Review: The King
Sofia Fahrion is disappointed by David Michôd’s Shakespeare adaptation for Netflix.
Netflix finally did it; they gave Timothée Chalamet a crown. The latest ‘I will watch that eventually because an actor I know/like is in it’ film has arrived and it is The King, directed by David Michôd. The film follows Hal (Chalamet), who is forced into the role of monarch after his father and brother pass away, leaving him to figure out who he can trust as he reluctantly takes on the role as the King of England in the 15th Century. However, despite what seemingly could have been a film filled with drama and suspense, the most discussed element seems to be the hair transformations or wigs of two of the actors in the film, rather than the film itself.
Yes, Timothée cut his Call Me By Your Name curls into a bowl cut, which he himself was apparently sad to do. Yes, Robert Pattison wears a blonde wig and puts on a comical French accent, but then again, he would do almost anything to try to distance himself from his Twilight origin. I would be lying if I said that these elements of the film were not the main factor that drew me in. The issue is that these reasons ended up also being the only things keeping me going in the film (if at that).
The result is a period drama that wishes it was as suspenseful as the Shakespeare play, Henry V, that it’s based on; but is ultimately so conventional that it is boring.
It is a shame when one of the main take-aways from a film is wasted potential (and the question if that one guy was actually called Falafel), proven through the occasional indication that the people that worked on this film work well together and could have done better. I found myself drifting off only to be occasionally drawn back in by a nice shot or sequence, or a comedic moment courtesy of Pattinson. Even those weren’t ideal, seeing as they mainly came across as cringey while tonally disrupting the film (even if they were a briefly welcome disruption). Visually the low saturation seems to mirror this odd sense of detachment from what should be emotionally captivating moments that seem slightly stale and wrapped in clingfilm. One example being the clear rip-off of ‘The Battle of the Bastards’ episode in Game of Thrones.
Regarding editing, The King primarily utilized crossfades seemingly oblivious to the fact that indicating a dramatic scene does not result in a dramatically captivating scene. The whole ordeal just ended up feeling much longer than it was and the film already runs at 2 hours and 20 minutes. Transitions aside, this film was already questionably too long. Most scenes seemed like filler and even though Timothée was playing a reluctant King, he mainly came across as reluctant to the film with more dramatic exits than I could keep track of.
The King’s main issue is that it unfortunately banks on the likes of Timothée Chalamet and Robert Pattinson so much that it forgets to make sure the film itself is still good and has something to offer. Stars can of course rope audience members in, it did for me, but to keep you going you need more. The result is a period drama that wishes it was as suspenseful as the Shakespeare play, Henry V, that it’s based on; but is ultimately so conventional that it is boring. It takes little risks if any. It seems to have minimized effort given the cast’s bankability. Besides that, the genre and even time period has been done likewise numerous times, even by Netflix. Last year Netflix gave us Outlaw King starring Chris Pine and now they have rolled out The King. If this is their new tactic, one can’t help but ask what ‘King’ film is next? Rebel King? Your Lordship? Will this niche result in a canon that mirrors that of Netflix’s Original Christmas films? If so, I can’t help but think that rather than bow down, I might as well just take a nap.