It sure took Joe Cornish long enough to make his sophomore feature since his promising debut in 2011’s Attack the Block eight years ago. That low budget sci-fi horror comedy was, of course, famously introduced the then-unknown John Boyega, who would later known for his role as Finn in the Star Wars sequel trilogy.
At the first glance, Joe Cornish’s kid-friendly take on the oft-told King Arthur legend sounds promising enough. Instead of setting up the movie in the medieval era, The Kid Who Would Be King takes place in present-day London, where we are introduced to a 12-year-old kid named Alex Elliot (Louis Ashbourne Serkis, son of Andy Serkis). He often gets bullied by his fellow classmates Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Dorris) and one night while he is being pursued, Alex ended up discovering a sword in the stone somewhere in a construction site.
To his surprise, he manages to pull out the sword miraculously, which happens to be the legendary Excalibur belongs to King Arthur. After finding out he’s the chosen one, he begins forming his very own Knights of the Round Table including his chubby best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) and even the two aforementioned bullies. Soon, he joins forces with a shape-shifting wizard Mertin/Merlin (Angus Imrie, Patrick Stewart) on a quest to stop King Arthur’s evil half-sister Morgana (Rebecca Ferguson).
The Kid Who Would Be King actually has potential, beginning with Louis Ashbourne Serkis and Dean Chaumoo’s likeable performances as well as Angus Imrie’s scene-stealing turn as the eccentric teenage Merlin. Although appearing in a small role, Patrick Stewart made good use of his limited screentime with his gamely playful performance as the older version of Merlin.
Cornish, on the other hand, delivers some thrilling action moments earlier in the movie, particularly during a nighttime chase sequence involving the fiery undead skeletons on horseback. Some of the humour is spot-on, while Cornish never forgets to engage his younger audiences with relatable themes of friendship and loyalty.
But too bad the movie suffers from an unnecessary two-hour running time, coupled with an erratic pace that drags a tad too long. There are many times Cornish’s script tends to be overly preachy as well, while the final third-act particularly bothers me the most. It feels anticlimactic that the so-called inevitable final battle between Alex and his knights against Morgana has already long overstayed its welcome before it even begins. Speaking of Morgana, it’s a shame that the otherwise talented Rebecca Ferguson is largely relegated to a stereotypical one-dimensional villain who doesn’t get to do much.
It’s a shame that for all the ambitious approach that Joe Cornish trying to achieve here, his long-awaited sophomore effort in The Kid Who Would Be King is pretty much a missed opportunity.