THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING
Director: Joe Cornish
Screenwriter: Joe Cornish
Louis Ashbourne Serkis
Runtime: 120 mins.
Australian release date: 17 January 2019
Previewed at: Hoyts Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park, Sydney, on 13 January 2019.
Opening with an animated prologue depicting the legend of Britain’s mythical King Arthur, The Kid Who Would Be King then promptly embarks on a modern-day update of the ancient fable. Joe Cornish, who wrote the screenplays for Ant-Man and The Adventures Of Tintin but whose only previous feature foray as director was the little-seen (at least in Australia) Jodie Whittaker-starring sci-fi thriller Attack The Block, handles his self-penned material with aplomb, bringing an almost old-fashioned appeal to this likeable kid-flick. The little ones in the preview audience gave it their seal of approval, judging by the rapt attention they paid to it. Granted, it’s a bit scary in places for the very young but the age of the protagonists (they’re 12-ish) keeps it relatable and their fearlessness crosses over to the children in the audience.
Alex Elliot (Andy Serkis’s son, Louis Ashbourne Serkis) is the only son of a single mother (Denise Gough), whose father seems to have disappeared in mysterious circumstances. Well, at least they’re mysterious to Alex: his mum says he was “battling demons”. Bullied at school, his only close friend is Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), a timid boy who’s also picked on by the school toughs, Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Doris). Life changes dramatically when Alex pulls an old sword from a block of concrete on a building site and strange things start to happen, not the least of which is the arrival of a new boy at school, Mertin (Angus Imrie). He is, of course, a thinly disguised Merlin, the magician of yore who was always at Arthur’s side. Merlin has the ability to transform into an owl and, at odd times, his old self (Patrick Stewart). He tells Alex that Arthur’s nemesis, the evil witch Morgan le Fay (Rebecca Ferguson), aka ‘Morgana’, will have the chance to break her bonds in four days’ time, during a solar eclipse, and that Alex, as ‘the once and future king’, is the only one who can stop her and her hordes of fiery, undead horsemen. He will, of course, need help in his quest and so he has to find his ‘knights of the round table’ but there’s not a lot of choice at his comprehensive school, especially when no-one will believe his story.
Cornish does an admirable job with his material, imbuing his script with valuable life-lessons for a young audience. The ‘knights’ have to adhere to a chivalric code, instilling in them the values of honesty, loyalty and respect. The leads are very good, given their youth, especially Serkis Junior, who looks like he’ll be following in his father’s footsteps, and Dean Chaumoo, who’s endearing as the lad who learns that brains are often more of an asset then bravery. The SFX are exciting, too, and the apocalyptic cavalry is wonderfully rendered. Electric Wave Bureau’s score is also suitably dramatic. For older viewers, there are tantalising references to the Brexit debate occupying the UK at the current time, with dialogue such as “Your country is divided” and suggestions that ‘the future is in the hands of the children’, which could be taken as an allusion to the fact that almost 75% of voters under the age of 24 voted to remain in the European Union. Be that as it May (ahem!), there’s plenty in The Kid Who Would Be King to keep audiences of all ages engaged for a couple of hours.