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The King’s Daughter Review: Yes, Pierce Brosnan Tries To Kill A Mermaid

The King’s Daughter is an expensive fantasy epic that spent nearly a decade on shelves, only for wide release on a scarce January weekend, with relatively little pre-marketing. Based on this pedigree and a wild fantasy plot about magic and murderous mermaids, the film has all the elements that make for a glorious cinematic disaster. So it’s disappointing to hear that it’s an average family-friendly movie with quirky undertones.

Film based on the 1997 novel by Vonda N. McIntyre The moon and the sun, the fantasy film that beat out George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones Nebula Award for Best Novel in 1997. Her book is a fusion of science fiction and historical romance including sea monsters, hidden treasures, forbidden love and The Pope. The film is a significant simplification from that story – it’s a fantasy adventure with hastily added narration by Julie Andrews, much of it superfluous to give it the beauty of a fairy tale. homey.

In this form, its story concerns Marie-Josèphe (Kaya Scodelario), the stubborn secret daughter of 17th-century French king Louis XIV (Pierce Brosnan). Louis has captured a mermaid (Fan Bingbing) whom he intends to sacrifice during the eclipse, so that he can drain its life force and gain immortality. Marie-Josèphe’s hesitant relationship with the mermaid thwarts that plan. Not yet The King’s Daughter rarely as weird as that description. It offers a bittersweet look at a rather lousy movie that’s trying its best to be a more conventional movie. Perhaps a complete talk would be more memorable.

Kaya Scodelario and Pierce Brosnan have a royal meeting in The King's Daughter

Photo: Gravitas Ventures

It’s no coincidence that all of this sounds like a flashback to the mid-2010s, when epics were a bit odd (but not too outlandish) like 2013’s. 47 Ronin and 2014 Seventh Son tried to connect fantasy stories on a large scale motivated by the notions of producers about capitalizing on the success of Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter film and/or the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. Although it is officially a 2022 release, The King’s Daughter was shot a whopping eight years ago, around the same time Saturday Boy and 47 Ronin is beating a rapid retreat from cinemas everywhere. Paramount has announced an early 2015 release date, but just a few weeks before it hits screens, the film disappeared from the release schedule without explanation. Since then, little has been heard about the project, other than vague speculation that more time is needed to perfect its visual effects. Ultimately, the film ended with a smaller distributor, Gravitas Ventures.

Perhaps the most impressive thing about The King’s Daughter is that it doesn’t give the immediate impression that it’s been minted on shelves for over a decade. That was probably made possible by a combination of visual effects stagnating across the industry (fuzzy CG was new!) and Scodelario’s seemingly ageless charm. Looking closer, there are moments that feel a bit out of place with the decade, like the way Marie-Josèphe is assigned to a woman in wait, Magali (Crystal Clarke), who is actually a cheery cheerleader. support The Black Friend has no particular personality or goals of her own. (The book acknowledges slavery; the film drops a line about Magali being ripped from her family, which then never makes sense back to her.)

There are also finer remnants of the past, like the fact that much of the film uses real-world setting and location shots, both of which have fallen out of fashion for the big-budget fantasy works of the past. Lately year. The underlying visual splendor here is surprisingly strong, even though director Sean McNamara doesn’t put together pretty scenes with a lot of rhythm – sometimes scenes are cut abruptly and a multitude of editors are involved. reputable suggests a lot of things.

William Hurt in full 17th century priesthood in The King's Daughter

Photo: Gravitas Ventures

McNamara has had an amazingly illustrious career, going back and forth between inspirational big-screen dramas like The Miracle Season or Soul Surfer and direct-to-video sequels of movies he didn’t originate from, like Cats & Dogs 3 or Casper meets Wendy. His studio films are often lackluster about Christian piety, and The King’s Daughter continues this trend by having a priest (William Hurt) speak out against the sin of killing mermaids. In essence, this is almost seen as novel: a priest in the film actually tries to live by his stated code of ethics, rather than conceal, facilitate, or outright preach a program. illegitimate agenda. (Though he did engage in some confessional conversations the morning after his dull confession to the king, with whom he had spared various romantic relationships.)

In this context, however, the story pits religion against science in an unfair fight: One side, including 17th-century villains, favors “science” about taking lives of a mermaid is essentially a mystical ritual, while good people believe that killing is wrong and, in this case, an insult to God, despite death. normal human.

In addition to moralizing, that side plot distracts from what should be the two core relationships of the film. One is the awkward father-son relationship between Louis and Marie-Josèphe, who was sent to grow up in a convent without knowing she was a child of royalty. The film sheds light on how dire the situation is that she simply doesn’t have much of a mind. By the time she discovers that the king who summoned her to Versailles is in fact her father, they form a strong bond, immediately threatened by his bilateral plan to kill her. mermaid and gave her daughter to a loathsome duke.

Still, it’s at least interesting to watch Scodelario and Brosnan merge into their dramatic, intentional conflicts while wearing gorgeous costumes. The other driving relationship in the film, between Marie-Josèphe and the mermaid, largely develops off-screen. China star Fan Bingbing doesn’t contribute a performance as much as portrait rights: She serves as the visual base for a CG mermaid that never feels “all but human”, as Marie-Josèphe claims. Scodelario also has a love story with the fisherman played by Benjamin Walker.

Pierce Brosnan as Louis XIV striding through Versailles, surrounded by chandeliers and gilding

Photo: Gravitas Ventures

Although the two actors became partners in real life after filming together, there are only traces of that chemistry in this movie. It’s hard for any other character to compete with the attention the filmmakers have given Scodelario. Every single one of her scenes is glitzy, but the story is mostly too busy to highlight her specialness to allow her to connect with her co-stars. “Look at these girls… I don’t fit in here,” one gorgeous woman mused at a time as she looked at other gorgeous women. At the same time, she feels almost no discomfort when moving from convent to court, other than insisting that she doesn’t need makeup to look good.

It’s understandable that the movie seems to fix its star at the expense of other characters. Scodelario really has a charm, which she has since shown in more engaging genres like Collect information and recently Resident Evil restart. Here, she’s stuck auditioning for future unlucky princess roles in a project that rarely shows the courage of its own absurdity. McNamara takes the material seriously, but there’s a calculation underneath – the final film lacks the fun, mindless world building of a gonzo blockbuster. (That omission is something else it shares with Seventh Son and 47 Ronin.) Even in the realm of children’s movies, it’s not engaging enough to act as more than a passing distraction with a few neat design touches. A movie where star-crossed lovers spend a lot of time brooding in a complicated mermaid’s cave would be a lot more enjoyable. The King’s Daughter.

The King’s Daughter premieres in theaters on January 21. Find tickets here.

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