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Film / The Kid Who Would Be King

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The Kid Who Would Be King is a 2019 fantasy adventure comedy, and the second feature film from writer/director Joe Cornish (Attack the Block).

Set in modern day Britain, 12-year-old Alexander Elliot (Louis Ashborne Serkis, son of Andy) comes across the legendary sword Excalibur and pulls it from a stone. He soon learns from the wizard Merlin (Patrick Stewart as an old man, Angus Imrie as a teenager) that the dark sorceress Morgana Le Fay (Rebecca Ferguson) will rise from the underworld and bring about a terrible evil unto the world. Alex joins forces with his best friend Bedders (Dean Chaumoo) and bullies Lance (Tom Taylor) and Kaye (Rhianna Doris) to become knights and defeat Morgana.

Not to be confused with The Man Who Would be King.

The physical release was on April 16, 2019, making this film the first home media release after Disney's purchase of 20th Century Fox.

This film provides examples of:

  • Adults Are Useless: Justified in part that the supernatural elements chasing after Alex and his knights remove anyone else from the situation. When Alex's mom sees Excalibur she demands he turn it into the police, but by that time he's been convinced he is The Chosen One and refuses.
  • Animated Credits Opening: The opening flashback is told in a stylistic 2D animated segment.
  • Antiquated Linguistics: Merlin speaks almost entirely like this.
  • Artistic License – Space: At night we see some lovely shots of the full moon. This is all happening with in 3 days of a solar eclipse.
  • Big Bad: The evil sorceress Morgana Le Fay.
  • Book Ends: The pose Alex and his knights are in near the end of the film after slaying Morgana closely resembles the one Arthur and his Knights were in during the prologue when they defeated Morgana.
  • Broken Pedestal: Alex spends the majority of the movie believing that his father was a descendant of King Arthur and was fully aware of Alex's destiny as The Chosen One, misunderstanding his mother's claims that he had his "demons" as literally fighting demons. Much to his severe disappointment, his father was a drunkard who simply didn't give a damn about his family and just left. Alex ends up having quite a personal crisis afterwards.
    • In a slightly rare case, Alex himself falls into this in the final act, as he had been the leader of the group and the most idealistic...but is quick to realize that Morgana wasn't defeated after the first confrontation because of his bitterness towards his mother for lying to him about his father, meaning that despite insisting upon the Code within his group, he was the one to break it. However, it's averted in that once he realizes his mistake, he gently confronts his mother about everything and forgives her before going to his friends and both explaining and apologizing. They accept his apology and are ready to fight at his side again to stop Morgana for good.
  • Casting Gag: Patrick Stewart as Merlin Stewart had previously played a role in Excalibur, a different film about King Arthur.
    • It’s doubly ironic casting that Patrick Stewart played the most well known wizard character in fiction other than Gandalf from the The Lord of the Rings who was played by his best friend Ian Mckellen.
  • Central Theme: Each of the four main characters have a theme associated with them throughout the story:
    • Lance - Fear of inadequacy. Because of his being afraid of not being "strong enough" to others, he tries to establish himself as the dominant guy. Because of this, he has to learn to be a follower and the strength that being a loyal teammate has.
    • Kaye - Immaturity. Kaye is described as "callow" by Morgana due to the fact that she doesn't take responsibility for her actions and seems to just blindly follow after Lance, blaming it on the world for being in a shoddy state. When she starts to take responsibility for her choices, she starts growing as a reliable ally.
    • Bedders - Cowardice. Even though he's as idealistic as Alex, he's clearly incapable of taking care of himself and depends on Alex to watch over him. Thankfully, he starts to grow more confident in himself without depending on everyone else to save his butt.
    • Alex - Fantasy and Bitterness. Alex spends over half the movie chasing a fantasy that his dad is some hero related to King Arthur, making him The Chosen One. Once he learns the truth, he goes into a Heroic BSoD and harbors bitterness against his mother, preventing him from being able to kill Morgana in their first encounter. Once he realizes this, however, he makes amends with his mother and his team before preparing to put Morgana down for good.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The magic potion. And the metal duplication illusion. And the fact that the Lady in the Lake appears in any body of water in England. And Merlin requiring beaver urine, chicken bone and beetle blood. And Alex's ability to knight people.
  • The Chosen One: Played with. Alex initially believes he was descended from King Arthur through his father. When it's revealed that was not the case, Merlin tells him that Excalibur is awarded based on your own merits, not who your ancestors were.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Alex is red, Bedders is black, Lance is blue and Kaye is purple.
  • A Child Shall Lead Them: The premise of the film, involving the young Alex having to lead his friends and classmates against Morgana.
  • Conveniently Empty Roads: Morgana's attempts to seize Excalibur result in a period during nighttime where everyone except the wielder of the sword and those knighted by it disappears. This results in the main characters having a car chase to escape the evil witch's monsters without fear of harming pedestrians.
  • Conversational Troping: Much of why Alex goes on his quest is because he recognizes how circumstances matches that of The Hero's Journey. He even compares his story to that of Star Wars and Harry Potter, noting the presence of a Disappeared Dad and a Call to Adventure.
  • Crapsack World: The opening montage demonstrates how England and the world at large is in a state of crisis, awakening Morgana and necessitating Excalibur's return to be held in the hands of a new once and future king.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: An army of schoolchildren manage to fairly easily win against an army of demons summoned by an evil sorceress. Crosses over with Improbable Infant Survival.
  • The Cynic: Both Lance and Kaye, who see the world as already being rotten, and so that is why they are bullies.
  • Daddy Had a Good Reason for Abandoning You: Averted. Alex's father was a drinker who simply didn't care about his family.
  • Deconstructed Trope: Heroic Lineage and The Chosen One is deconstructed when, after Alex spending the movie believing his father was a hero involved with the supernatural which is how he got this destiny, finds he's a nobody. Merlin reveals those tropes were due to those in power twisting the legends to keep their power when anyone could have the traits to be a hero.
  • Disappeared Dad: Alex never knew his father. He left him and his mother long ago, and Alex was told by his mother that his father was fighting demons. Alex thinks this means literal demons and that his father was some kind of hero, but it turns out his demon was alcoholism, and he never really cared for Alex.
  • Failed Attempt at Drama: As Alex tells Kaye and Lance about how they are modern reflections of King Arthur and his knights, he points out how they are even meeting at a round table...only to be revealed that the kids are currently sitting at a square table. It's round once they get the flaps up, though.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Lance and Kaye are initially cruel bullies who eventually join forces with Alex after he saves them from Morgana's minions.
  • Gender Flip: The female Kaye is meant to be the modern counterpart of Sir Kay, King Arthur's foster brother in the legends.
  • The Greatest Story Never Told: Morgana's attempts to recover Excalibur result in a time bubble where anyone but the King and those he has knighted is functionally removed from the setting and remains that way until the mooks are defeated. This includes the climax, and the characters realize the world will never know what happened.
  • Heroic BSoD: Alex, when it turns out his father was an alcoholic and he doesn't descend from nobility.
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: One bit that was in all the trailers has Kaye behind the wheel of a car, knocking undead minions out of the way.
    Bedders: Where did you learn how to drive?
    Kaye: Mario Kart.
  • Improbable Infant Survival: Since it'd be bad to watch hundreds of school kids getting slaughtered by monsters, this trope only adds to the Curb-Stomp Battle in the finale where the kids are able to fight Morgana's army fairly easily.
  • Magical Barefooter: Accidental (see Naked on Arrival, below), but Merlin does seem to have a certain fondness for being barefoot, as he does question why the police would be suspicious of his "keeping the natural circulation" going. He also puts his bare (and dirty) feet up in the police car.
  • Magical Gesture: How Merlin's and Bedders' spells are cast. It looks like some kind of hamboning and clapping.
  • Meaningful Name: Alex's knights are Bedders, Lance, and Kaye, each named after King Arthur's knights - Bedevere, Lancelot, and Kay.
  • Merlin and Nimue: This movie have the younger version (later the older version) of Merlin and the Lady of the Lake.
  • Naked on Arrival: Merlin comes into town completely naked, apparently he merely forgot to generate clothing.
  • Oh, Crap!: Merlin when he learns the eclipse is coming in a matter of days.
  • Off with His Head!: How Alex defeats Morgana for good.
  • Rousing Speech: Alex gives one to the students near the end. It doesn’t work... until Merlin has the (mind controlled) teacher say that joining Alex to fight the demons will be an alternate to class work, at which point they all choose to join Alex.
  • The Runaway: Alex's mom is forced to contend with her young son running away from home.
  • Running Gag: Excalibur stabbing through Alex’s backpack.
  • Scaled Up: Morgana has a humanoid snake-dragon form she becomes to fight Alex and his knights.
  • Shout-Out: Numerous references are made to other fantasy tales involving a young hero taking on a life-changing journey, including Harry Potter, Star Wars, and The Lord of the Rings. Lance at one point taunts Alex with "Percy Jockstrap".
  • Tagline:
    • "Evil gets schooled."
    • "Kids Rule."
    • "An army to fight. A Demon to slay. A world to save. No pressure."
  • Time-Shifted Actor: Based on Arthurian legend, Merlin ages in reverse and so Angus Imrie plays Merlin as a teenager while Patrick Stewart plays him as an old man. It's never fully explained why he needs to revert at all.
  • Total Eclipse of the Plot: Morgana must be stopped before the solar eclipse.
  • Try Not to Die: Bedders tells this to Alex when he goes to finish off Morgana. Alex promises to try his best.