The Kid Who Would Be King
Jacob Richardson | 18/01/2019
A fun new take of Arthurian legends of old.
When young Alex (Louis Ashbourne) pulls a sword out of a stone in the middle of a modern day construction site, he doesn’t realise what he has unleashed. He finds himself having to team up with his best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), his worst enemies Kaye (Rhianna Dorris) and Lance (Tom Taylor) and an out-of-time Merlin (alternately played by Angus Imrie and Patrick Stewart) to take down Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), whose return threatens the world. On the way, he’ll have to hide a bloody great sword from his Mother.
Joe Cornish brings an ineffable sense of fun to this piece. That works best in the first 30 minutes, which are genuinely very funny. As the story takes hold, some of this humor falls away, but the film never loses its sense of what it is supposed to be; a fun, upbeat interpretation of the tale.
The interplay between Bedders and Alex is one of the key pillars upon which this fun take is built, and they have a really great dynamic. Cornish makes sure that while the two fit into a general hero and sidekick stereotype (think Ned and Peter from Spiderman: Homecoming), subversion is still evident - most particularly displayed when Bedders calls Alex out on his behaviour.
The character of Merlin drives much of the weird humor though, and while Patrick Stewart is always a welcome sight, it is young Angus Imrie who really makes the character his own. With a flurry of hand gestures, clicks and clacks he can seemingly do anything, and his ‘fish out of water’ vibe is the perfect antithesis to the all too London vibe of the other four leads.
Most fun, though, is a climactic scene in the school itself. Merlin uses his powers of persuasion to convince the entire student body and faculty to join Alex and fight the risen Morgana, and what Cornish then gives us is a really fun, yet exciting, battle sequence between CG characters and partially armour-clad students utilising a bunch of the stuff one would find lying around a high school.
The movie falls on it’s own sword in some respects; most notably around the villainess herself. While Ferguson is great in person, Cornish repeatedly has her transform into a CGI dragon which never matches the quality of CGI established for some of her flaming henchmen. Further, a scene in Morgana’s lair where Alex tries to kill her before her ascent is played as a false ending, but Cornish never manages to nail the tonality of the scene and it leaves a weird empty feeling about ¾ of the way through the film.
Nevertheless, this is a strong, funny, enjoyable movie with a strong message for kids.
The Kid Who Would Be King is all sorts of fun, and despite a few flaws is an exciting adaptation from one of our favourite directors.