Sunday, February 10, 2019

Fairy Tale Media Fix: The Kid Who Would Be King.

It feels good to be right about something.  I’ll try not to brag too much.

For a number of months now I’ve been cheerleading a movie called The Kid Who Would Be King.  Since I saw the first trailer for it, I’ve been saying that it looks like a lot of fun.
 And the truth is, I saw the movie and guess what?  It was a lot of fun!

This isn’t exactly a fairy tale film but it does stray into Stuff of Legends territory, so I think it’s close enough.

The Kid Who Would Be King is a movie about a 12 year old boy named Alexander Elliot.  Alexander struggles with bullies at school and abandonment issues regarding his absentee father.  Then, one night when running from his bullies, he finds a sword stuck in a stone at a demolition site.  Alexander pulls the sword from the stone.  Before long, Alexander discovers that he has now been chosen as the new king, whose duties include defeating the sorceress Morgana and saving all of Britain from enslavement.  So, along with his friend Bedders, his two former bullies turned knights and Merlin in the form of a lanky teenage boy, he goes on a quest to defeat Morgana and experiences some self-discovery along the way.

This movie is the sophomore foray for director Joe Cornish, director of the inner city alien invasion movie Attack the Block.  It stars Louis Serkis as Alexander, Dean Chaumoo as Bedders, and Angus Imrie and Patrick Stewart as the young and old Merlin respectively.  All the actors do good jobs.  Probably the standout is Angus Imrie as teenage Merlin.  Especially entertaining are his spells which are entirely executed through elaborate hand gestures.
You know what?  Let's have another one.
Okay, that's enough.
King Arthur related movies haven’t exactly been having the greatest run lately.  And I’ve echoed the sentiment put forth by online media critic Patrick H. Willems that the problem is that new versions of the story have put forth of their radical new  takes without bothering to remind people of why they loved the stories to begin with.  Essentially, with old stories like this that get made into movies usually every decade or so, you have to provide people with the “greatest hits” before hitting with new stuff.  I’m pleased to report that The Kid Who Would Be King doesn’t make the same mistake as other recent films.  This film gives us Excalibur, the sword in the stone (the same sword for storytelling economy purposes here), Merlin, Morgana, Tintagel, The Lady of the Lake and even a round table of sorts.  Sure, the movie had plenty of new stuff too.  You can’t go as radical as “preteen becomes the new King Arthur” without changing things up a little.  Their take on the sorceress Morgana is decidedly different, portraying her as much less a witch and more of a demon at times.  Her human form also has a unique vegetative look with roots and vines all over.  The Lady of the Lake is now connected to every body of water in all of Britain, ranging from lakes to puddles to bathtubs.  Our new collection of knights also provides some nice diversity to reflect the face of modern Britain with Bedders (counterpart to Sir Bedivere) being a South Asian boy and Kaye (counterpart to Sir Kay) being a young black girl.  There is also one big change to the Arthurian legend that I’m rather fond of.  However, it comes as a big moment in the movie and a major turning point for Alexander’s story so I don’t want to give it away. 
The new take on Morgana
I think the thing that most won me over is the tone and the themes that were in play.  Most takes on the King Arthur story in recent years aim for some kind of adult drama.  They either try to make the story gritty and historically accurate or they focus on the love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot.  The Kid Who Would Be King is a kids’ movie and as such it draws from a very kids’ storybook version of the Arthur legend.  In addition to all the fun mythological stuff I mentioned before, the movie focuses on all the super-idealistic chivalry stuff that’s become associated with the knights of the round table over the years.  While some people might see that stuff as a bit cheesy or juvenile, it’s more or less what I’ve wanted from a King Arthur film for a while.  When Arthurian stories focus on gritty violence or internal strife, it makes me forget what a noble experiment Camelot was actually supposed to be.  Happily, the optimistic tone is one of the main points of the movie and hope for a better world one of the main themes.
So, has The Kid Who Would Be King escaped the curse of recent Arthur films.  Well, maybe halfway.  The reviews I’ve seen have echoed my sentiment that the movie is a lot of fun.  However, last I checked it didn’t seem to be burning up the box office.  Which is too bad.

So, I’d very much recommend The Kid Who Would Be King.  It’s a lot of fun and if you’re anything like me, it might be just the King Arthur movie you’re looking for.

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