“Alexander Elliot, It Was You Who Drew The Sword! This Realm Faces Mortal Danger..!”
In a time in which both King Arthur: Legend of the Sword and the awfully misjudged, Robin Hood, at least effectively reminded everyone that sometimes rolling out the same old story time and time again isn’t always the best quick route to success, the release of The Kid Who Would Be King sees yet another legendary tale being brought to the big screen just in time for half term. Directed and written by Joe Cornish, whose previous credits include Attack the Block and the screenplay for 2015’s Ant-Man, the London born filmmaker helms a family friendly retelling of the Arthurian legend, this time set in the heart of contemporary England as we follow Louis Ashbourne Serkis’ (Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle) Alexander, a geeky and overly charming school pupil who soon becomes central to thwarting the resurfacing of the evil presence of Morgana, who attempts to take over Earth after centuries away in waiting for the planet to fall into a particularly desolate point of crisis. With supporting trailers for the movie which teetered on the edge of awfulness, the signs weren’t exactly overwhelmingly positive heading into Cornish’s latest, and whilst The Kid Who Would Be King does have some interesting ideas alongside some likeable themes ideas, the latest spin on the well versed fantastical tale is admirable, but is too a movie which fails on a fundamental level of not entirely being worthy up upon the big screen.
With Serkis following in the footsteps of his father, Gollum himself, Andy Serkis, by immediately coming across as a more than adequate lead performer, the initial thirty minutes set up is actually rather well done, with Cornish’s script managing to blend youth infused comedy with the ridiculousness of the central legend as we our introduced to both Alex’s home life with his struggling single mother and his school life, which is balanced between the daily battle against constant bullying from Tom Taylor (The Dark Tower) and Rhianna Dorris’ Lance and Kay, and his friendship with Dean Chaumoo’s Bedders, the self proclaimed Samwise to Alex’s Frodo. With Excalibur soon being thrusted from its’ positioning in a desolate building yard, the arrival of Angus Imrie’s Led Zeppelin supporting Merlin pushes the comedic elements of the movie into a string of constant Thor esque gags as we witness the wizard attempt to make the wide-eyed fellow pupils of Alex aware of impending doom. Sharing the role with the wispy white haired figure of Patrick Stewart (Logan), Merin is undoubtedly the most interesting character within the drama, with Rebecca Ferguson’s, (Mission: Impossible – Fallout) Morgana, ridiculously underwritten, resulting in a threat level which is shared with the awfulness of Toby Kebbell in Destroyer. As the movie swings past the hour mark however, the remaining fifty minutes annoyingly become devoid of fun, ideas or decent editing, concluding with a final special-effects laden battle which seems to have less production value than the early episodes of Doctor Who, and whenever a film tests my patience after starting so well, the final package isn’t really worth it come the end of it. Solid, but very mediocre indeed.
Overall Score: 5/10
“You Can’t Stop What’s Coming. Death Always Wins…”
Growing up with Stephen King books going as far back as I can remember, the cinematic accessibility of the American’s many novels has resulted in a variety of classic movies over the course of nearly half a decade, and whilst The Shining, The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me are arguably the standout examples, even when Kubrick’s famous horror barely resembles the source material, The Dark Tower series has seemingly been in production hell since the first whispers of a possible adaptation came to the floor at the turn of the 21st century. With previously attached filmmakers J.J. Abrams and Ron Howard both passing on the project, the task has fallen into the hands of Danish director Nikolaj Arcel, who along with King’s own blessings and Howard’s descent into a production role, has finally managed to create a live-action adaptation of King’s monstrous fantasy epic. Being an avid reader of all things King, The Dark Tower series is indeed a collection of novels which I have enjoyably devoured, and whilst King’s own notion of such a series being a cross between The Lord of the Rings and Sergio Leone’s Dollars trilogy, the novels do have weaknesses, particularly within the concluding three releases, and whilst many have bulked at particular high profile changes which have occurred in the transition from paper to screen, Arcel’s adaptation is a release I have been eagerly awaiting since the first trailer was announced and with the fundamental and historical issues some stories have when making the jump to the big screen, the question on everyone’s lips is; was it worth the wait?
In a nutshell? Not quite, and whilst Arcel’s adaptation of King’s novels suffers from a wide range of basic filmmaking issues, The Dark Tower was a movie in which I was never bored, never lost in the rapid overlapping of plots and crucially, never bothered by the gargantuan and radical differences that have occurred between the process from paper to screen, and because of this, the movie was a rare case of a film which seemed to be rather enjoyable even when the weaknesses are so apparent on screen. In my own view, my ability to overlook such downfalls such as awful editing, ear-scraping dialogue and cheesy special effects, is ultimately down to my affinity to the source material and although the convoluted plot will undoubtedly seem incoherent and completely bonkers to an audience coming to the film with no previous knowledge of the characters or the setting, Arcel’s movie is so obviously an adaptation made solely for the readers of the series, and for that alone, I applaud the ballsy approach to create such. With obvious production problems at the heart of the finished article, The Dark Tower is a movie which worked more than it failed, and whilst the rafter of negative reviews and poor box office numbers will unfortunately class the film as a failure, Arcel’s adaptation will no doubt be the beginning of a series which is destined to be explored much, much more either on the big screen or the small.