‘The King’s Daughter’ review: Historical fantasy dwells where nonsense reigns

The story behind the making of the quirky and lush but often ridiculous historical fantasy adventure “The King’s Daughter” might be more compelling than the film itself, which has its moments of campy delights but is ultimately sunk by the meandering story. , some over-the-top performance and disappointing special effects.

We’ll get to all of that in a moment. First, a very condensed capsule summary of this long-delayed project. In 1997, Vonda N. McIntyre’s alternate history novel Louis XIV won the Nebula Award for best science fiction/fantasy book of the year, beating out nominees including George RR Martin’s “A Game of Thrones.” Since the late 1990s there have been many efforts to bring the novel to the big screen, with names such as Daniel Radcliffe and Natalie Portman attached to various versions, but it wasn’t until 2014 that filming finally took hold. started, with Sean McNamara (“Soul Surfer”) directing.

The cast included Pierce Brosnan as the long-haired, macho and hedonistic King Louis XIV of France; William Hurt as the king’s confidant and spiritual advisor, Pere La Chaise; Kaya Scodelario as Marie-Josephe, a talented musician who grew up in a convent but was summoned to the palace and learned she is the king’s daughter, and Fan Bingbing as a mermaid captured at sea and held until the solar eclipse, at which point she will be killed and the king will magically imbue himself with her powers and become immortal.

“The King’s Daughter” was slated for a 2015 release, but was pulled from the schedule just weeks before its premiere date and languished in Movie Purgatory — until now. Alas, despite the star power of the cast and some gripping shoots at the Palace of Versailles and Melbourne, Australia, this is a strange and uneven film that never quite finds its place and gropes to find the right one. your. It strokes everywhere, from swashbuckling adventure to mystical fantasy to lavish period piece – and ends as a bland stew filled with predictable, mismatched ingredients.

But hey, it’s a kick to see Pierce Brosnan in a ridiculous wig that makes him look like a middle-aged guitarist at Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp, eschewing the fanciful Sun King fads and overall, you know, Frenchness, in favor of a decidedly modern, British-sounding, physically imposing Louis XIV who sleeps a different woman each night (this part is historically accurate), confesses his sins to Pere La Chase in the morning, and returns to the company to be all royal in public while he secretly conspires with the evil Dr. Labarthe (Pablo Schreiber), a madman who convinces the king that the mermaid’s life force can be seized and will grant the king immortality.

As Julie Andrews recounts, Marie-Josephe discovers that she can magically communicate with the mermaid – it’s a musical thing – and forms a bond with the creature, which is much closer to human than her father and the Dr. Labarthe would have you believe. We also get the obligatory arranged marriage to the insufferably rich duke (Ben Lloyd-Hughes), because the king’s coffers are depleted, and he needs his daughter to marry this fool so they can have access to the father’s fortune. of the duke. Ah, but wouldn’t you know, there’s also a dashing sailor, a certain Yves De La Croix (Benjamin Walker), who becomes sympathetic to the fate of the mermaid – especially after he falls in love with Marie-Josèphe – and promises to help the king’s daughter challenge her father and orchestrate an elaborate, death-defying escape.

“The King’s Daughter” has some impressive set pieces, but there are times when you can practically see green screen leaking from the background shots. As for the mermaid sequences… not great. Fan Bingbing is wrapped in some kind of motion capture effect that makes her appear almost animated, and the underwater photography is murkier than it should be and features splashes of putatively dazzling and colorful magic that seem more suited to a 1980s movie. over 21st production of the century.

Almost everyone in the cast gets tall and plays on the rafters, further adding to the film’s cartoonish vibe. Granted, Brosnan and Hurt have fun together as two powerful, world-weary cynics who aren’t yet beyond redemption but are getting closer to the edge – but none of that happens in the series of events. final, certainly well filmed, is not particularly surprising or fascinating. There could indeed be a great movie lurking within the pages of this original source, but “The King’s Daughter” is not that movie.

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