The King’s Daughter (2022) Review

A FORGETFUL (AND UTTERLY DATED)

FANTASY MESS


 

Delaying a movie’s theatrical release can be a mixed bag of sorts. The hype and anticipation that has building for the feature’s release can be either continue to fuel the necessary excitement for the film’s inevitable future release or you cause a large determinant towards its premiere reveal, especially if the feature itself could be considered to be adequate or mediocre. Whatever the case may be, there are several variables that can contribute to a film’s delay. One could be a recent studio merging / acquisition of another as seeing in Disney buying 20th Century Fox, which caused several prominent endeavors for Fox to be delayed and / or shuffled around during this studio purchase transition. Another could be something more on a global scale, with the on-going effects of the COVID-19 pandemic creating a rippling effect that has seeing almost all major film studio reorganizing their releases by shuffling and delaying projects left and right, with some being delayed for more than a year. A third possible option could because a movie doesn’t have a financial studio backer for the film’s theatrical distribution; finding several projects edited, set, and ready to go, yet don’t have the means for said cinematic project to see the light of day without someone putting up the money for its release. Now, Gravitas Ventures and director Sean McNamara present the latest film that has had a prolonged theatrical release day with the movie The King’s Daughter. Is this fantasy adventure worth the wait or is it a flat out dud that really didn’t need to see the cinematic light of day?

THE STORY


Known as the “Sun King”, King Louis XIV (Pierce Brosnan) is the presiding ruler of France, finding that he has share of enemies eyeing him, with one missing an assassination attempt; prompting him to redefine his properties at his palace of Versailles. Joined by his trusted man of God, Pere (William Hurt), Louis looks to preserve his mortal life longer, looking for answers from Doctor Labarthe (Pablo Schreiber), who details a plan to collect a legendary mermaid out of the sea, removing her mystical essence during an upcoming solar eclipse, giving the immortal life to the king. Interested such an arrangement, Louis agrees to Labarthe’s idea, seeking out Yves (Benjamin Walker), a fisherman s, to capture the fabled creature (Fan Bingbing) to be plucked out of the sea and brought to palace’s dungeons. Meanwhile, Marie-Joesphe (Kaya Scodelario) arrives at Versailles, puller from her secluded convent home to become the King’s new composer, unaware that His Majesty is also her daughter. As Louis’s plans begin to unfold, the arrival of Mary-Joesphe causes gossip in court, as the young woman becomes mystified at the captured mermaid; forging a deep connection with the creature and learning of the foul pan that the King is hatching.

THE GOOD / THE BAD


As I said above, there can be a multitude of reasons behind why a movie project gets a theatrical release date. Of course, the movie common one nowadays (due to the current global situation) is found within the realm of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has seeing so many major film studios shuffle their respective motion pictures around, especially with movie theater cinemas closing for several months as well as some endeavors being sold off to streaming services. There is no doubt that the pandemic has effective everyone’s lives and the movie world has seeing a great upheaval because of this. Huge prominent and big tentpole films like Dune, Fast 9, No Time to Die, A Quiet Place Part II, and The King’s Man were delayed for months and up to a year before they saw a “in theater” release date, with some highly anticipated 2020 movies like Mission Impossible 7 and Top Gun: Maverick (as of this review date) have yet to be released. Another large delayed reason was a studio buying another studio, with the acquisition period causing a large rescheduling of several releases. Naturally, I’m mostly talking about the Disney / Fox acquisition, with movies like X-Men: Dark Phoenix, Free Guy, New Mutants, The Last Duel, and a few others facing a sort of “limbo” for many years before seeing a schedule release date sometime later on. There are several other reasons for a delay, but you get the idea. And I haven’t even mentioned that if the delayed film could be either a good or bad. It’s kind of hard to say, but that ultimately depends on the actual movie itself. If the product is solid and everything is working the feature’s favor, then the delay release is still “worth the wait”. However, the opposite can be said if the movie is bad.

This, of course, brings me back to talking about The King’s Daughter, a 2022 fantasy period piece adventure and the latest film that has been effected by a prolonged delay. To be quite honest, I really didn’t hear much about this movie as I first heard about this particular 2022 film when I went to see West Side Story in December 2021; seeing the preview for The King’s Daughter in the “coming attractions” reel. From the trailer alone, it looked somewhat decent, with a few recognizable acting talents, including Brosnan, Scodelario, and Hurt, but I just felt something a bit off. Thus, this uneasy feeling that I had wasn’t a good thing, especially for this upcoming project. Yet, there was still something intrigue that had about this movie. Maybe the fantasy element of a mermaid? Maybe because it was a period piece? It was kind of a perplexing thing for me. I did some research about this movie and learned that the film had really long delay, with the film’s principal photography being done back into 2014 and having an over eight year long delay as The King’s Daughter sat in limbo; hoping for studio to help for a distribution release sometime soon. So, I took a chance and went to see the movie during its opening week, one of my first 2022 theatrical release films. It took me some time to get to this review as I had to finish up a few lingering 2021 movie reviews before moving forward, which brings me to the present. Now, I’m ready to give my opinion on my first 2022 movie review. What did I think of it? Well, it’s not good. Despite having a few redeeming qualities, The King’s Daughter is a messy and jumbled endeavor that doesn’t know what it wants to be; resulting a film that is thickly half-baked and bland surface level components. It’s not completely terrible, but it is still a disappointing and flat release…. something that maybe should’ve gone straight to VOD release than a theatrical one.

Based on the 1997 book titled “The Moon and the Sun” by Vonda N. McIntyre, The King’s Daughter is directed by Sean McNamara, whose previous directorial works include such projects like Bring It On: Fight to the Finish, Bratz, and Cats & Dogs 3: Paws Unite!. Given his background with kid friendly feature films as well as directing episodes for several Disney Channel original TV series (i.e. Even Stevens, That’s So Raven, and Kickin’ It), McNamara does seem like a suitable director for helming a project like this; finding The King’s Daughter to be right up his alley, with a “family” tone aspect in mind as well as a the YA melodrama, which is combined of fantasy and young adult / teen romance swooning. The result is definitely a mix bag, but I do feel that McNamara did seem to strike right tone for the feature, with a young adult feeling throughout…. from its fantasy adventure aspect to its period piece young love swoons. The film has that older tweens / teenagers vibe who are looking for some type of escape and I think that McNamara gets that right. The film is quite messy all the way around (more on that below), but, for the sake of trying to find a positive out of something negative, the film does have a breezy feeling, with the picture having scant 90-minute runtime. This allows the movie to move in and out really quite without overstaying its welcome and / or feeling bloated with unnecessary subplots.

In the film’s presentation quality, The King’s Daughter is actually pretty good and probably one of the most redeeming elements that the feature has to offer. Of course, I wouldn’t expect this film’s visual presentation to be nominated at any upcoming award season, but I have to say that what is presented is pretty good, especially for a motion picture that was shot roughly eight years ago before it release. Naturally, one of the benefits that the movie’s setting has to offer is the primary location of the Palace of Versailles, which was filmed on location for several days, and then to a studio for several shots that were replicated. Altogether, I think that the backdrop setting (both shot at Versailles and in studio) are terrific and definitely adds to the feature’s flavor, with the grand scope of the famed palace and all the baroque / gilded workings of the opulent chateau’s interior / exterior shots. Plus, I did love all the various costumes wardrobe attires that are presented throughout the film, with some being extravagant and glamorous befitting a time of luxury while at His Majesty’s court at Versailles. Thus, I do have to commend the film’s “behind the scenes” team, including Michelle McGahey (production design), Bill Booth and Fiona Donovan (art direction), Vanessa Cerne and Lise Peault (set decorations), and Lizzy Gardiner (costume designs) for their efforts in making some solid visual aesthetics and background layering for the film’s setting and time period. Also, the film’s score, which was done by John Coda, Grant Kirkhope, and Joseph Metacalfe, is something that would I say that is good and serviceable to film. Some are parts and good and add that fantasy-esque mystique as well as spirited adventure, while other moments its pretty bland and generic. It’s pretty much a tossup for me…. neither good nor bad.

Unfortunately, The King’s Daughter isn’t the stellar film that is wants to be and ends up being more problematic as the feature’s narrative moves forward. What do I mean? Well, it is perhaps because the movie itself seems like a hodgepodge of other movie story ideas that are all mixed together to try and figure out what it wants to be. Don’t get me wrong…. pulling away the messy narrative beats of the film’s script reveals to be an interesting story that McIntyre had written (so not discrediting McIntyre’s work). That being said, what’s presented just seems dreadfully boring and uninterestingly flat almost all the way around, which makes The King’s Daughter bland to the touch. This is mostly apparent in the film’s script, which was penned by Barry Berman and James Schamus, and cobbles up a multitude of various storyline threads. Again, I know that McIntyre’s narrative is used as a blueprint for the feature, but everything is surface and has a glossy bare bone feeling throughout. There’s a little bit of fantasy mystique with the mermaid capturing (and it’s healing powers), there’s a little bit of romance with Mary Joesphe and Yves, there’s a little bit of period piece drama with political court intrigue, and a few other ones as well. All of these are fine…. but only to a certain degree and if managed the right way. Unfortunately, the work done by Berman and Schamus is quite choppy right from the get-go, with the narrative of The King’s Daughter having a case of “mistaken identity” on what it wants to be and ends up being snippets of a combination of stuff. This creates a lot of unevenness throughout the film, with most of the plot threads being too chintzy and a letdown. To me, I think the script should’ve removed the fantasy element altogether and could’ve had a better story (a more focused one) one Mary Joesphe’s time Versailles as the king’s illegitimate daughter and having conflict with love interest and her father’s royal ambition. It would’ve been more effective in my opinion.

It’s sad to say that the entire movie (from start to finish) reeks of shallow development and just truly just a misshapen narrative that doesn’t really know what it wants to focus on. Plus, it doesn’t help that the character dialogue for the script is quite cringeworthy and poorly written; a combination that doesn’t quite sit well and makes the film have a B-level feeling. Even the script’s fleeting attempts at humor and comedic levity in a few areas ends up being both wooden and clunk throughout. Even looking beyond those huge and glaring points of criticisms, McNamara struggles to find a natural rhythm with the project; trying to manage to cultivate something out of the feature’s script for a cinematic

representation. Because of the jumbled story threads and having a short runtime, McNamara does really have enough time to balance everything correctly, which caused many of the film’s character feel one-dimensional and thinly sketched. In addition, with so much time devoted to the feature’s poorly managed storyline threads, plot is placed over characters, making no sense as story plot points / beats come in at fast succession to each other as McNamara never gives The King’s Daughter anytime to “breath”. This causes the film to have a very hurried and rushed feeling and, even though I did praise the movie for its breezy runtime and straightforward approach, this only furthers hampers the movie’s progression and depth substance; leaving The King’s Daughter joyless, disjointed, and lacking memorable qualities.

Also, the film’s visual effects are a bit dated. While not completely terrible with CGI effect shots, but it’s clearly a telltale sign of when the film was made, with the effect shots having some iffy renderings, especially considering the mermaid. Thus, the visual effects do little to enrich the feature. Again, much like what I said above, I still believe that the fantasy element should’ve been taking out of the film entirely. Just my opinion. Lastly, the film’s ending sort of feels disjointed as McNamara and the script didn’t know where to end the movie. Yes, it sort of gives a “storybook” ending, but it feels like something is missing, rendering the finale a bit moot and underwhelming.

The cast in The King’s Daughter are a bit wonky at times. Let me rephrase that…. the characters in The King’s Daughter are a bit wonky at times, for the acting talent involved on this project are not really terrible and most give a somewhat decent performance. That being said, what’s presented definitely doesn’t work as much as McNamara and his team originally planned, which is hampered even further by the written character / dialogue components for many of the major lead and supporting that is poorly conceived and penned. Acting as the main lead for the feature is actress Kaya Scodelario, who plays the protagonist character of Mary-Joesphe, King Louis XIV’s illegitimate daughter. Scodelario, who is known for her roles in The Maze Runner, Crawl, and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, is okay in the role of Mary-Joesphe, with the character being a bit conventional as the wide-eyed / naïve young girl that slowly matures of her self-confidence and awareness of her situation. There’s definitely a “run-of-the-mill” female protagonist happen with her character, which is fine, yet still feels quite haphazard at times. Again, because of how the movie’s story threads are halfway complete and shallow, most of her story progression and involvement in the film’s runtime is quite off-kilter; making Scodelario feeling like a bland character throughout the movie. Thus, try as she might, Mary-Joesphe ends up being just another stock-like lead with not much gumption and makes for a half-decent build for the feature. Yet, that’s not saying much.

Behind her, the next big ticketed star to headline the movie would be actor Pierce Brosnan, who plays King Louis XIV of France. Brosnan, who is known for his roles in GoldenEye, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Mamma Mia!, is seasoned and capable actor who can carry a role (lead or supporting) on his on-screen presence and theatrical charisma on multiple occasion. In The King’s Daughter, however, it’s a bit ambiguous. Of course, Brosnan is up to the task to play such a character and certainly has physical look of a regal monarchy, but the character is an unclear on how he should portrayed. Is he good? Is he evil? Is he simply misunderstood? It’s kind of hard to say as the character is kind of all of those things, which makes the character rather boring, and cliché ridden. This, in turn, muddies the water in Brosnan’s performance, which (like Scodelario) makes the character…. even one such as Louis XIV…..thinly sketched and painfully unmemorable…and that’s disappointing to hear.

Other supporting players in the movie like actors William Hurt (A History of Violence and Lost in Space) and Pablo Schreiber (Den of Thieves and 13 Hours) do well in the roles that they are given as faithful Man of God confidant priest to Louis XIV named Pere La Chaise and physician doctor Labarthe. While the movie restricts these characters from being anything creatively done and are merely stock-like (the wise religious figure and the ambitious vague antagonist), both Hurt and Schreiber are decent to make their respective roles amusing to watch. The only large supporting character that actually gets the least amount of screen-time is the character of Captain Yves, a sea-faring captain who captures the mermaid creature and has a love interest with Mary-Joesphe. Played by actor Benjamin Walker (The Choice and In the Heart of the Sea), who is also married to Kaya Scodelario, the character of Yves is a pretty straightforward one and is quite easy to see that his role was meant for a love interest for Mary-Joesphe in a “swashbuckler and the fair maiden” motif. However, the script really doesn’t know what to do with him; rendering most of Walker’s screen time as a flat and bland character. His chemistry with Scodelario is okay (nothing to complain or write home about), but there just seems to be a lacking “spark” between the two, which is mostly due to the limited amount of time the film has placed upon their romance interest. Thus, for better or worse, Walker’s Yves is more of a “cookie cutter” dashing swashbuckler with a feign love interest that doesn’t really go anywhere. Additionally, despite being the main crux for much of the feature, the character of the mermaid, who is played by actress Fan Bingbing (The Empress of China and X-Men: Days of Future Past), does little to invigorate or had any depth to the feature. The script adds layers to the fantasy aspect of this component, but (again) it’s all surface level and, while Bingbing is talented, the movie does really show that; finding her mermaid sloppy and uninteresting.

The rest of the cast includes actor Ben Lloyd-Hughes (Divergent and Great Expectations) as young and soon-to-be wealthy noblemen Jean-Michel Lintillac, actress Crystal Clarke (Black Mirror and Sanditon) as Mary-Joesphe’s lady-in-court friend Magali, actress Rachel Griffiths (Six Feet Under and Hacksaw Ridge) as the Abbess, and actor Paul Ireland (Pawno and Christ the Lord) as Benoit. Most of these character are minor players in the film and, while the acting is okay, a great majority are just simply undercooked in the supporting characteristic; making their involvement either vanilla, rushed, or just simply uninteresting. Lastly, famed seasoned actress Julia Andrews (Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music) provides the narration for the film, which gives off a “once upon a time” storybook feeling to the whole feature. Plus, Andrews, who has done narrator voiceover on other projects such as Bridgeton and Enchanted, offers warmth and sublime nuances to the movie….as she is ends up being the more memorable parts of The King’s Daughter.

FINAL THOUGHTS


In search for to prolong his mortal, King Louis XIV captures a legendary mermaid and drain the creature of its life essence, while his illegitimate daughter arrives at Versailles, soon becoming entangled in His Majesty’s plan for immortality in the film The King’s Daughter. Director Sean McNamara latest film finds familiar ground within its narrative; drumming up costumed period piece drama, with sprinkle of fantasy escapades within a YA style narrative yarn. While the film’s production quality is solid and acting is relatively decent enough to be somewhat adequate, a great majority of the feature is marred by blandness, especially the movie’s direction, a hodgepodge of story ideas, a disjointed feeling throughout, wonky decision, bad writing, and poor surface level characters. To me, I found this movie to be terribly bad. Yes, there were some parts that I did like, especially the production quality. That being said, the movie is just a jumble heated mess of ideas that aren’t proper placed together well; resulting in a film that is half-baked all the way around. Thus, my recommendation for the movie is an unfavorable “skip it” as there is little to no reason to see this particular project. Those looking for fantasy drama or a sweeping historical period piece best look elsewhere (and you’ll thank me for it). In the end, The King’s Daughter finally comes to light, but ends up being a disappointment all the way around as an outdated, dull, and a messy hodgepodge “once upon a time” adventure that it so desperately wants to be.

1.9 Out of 5 (Skip It)

 

Released On: January 21st, 2022
Reviewed On: February 23rd, 2022

The King’s Daughter  is 90 minutes and is rated PG for some violence, suggestive material, and thematic elements

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