Watch great movies and you can learn how to craft compelling stories. Likewise, watch bad or mediocre movies and study why they don’t work. One of the latest mediocre movies is “The Kid Who Would Be King.”
This movie flopped at the box office despite decent reviews, yet it’s easy to see why the movie failed. Basically, “The Kid Who Would Be King” is about the King Arthur legend but with little kids in the role of the knights of the round table.
That idea by itself is decent, but where the movie fails is that it’s essentially emotionless. You get the feeling of simply watching characters exist solely to advance the plot but you never really care about any of the characters.
To get the audience to care about the hero, the hero needs to change emotionally. That means learning something new and gradually changing his or her behavior to become a better person.
In “The Kid Who Would Be King,” the hero is already a decent person so there’s no emotional change. In good movies like “The Greatest Showman,” the hero is not only changing emotionally but the minor characters around the hero are also changing the same way emotionally.
In “The Kid Who Would Be King,” not only doesn’t the hero change emotionally, but none of the other characters change emotionally either. The other characters exist solely to fill the role of the King Arthur legend (such as a kid representing Sir Lancelot) but they exist as puppets to advance the plot with no emotional change of their own that mirrors the hero’s emotional change. That’s because the hero has no emotional change so the minor characters don’t either.
Compare this to “The Greatest Showman” where the hero (P.T. Barnum) is trying to rise beyond his poor beginnings and get accepted into the rich society. Not only is he struggling to do this, but his partner has fallen in love with one of the circus acrobats, so she struggles to win his heart while he struggles to deal with his rich parents who don’t want him associating with a circus acrobat since she’s from the lower classes.
There are also the circus freaks who struggle to gain acceptance as people along with a singer who also comes from humble beginnings and used her singing as a way to fit in with the rich although she feels just as uncomfortable among the rich as the hero.
So “The Greatest Showman” has a hero who undergoes emotional change and multiple characters around the hero undergo similar emotional change as well.
“The Kid Who Would Be King” simply lacks any emotional change in the hero or any of the characters, so the story is pure action. Unfortunately, action by itself is meaningless, which is why “The Kid Who Would Be King” is such an emotionless bore.
Another problem is that there’s little sense of discovery. In any great movie, the audience discovers the world at the same time as the hero. Think of “Alien” where we don’t know what’s going on just like the characters, and we learn about the alien along with the hero.
In “The Kid Who Would Be King,” there’s little sense of discovery. Instead, the hero simply goes from scene to scene simply to fulfill the King Arthur legend. There’s no sense of learning something new along with the hero. We’re simply bystanders watching an emotionless hero going through actions that mean nothing to us despite the special effects.
Study “The Kid Who Would Be King” and you’ll find that the characters aren’t that interesting, the story doesn’t reveal anything new, and the hero never changes emotionally into a better person. Instead of telling a story, “The Kid Who Would Be King” simply regurgitates the King Arthur legend in modern times with kids and ultimately it’s not that interesting.
Mediocre films can teach you what not to do and show you that despite decades of filmmaking experience, even Hollywood doesn’t understand basic story structure all the time.