Old school is meshed with modernity in the lastest film from director Joe Cornish (Attack the Block). It might be only his second feature length film, but director Cornish has been around the industry long enough to know what works. The Kid Who Would Be King works. Written as well by Cornish (The Adventures of Tintin, Ant-Man), this is the type of kids centered fantasy/adventure film that was popular when the Brit was growing up in the 80s. He manages, however, to make it feel at the same time of an old style while still fresh.
Having moved up in their school careers has not been a good thing for best friends Alex (Louis Ashbourne Serkis – Alice: Through the Looking Glass, Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle) and Bedders (Dean Chaumoo – first film). They are routinely bullied by older students, Lance (Tom Taylor – The Dark Tower) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris – first film). What they have ahead of them does not seem like a good time. That is until something unexpected happens one evening.
While trying to protect Bedders and then subsequently elude Lance and Kaye, Alex ends up in a deserted construction site. There he finds a sword in cement. After innocently pulling it out his whole life changes. Without realizing it, what Alex has in his possession is the mythical Excalibur, the sword that belonged to King Arthur.
Cool as that might seem, it isn’t as it comes with plenty of danger and responsibility. Because the sword has been removed from the stone, it sets a series of events in motion. The most dangerous being that the evil Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson – Mission: Impossible – Fallout, The Greatest Showman) being awoken from her slumber and gaining in power with the aim of coming back to claim what she believed to always rightfully be hers – Excalibur.
Once Alex and Bedders begin to understand what is happening and what they have to do – save all of Britain – they spring into action. Aided by the magician Merlin (Angus Imrie – from television’s Kingdom) and reluctantly the newly knighted Lance and Kaye, the youngsters are going to have to do battle against Morgana and her huge army of the undead.
This is a twist on the King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table tale. Though instead of a medieval tale it feels like films from the 80s like Goonies. Young heroes in their school uniforms. That element makes everything that goes on rather charming. Fun to imagine these youngsters being tasked with saving England while learning battle techniques, sword fighting and how to ride horses. All while learning life lessons and going through character building challenges.
My favourite little comment aimed at other hero type films which Cornish plants in this film is the idea that anyone can be a hero. You don’t have to come from a long line of heroes like in the Star Wars series. A nobody can save the world…or at least an entire country. Another cool aspect of the story is the modern feeling of gloom and doom that the entire planet seems to be under. The world and its inhabitants seem to be turning more towards the dark side. Hopelessness seems pervasive. It is the younger generation which is tasked with pulling us out of the mess we have made of things. Are they up to it? According to Cornish and this film the answer is resoundingly yes.
Plenty of CGI is involved here. When it comes to young Merlin changing to Old Melin (Patrick Stewart – Logan, X-Men) and then with a big sneeze to an owl. When the undead army rises as fiery skeletons on steeds. Almost everything that has to do with Morgana and he ability to shapeshift into a fiery dragon. And finally the entirety of the final fight sequence between they brave young people and their entire school body as they confront Morgana and her army. All of it is well done. Especially when you consider that this is not a big production or superhero film.
The film does have some darkness to it. Rather inherent in this type of story, but Cornish does not let that cast too much of a pall over everything. There might be some moments which are too scary for the youngest of film goers, but for the most part kids 6 and over can deal with the goings on.