‘The King’s Daughter:’ A turbulent release creates a terrible picture

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In the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw many films delay their releases. We saw “Tenet” continually push back its release date to September 2020 and “Black Widow” to July 2021. Even still we continue to see dates fall back, with “Morbius” as a recent example. 

However, none of these films come anywhere close to “The King’s Daughter.” 

This film has one of the strangest production and release timelines of any picture, and it shows in the final product. 

“The King’s Daughter” began its principal photography way back in April 2014. Yes, you read that correctly. This picture was filmed almost eight years ago. It was originally scheduled for a theatrical release from Paramount on April 10, 2015, but three weeks before that date, they pulled the picture from the calendar. Paramount never released the film and the distribution rights were passed around for years, until Gravitas Ventures bought them in 2021, deciding to theatrically release the picture in January 2022. 

Thus, “The King’s Daughter” is not just a trip back in time to experience the 17th century, but also a trip back in time to filmmaking in 2014.  

Unfortunately, this film was not at all worth the wait. 

Starring Pierce Brosnan, Kaya Scodelario, Benjamin Walker and William Hurt, “The King’s Daughter” is as conventional as you get in terms of a fantasy story. Brosnan plays a greedy King Louis XIV, doing his best Denethor impression in the part. Scodelario, Walker and Hurt all play the stereotypical princess, swashbuckler and priest confidante in their underwritten parts. 

Even a voiceover from dame Julie Andrews herself cannot save this film. 

From the start, it was clear this film was not going to be good. Likely due to money constrains, the film’s first act is a whirlwind, zooming through scenes so fast the viewer will get whiplash. Scenes just start and end a few seconds later. To be honest, it’s probably inaccurate to even call them “scenes.” Instead, they should be called “brief moments where we see the characters wanting to have a scene, but the movie just wants to skip ahead.” Likely, the movie needed to save money on visual effects, so a majority of the first act was cut to save that investment. 

After the wicked fast first act, the film steadies a bit, but only for the most boilerplate plots to ensue. Yes, a visual-effects-laden mermaid is involved, but she serves no actual purpose and is really just a MacGuffin within the film’s story. 

“The King’s Daughter” also has this odd quality of seeming both very expensive and incredibly cheap. The film shoots in some beautiful locations with lush grasslands and ornate palaces, giving the movie some feeling of scale. At the same time, “The King’s Daughter” has a strange absence of extras (or perhaps visual effects crowd simulations) and has some astoundingly terrible visual effects. This is likely due to the tumultuous post-production of this picture, as the visual effects went unfinished due to budgetary constraints.  

As a final point, I have to call into question the title of the movie. “The King’s Daughter” is a strange title, considering it is the dictionary definition of the word “princess.” The book this film was adapted from is titled “The Sun and the Moon,” which is much more apt considering the story. All in all, this is just another example of how strange this film is. 

Ultimately, I cannot recommend “The King’s Daughter.” It does not even fall into the category of humorous bad movies, except for perhaps one scene when the lead character started destroying a row full of instruments à la Charles Foster Kane in Xanadu.  

Nonetheless, this was an interesting film to explore, considering its odd journey to the silver screen. But after seeing it in the theater, I cannot imagine the production team ever wanted it to see the light of day. 

Rating: 1.05 out of 5 stars 

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