The Kid Who Would be King and Remembering how Fun Movies Used to Be
The Goonies, Stand By Me, E.T. The Extraterrestrial.
These are all the films that I couldn’t stop thinking about as I watched writer/director Joe Cornish’s latest film, The Kid Who Would Be King. This story owes a lot to those classic 80’s adventure movies, and I certainly think that’s a good thing. There’s a reason those stuck in the minds of an entire generation. I should be honest though. I was born in 1991, so that generation isn’t even mine. Luckily for me, I had three very cool older siblings who did in fact grow up in the 80’s, so I was introduced to those stories at a very early age, and I watched them over and over and over again growing up. Clearly, they made quite the impact on me since I’m still talking about them twenty years later.
After seeing Cornish’s directorial debut, Attack The Block, back in 2011, I was delighted to find another talented British director with an eye for action and cinematography, in the same vein as Edgar Wright. That film was one of the more unique debuts I’ve ever seen. A VERY British film about a small gang in South London fighting off an alien invasion is quite the statement to make in your very first feature. To his credit, it’s incredibly entertaining and a must see for any fan of that sort of story. Cornish certainly likes his genre films. Science fiction, fantasy, and adventure are his clear calling cards. He’s also written a few solid films in the years since Attack (Ant-Man and The Adventures of Tintin), but this modern retelling of the Arthurian legend is a return to form for him.
There’s just something pure about a movie like this, especially when the child actors are actually good. The titular “Kid” is played by Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of the very talented Andy Serkis, and he really brings it. Like those first movies I mentioned, think of Mikey, Gordie, and Eliott. Each of those main characters had something in common, and Serkis’s Alex shares whatever that thing is. Good-hearted, brave, and a little shy; something about that sort of character makes me feel like a kid again, and that is one of the highest compliments I can give about a movie like this. The unifying trait among all those great characters is a simple one, I think. They all had a sense of wonder that is still so relatable to me even today, as a twenty-seven-year-old. They embraced the fantastic and weird and ran with it, and that always stuck with me as a kid.
So many of today’s films lack that same sense of wonderment that made those past films classics. While I understand wanting your protagonist to be sarcastic and cynical, it feels like many films rely on those quippy one-liners just a bit too much sometimes, especially in films geared towards kids. There’s something to be said about the sense of curiosity and adventure that seems to shine through in films that make an effort to do so.
Like Attack, the visual effects really look great in this one. The skeleton knights with flaming swords definitely looked like how I’d imagine skeleton knights with flaming swords to look! I joke, but they legitimately would have scared the shit out of me as a kid, and I would have loved every second of it. They reminded me of the first time I watched Jurassic Park waaaaay too early in life. Fear and excitement go hand in hand, even as a kid.
In the theater, I kept hearing the voices of kids, laughing and occasionally screaming. Normally, as a moviegoer, that would be annoying and frustrating. Silence is golden, of course. However, this time, I understood it. Had I seen Jurassic Park or The Goonies in theaters, I would have been the most annoying kid in the whole theater. I couldn’t help but smile for most of the two hour runtime.
The true highlight of this film is Angus Imrie, the young actor who gave what (I think) is my favorite portrayal of Merlin I’ve ever seen. He just infuses it with so much weirdness and even though most of that credit goes to Cornish himself for writing it that way, Imrie really stood out above everyone. Also, shout out to Patrick Stewart, who plays the old version of Merlin, because who doesn’t love Patrick Stewart?
I don’t have kids, but if I did, I’d take them to see this movie, and hopefully it would make the same impact on them that those other films had on me. Good movies like this that are made for a very specific type of kid are pretty rare, and I would love to see more of them created. Kids are getting harder and harder to impress with each new piece of technology that comes out, so I’d be interested to see what kind of storytelling techniques writers start using to keep them entertained and interested throughout. I shouldn’t speak as if I’m any better. I can barely read for longer than ten minutes!
Overall, The Kid Who Would Be King is an immensely enjoyable popcorn movie that should entertain any kid, as well as plenty of adults like me. See this one.