenplay that, although it didn't have much impact on me as an adult, my kids really enjoyed it. There were a number of laugh out loud moments. Taking an old time story like this a setting it in today’s world is certainly the right way to make it relevant. Kids can relate to the everyday situations, like being at school or the local park. The only part I felt that could have been done better was when our 4 heroes set off on their adventure, purchasing medieval armor as protection. With the story being ground in the reality of modern times, some sports protective equipment or modern day combat clothes would have fit better with the tone of the film.

There are some very well crafted action sequences throughout, with some beautifully designed creatures. The portrayal of the main villain, Morgana, played by Mission Impossible's Rebecca Ferguson, was chilling and quite scary for the younger audience.

With a reported $60 million budget a lot of respect needs to be given to the special effects team. There are some incredible action sequences where dead, fiery demons emerge from the ground and chase our heroes, and these looked fantastic.

The arrival of Merlin always came with a transformation to and from a bird, and again the movie delivered these flawlessly. One particular scene which caught my eye was when Merlin, in bird form, flies through a window and hits a door while transforming into human form. Rather than cut away and back with a puff of smoke, the camera doesn’t move and shows the transformation perfectly.

Patrick Stewart and Rebecca Ferguson take top billing for this movie but they are very much fringe characters, both only being seen on screen for a matter of minutes. The true cast is made up of 4 young British actors, none of whom have vast IMDB listings. Let's not forget Attack the Block, though. Joe Cornish’s breakout film, with a cast on young British nobodies, was led by John Boyega, who has since gone on to be one of the biggest stars in the world today playing Finn in Star Wars episodes VII, VIII and IX.

This may not be a film to set the box office on fire, or one that will have critics shouting from the rooftops about its grandeur, it may well find its true audience on home release. However, this is a fun, action packed movie that provides 90 minutes of enjoyment to a youthful audience.

Delivering all this without any A List Hollywood stars on a moderate budget is an achievement in itself, and puts Joe Cornish on the list of directors worth keeping an eye on.

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