Review by Sean Boelman
It can sometimes take a lot of time for a film to reach audiences after it is completed, but it doesn’t often take eight years for a big-budget fantasy movie starring an A-lister to hit theaters. And surprisingly enough, The King’s Daughter isn’t all that bad — it’s just an enormously forgettable fable.
The film follows a king who, in search of immortality, finds and captures a mermaid with the intent of torturing her to harness her life force, and his daughter, who discovers the creature and wishes to set it free. The King’s story is ultimately more compelling than that of his daughter’s, although it is also far more conventional.
One of the biggest issues with the movie is that it can’t seem to figure out who its target audience really is. It has the feeling of fairytale-like whimsy that would imply it was made with a family audience in mind, but everything about the film is so formal that younger viewers will likely find themselves bored.
There are also some weird asides in the movie. One of the major subplots in the film introduces a love interest for the protagonist, turning it into a romance of sorts. And then there is a slightly faith-based angle involving the King having a spiritual crisis, but that’s not especially surprising given the fact that the movie is directed by Sean McNamara (of Soul Surfer fame).
The character development in the film is very generic. King Louis XIV is a pretty generic tyrannical ruler who must gain a heart over the course of the movie, and his daughter is the idyllic youngster who teaches him the lesson. Most frustrating, though, is the fact that there is no real development of the mermaid beyond the purpose she serves in the story.
Kaya Scodelario plays the lead role as if she is confident that this is going to be the one that lets her break out, and it’s pretty hilarious to watch given the fact that she’s had at least three or four more of those since. Pierce Brosnan gets to ham it up in his role and that’s a fun thing to watch even if it isn’t among his more memorable roles. And Bingbing Fan is absolutely wasted.
When the film was initially delayed, one of the reasons given was to work on the visual effects, and those improvements (if any were even made) are pretty difficult to identify. That said, the movie otherwise looks pretty solid. The production design and costuming are colorful and lend a fanciful quality to the film.
The King’s Daughter didn’t quite deserve to sit on the shelf for the length of time it did, but it’s not going to leave viewers particularly impressed either. Ultimately, it’s cashing in on the lack of new product right now to get theatrical play, and it may get a few eyes because of it.
The King’s Daughter hits theaters on January 21.