The King’s Daughter, 2022.
Directed by Sean McNamara.
Starring Pierce Brosnan, Kaya Scodelario, Benjamin Walker, Rachel Griffiths, Julie Andrews, Fan Bingbing, William Hurt, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Paul Ireland, Pablo Schreiber, Crystal Clarke, Kaya Blocksage, Kasia Kaczmarek, and Jessica Clarke.
King Louis XIV’s quest for immortality leads him to capture and steal a mermaid’s life force, a move that is further complicated by his illegitimate daughter’s discovery of the creature.
While it’s astounding that The King’s Daughter has sat finished and collecting dust for seven years now, it’s more shocking that a movie where one of the key villains is a mad scientist is releasing during a time when science should be celebrated and trusted more than ever. Then again, this musing is only one of a ridiculous amount of problems, rendering this somewhere between unwatchable and alluring to see if it can get any worse.
Directed by Sean McNamara (you might need to bleach your eyes after having one look at his directorial credits, as it’s mostly embarrassingly bad kids fare), The King’s Daughter stars Pierce Brosnan as King Louis XIV (his performance is as lifeless as Fred Durst performing at Lollapalooza last year and physically is a horror of hairpieces and makeup that keep with the past his prime rocker vibe), a selfish leader ordering his army to capture a mermaid so that he could extract its life essence (which has to be done when certain moons converge elaborately) and live forever. We are also supposed to think he is a badass because the cinematography really likes to put his horse riding in slow motion. Or maybe we’re just supposed to admire the luscious fake hair? I’m not sure I want to know what anyone was thinking while making this movie.
In a terrible opening sequence (for its execution and poor editing), King Louis is returning home and entering the gates, where he is taken by surprise by someone in the crowd shooting him with a firearm. The staging of this incredibly simplistic piece of the action is as flat as watching video game AI standing in a straight line trying to kill the player. None of this is really the absurd part. King Louis shrugs off the bullet and gets right back on his horse, unfazed. Yes, the guy seeking immortality just shrugged off of a bullet, and we are supposed to empathize with his fear and understanding of mortality. He also has strange confessions with a priest regarding his sexual escapades that are meant to be funny, but it elicits cringe more than anything. As The King’s Daughter goes on, it also becomes evident that the script from the four writers adapting the Vonda N. McIntyre novel favors religion over science, complete with atrociously cheesy dialogue.
What really sinks The King’s Daughter (and there’s not a mermaid across any fantastical world that can revive this movie) is its haphazard and whiplash editing condensing a hell of a lot of story into 90 minutes. Kaya Scodelario plays the titular daughter Maria, briefly seen growing up in a convent obsessed with playing in the water (which is somehow a punishable offense), unaware that she is born from royalty. There are also scenes of Benjamin Walker’s Yves De La Croix capturing the mermaid (a ghastly and pitifully rendered CGI Fan Bingbing) that are messy and impossible to tell what’s happening, especially in the darkness. Yves De La Croix also has reasons to distrust King Louis, although that doesn’t stop him and Maria from bonding over showing the mermaid sympathy and compassion. There is also another subplot where Maria discovers a passion for music through her father that turns out to be absolutely worthless.
The plot is generic and horrendously executed in every conceivable fashion, but the editing seems determined to bury any sense of pacing, personality to these characters, urgency, and basic competent fundamental storytelling at every turn. There are scene transitions containing the same characters, utilizing different hairstyles and outfits as if the filmmakers didn’t even hire anyone to pay attention to the continuity. I feel bad for the production designers most of all, as they put in some decent work given the circumstances but have all of their work undone by grotesque over-lighting. For some reason, the occasional contemporary song plays over emotional beats.
Reasons to avoid The King’s Daughter could go on forever, but it is terrifying that Sean McNamara has about ten more movies in production. May they all also be buried underwater for as long as possible. There have already been some stinkers so far this year, but given the cast, modest budget, and theatrical distribution plan, it’s safe to say that The King’s Daughter is the first dumpster fire of 2022, and no amount of seawater or mermaids can put this fire out.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com