Updated: Jun 15, 2022
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Alexander "Alex" Elliot, 12, finds King Arthur's sword Excalibur. He's played by Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of Andy Serkis.
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“THE KID WHO WOULD BE KING”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; PG for fantasy action violence, scary images, thematic elements including some bullying, and mild profanity; streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), iTunes (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube
Best extra: “Origins of a King”
KING ARTHUR will never die. It’s in the contract.
“The Once and Future King” by T.H. White went into detail, but legend says he would return in times of trouble to save his people.
“I had the idea for ‘The Kid Who Would Be King’ when I was 13,” says writer/director Joe Cornish in “Origins of a King,” one of nine bonus features in the presentation from 20th Century Fox. “I had seen ‘E.T.,’ which made a massive impression on me. I also saw John Boorman’s ‘Excalibur.’ And I thought ‘Why has nobody ever made a movie, a bit like ‘E.T.,’ set in Britain, where instead of finding an alien somebody found the sword in the stone?’”
Seventy-two years later, Cornish, the Englishman who also wrote “Ant-Man” and “Attack the Block,” which he also directed, had his dream come true. He’s been working on this for a while, including the scene where the Lady of the Lake hands off the sword to the young king in the bathtub. Sometimes it’s necessary for Excalibur to go undercover.
This is a worthy adventure, especially for youngsters, opening with an animated re-telling of Arthur, the wizard Merlin and the Knights of the Round Table.
Alexander “Alex” Elliot, 12, has his share of trouble starting a new term at school. He’s a good-natured kid, but his best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) is a constant target of older teens Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris). Protecting his friend leads to a fight between Alex and Lance, but he gets no appreciation from the school or his mother. The bullies plan revenge, chasing Alex into a construction site after school, where he finds a sword stuck in a stone. Alex easily removes the sword, takes it home and shows it to Bedders the next day.
Of course it’s the legendary Excalibur, King Arthur’s famous weapon. The boys are unaware at first even as Alex playfully “knights” Bedders. That awakens the evil witch Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson), who’s been trapped below ground since her last defeat by Arthur. She immediately sends for her demonic minions to take Excalibur and destroy/rule the world. Arthurian super-adviser Merlin also arrives to help Alex. In a droll twist, Cornish has Merlin’s character appear as an adult by played by Patrick Stewart and an engaging young man Angus Imrie. It’s explained that magicians grow younger as they age. Young Merlin has some savvy wizardly tricks – no wand needed – but can only help a few hours a day, otherwise, he becomes a molting owl.
Alex, Bedders and Merlin persuade Lance and Kaye to become knights and follow the code of chivalry aka Be Nice. It doesn’t quite take; the newcomers waver a bit. But eventually, as we all guessed, they turn out right in the end, enlist their fellow students and school staff to help, and vanquish Morgana’s plans through daredevil escapades and a giant, flame-filled battle while a solar eclipse soars above.
Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of motion-caption king Andy Serkis and actress Lorraine Ashbourne, plays Alex. He was also the Young Hatter in “Alice Through the Looking Glass,” and motion capture actor/voice of Bhoot the albino wolf cub in “Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle.”
“The Kid Who Would Be King” has an old fashioned, squeaky clean look to its 2160p, and 1080p visuals (2.39:1 aspect ratio) and streaming. The film resonates to Walt Disney’s earlier films such as “Sky High,” but what else could we expect? Twentieth-Century Fox has now become another arm of Disney.
It’s not a bad thing in this case. Running long at two hours, it outlasts attention spans despite the effects. Still, the story entertains, has good messages, and looks just fine. Bright, saturated color dominates, and it’s easy to spot special idiosyncrasies. Merlin’s Led Zeppelin t-shirt changes from a faded gray background on the old wizard’s shirt to a new black background on young Merlin’s.
Clarity, dimension and detail are excellent. Black levels are solid with varying elements showing in background shots. Flesh tones and skin textures are realistic. Naturally, the 4K shows a definite uptick in visuals, particularly color through HDR toning.
Oddly, the Ultra 4K disc offers a Dolby Atmos and default DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 channel soundtrack, while the Blu-ray only has the DTS-HD. Both are very good with excellent separation, clear and precise dialogue, and admirable effects and ambient sound.
The Atmos track makes good use of the plentiful height effects and score by Electric Wave Bureau (EWB), “a London-based collaborative artist collective” according to IMDb. They have also composed scores for “Lucy” and the “Paddington” movies.
Look for a few interesting deleted scenes along with the brief “Origins of a King” making-of feature, with interviews from Cornish, the cast, other filmmakers and crew. “Young Knights” adds to the making-of info, while “Knight School,” “The Two Merlins,” “Meet Morgana,” “Movie Magic” and “Hair, Makeup and Costume Tests” focus on specific aspects.
The five-part promotional material – “Merlin’s Magic: Duplication,” “Merlin’s Magic: Mind Control,” “Merlin’s Magic: Portals,” “Merlin’s Magic: Popcorn,” and “Be the King,” a music video, are more interactive and tuned to children.
“The Kid Who Would Be King” was quickly in and out of theaters. There are some flaws; it’s hard to believe Lance and Kaye change so quickly and completely, and that run time can set little bums squirming. Still, Alex has believable setbacks, and is quite relatable. This is highly recommended for the younger crowd and their adults and grandparents.
“It’s a fantasy I think every kid would love to live for real,” Cornish says. “To find this sword, to form this army of their friends. To get to fight massive, spectacular battles and conquer huge, fantastic demons.”
And save the world.
— Kay Reynolds