The Kid Who Would Be King

 

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In a pre-apocalyptic South London neighbourhood, a 12-year-old boy takes on the mantle of King Arthur.

   

Kid Who Would Be King, The

Game knight: Louis Ashbourne Serkis

 

The world is looking grim. The newspaper headlines proclaim doom and gloom and “Division in Europe.” A teacher warns her students that, “it’s a tough world out there – and it’s getting tougher.” Time, then, for a new leader.

 

Joe Cornish’s first film, Attack the Block (2011), took the tried and tested formula of the alien invasion, moved it to a council estate in South London, and added a comic human spin. Now he updates the Arthurian myth and sets it in a South London comprehensive – Dungate Academy. Here there be bullies and playground fisticuffs and our hero, 12-year-old Alex Elliot (Louis Ashbourne Serkis), comes from a broken home. He is an ordinary, lightly plump lad, albeit with the guts to stand up to the school tyrant (Tom Taylor, from The Dark Tower). And he is obviously destined for greater things, for when he discovers a broadsword on a building site lodged in a concrete block, he is able to extract it with ease.

 

Aimed squarely at an audience hungry for more knights and witchcraft, The Kid Who Would Be King ticks the same boxes as Harry Potter – with sorcery descending on a recognisably modern, commonplace world. There are plenty of homilies, too (“your land is only as good as its leaders,” warns Merlin), so adults in the audience should nod approvingly. There are also some smart choices, with a suitably colour-coded cast, a nice reference to another King, Kong (previously played by Louis Ashbourne Serkis’s dad, Andy) and Alex’s house placed right beside Malory Road (after the Arthurian authority Thomas Malory). Furthermore, there’s a real knight in the mix, a wind-blown Sir Patrick Stewart sporting a Led Zeppelin T-shirt.

 

Much of this should amuse the adults, but younger viewers will find plenty to enjoy as well, judging by the squeals of laughter at the public screening I attended. Everybody loves a schoolboy who stands up to his tormentors, and if he’s assisted by a whopping great medieval weapon, all the better. Inevitably, the epic spectacle of CGI dulls the senses in the final act, although good use is made of the effects earlier on, particularly in a sequence on Bodmin Moor. Some of it is quite scary – the Apocalypse for kids – but then younger viewers ain’t what they used to be.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Louis Ashbourne Serkis, Tom Taylor, Rebecca Ferguson, Patrick Stewart, Dean Chaumoo, Rhianna Dorris, Angus Imrie, Denise Gough, Genevieve O'Reilly, Noma Dumezweni, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett, Mark Bonnar, Alexandra Roach, Adam Buxton.

 

Dir Joe Cornish, Pro Nira Park, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner, Screenplay Joe Cornish, Ph Bill Pope, Pro Des Marcus Rowland, Ed Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss, Music Electric Wave Bureau, Costumes Jany Temime.

 

20th Century Fox/Working Title Films/Big Talk Productions-20th Century Fox.

120 mins. UK. 2019. Rel: 15 February 2019. Cert. PG.