The Kid Who Would Be King

A review of the new PG-rated movie by Joe Cornish

"What if it's a YouTube hack?" says Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis) to his friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo), and suddenly I am seized with an age-gap. What on Earth is a Youtube hack?? Making a mental note to Google it more thoroughly, I stick my attention back to a fine XI.ct. replica of a sword, dusty and royally fit for battle as per usual, as two young boys try to Google-translate the inscriptions. From the stylish, almost Japanese animated intro, the origins come as no surprise. King Arthur, reigning with mythical fairness to all kins and kinds pulled up the same sword from a stone, as told by many a grandmother story in England, whereas his great-great-great...well, a great-grandchild in this rendition by Joe Cornish found the said sword on a construction site in less than pleasant circumstances. 


As foretold, the heir to the Arthurian throne shall be found in times of great injustice (spot-on, the elders would nod in agreement now), dissatisfaction, fighting against ultimate evil embodied by the most famous witch in the history of tales (except perhaps Snow White's stepmom, only with a much better name) Morgana played by the beautiful Rebecca Louisa Ferguson (know for most recent Doctor Sleep and The Girl With the Matches). And difficult as it may be to make an action fantasy seem appealing after NarniaHarry Potter and Lord Of The Rings era, this movie does deserve a warm blanket and a round of hot chocolate with your minor cousins. 


Cornish managed to mingle well a story of a regular boy who would be a king from tales. Merging the questions of parental disbelief when children use tales as truthful explanations and abusive schoolmates, Alex is near and dear as he stands up to the bullies who take on Bedders on their morning routine to the first period. Making a narrow escape on one occasion, Alex tumbles down on a nearby construction site only to spot a proper fighting requisite carved in stone. As he pulls the relic out, underground screams as Morgana is awoken (with a monologue that is a slight nod to Galadriel's at the beginning of Trilogy) from a centennial sleep, speaking of our leaderless, disjointed world as her evil lair.


The ultimate battle is serious business when an Arthurian-great Alex finds out the truth behind his father's destiny and his worn-out book on Knights of the Round Table, and there is plenty of Lance to be seen as well, though in a slightly less-formidable way. Surely enough, we must not forget the greatest wizard of all times (not Dumbledore, kids) Merlin. This version travels from Patrick Stewart's masterly appearance to one Angus Imrie as young Merlin, bringing a much-welcomed comic relief with his clapping-charms and owl-transfigurations. Indeed, much of the most alluring regard for this movie is due to a superb cast, led by young Serkis. The son has done well in the recent years, imploring his parents to take him first on a Sherlock audition for a one-episode cast in Season 3 as a Ringbearer Kid on Watsons' wedding. It is the irony of life his father has played a much-feared Gollum, not so angelic ringbearer some years before.


Following in the footsteps of animated and drawn versions, The Legend of a Sword in Stone or Quest for Kamelot being amongst the most popular ones, The Kid finds its place for young historical fiction fans before coming-of-age time kicks in. It is perhaps ungratefully true today much of the children-age groups are unequally tolerant of on-screen violence and this movie version is somewhat uncertainly tipping with its dark-ish side to a 10 and above age rather than below. Still away from the grief-stricken coping of A Monster Calls, this is a different take on courageous loving hearts unpolluted by human malice. If a Neverending Story cycle has already been introduced and loved, this boy with his Excalliburistic story featuring gadgets and gizmos of our century will surely be well met.