The Kid Who Would Be King
Cinema has missed Joe Cornish, who made a splash with the thrilling genre mash-up Attack the Block in 2011. Eight years later, his sophomore directing effort The Kid Who Would Be King hits cinemas, and according to US box office figures, sadly it seems few are interested. However, in a similar fashion to his previous work, this feature could be fated for a cult following, because it’s really rather good.
The film offers an original take on the King Arthur story that’s exciting and inventive. Alexander Elliot (Louis Serkis) is just the average schoolkid with a Ron Weasley-like friend, Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), and a Malfoy-ish foe, Lance (Tom Taylor), who’s accompanied by the equally oppressive Kaye (Rhianna Doris). This makes Alex the Harry Potter of this equation, and he becomes the chosen one after unexpectedly finding the sword of Excalibur.
Our young hero is able to identify the relic as he’s an Arthurian aficionado, taught by his late father. Mrs Elliot (Denise Gough) is less concerned about this discovery than she is about the bullies. Whilst she can’t be in the classroom to oversee her son, a gangly new classmate (Angus Imrie) supervises Alex. This verbose teen is actually the wizard Merlin, here to guide Alex in stopping the sorceress Morgan Le Fay (Rebecca Ferguson) from destroying England.
Cornish’s endlessly witty script gives the terrific young cast time and space to transcend black-and-white characterisations of heroes and villains with complete character arcs. Serkis is a stroke of ironic casting, though: Alex has no particular lineage to suggest he’s the kid who would be king, but the actor descends from living legend Andy Serkis. Patrick Stewart portrays the older Merlin and the veteran effortlessly bounces between authoritative and confused for his unique rendition. One only wishes they saw more of him. Ditto Ferguson, who menaces without chewing the scenery.
The filmmaker has crafted an old-fashioned adventure much like the movies of his youth, such as The Goonies and Time Bandits. Imaginative in its modernism alone, the picture resurrects the spirit of 80s kids’ cinema without tripping on nostalgia. There’s a nice use of real locations – particularly the beauty of Cornwall – though the finale is an intense CGI affair.
Unlike some similar films that scramble to find their moral compass at the end through tired monologues, Cornish’s The Kid Who Would Be King stays consistent with the messages that the director wants children to take away about honesty and coming together in divided times to stop bigger problems. Take the Brexit parallels as you will.
The Kid Who Would Be King is released nationwide on 15th February 2019.
Watch the trailer for The Kid Who Would Be King here: