"Soulless Revisionist History"
What You Need To Know:
THE KING is an overt re-imagining of Shakespeare’s great play, HENRY V, about the young English king who defeated the King of France in an important battle in 1415. The movie begins as Henry V’s father nears the end of his life and appoints his second son, Thomas of Lancaster, as his heir. In battle, Thomas dies, making Henry V the new king of England. When a French assassin supposedly comes to murder Henry, his advisors encourage him to go to war though he feels some reservations about the fallout from the war. Henry decides to journey across the pond with his army and best friend and confidant, the humanist Falstaff.
THE KING has some Christian scenes with moments that hint at the values of friendship and reverence for the monarchy. However, THE KING is often humanist, soulless and heartless. It plays like an antiwar propaganda piece rather than a depiction of Christendom’s Just War theories originated by St. Augustine. THE KING also portrays the clergymen as more greedy and corrupt than the noblemen who deceive Henry. MOVIEGUIDE® recommends extreme caution for THE KING.
THE KING is an overt re-imagining of Shakespeare’s great play, HENRY V, about the young English king who defeated the King of France in an important battle in 1415. THE KING has some Christian scenes with moments that hint at the values of friendship and reverence for the monarchy, but it’s often humanist, soulless and heartless, more like an antiwar propaganda piece. MOVIEGUIDE® recommends extreme caution for THE KING.
The movie opens with a shot on the battlefield of a fallen, wounded Scot who’s still alive, who is ruthlessly stabbed to kill him. Cut to Henry’s father holding court with his noblemen. Hotspur, one of the nobles, urges Henry IV to pay a ransom to release another English noble from the Welsh, who are in rebellion. The King, who seems to engender rebellion everywhere, dismisses Hotspur and then tells his closest advisors to get rid of him.
Meanwhile, the future king, Henry V, who’s called Hal at this time, is hanging out with his hedonistic friend, Falstaff, on Eastcheap Street, indulging in wine, women and debauchery. Falstaff represents the father that Hal wants. Falstaff is a pacifist and a humanist.
After several sexual trysts, Hal is summoned to meet with his father, who’s dying. His father tells him that, although Hal is the older son, the King is passing the Crown to his younger brother, Thomas. Thomas is weak, but Hal is hedonistic. Upon being rejected, Hal condemns his father for constantly starting wars with the Scots, the Welsh and everybody else.
To live up to his father’s expectations, Thomas goes to war against Hotspur. At the last moment, as the two armies are facing each other, Hal, dressed in armor, intervenes to save the lives of the soldiers and challenges Hotspur to a man on man duel. After extended silly fighting, Hal defeats Hotspur, and Thomas is furious, because Hal has taken his glory.
Hal returns to his libertine lifestyle with Fallstaff and gets summoned again to the king by the chief counsel, William. William tells Hal that he’s the only one who can be crowned king, because Thomas was killed fighting the Welsh. Hal rushes into his father’s bedchamber and rebukes his father as his father dies. When he dies, Hal tells all the noblemen that he is going to be a different kind of king, who brings peace, not war.
At his coronation banquet, Hal now Henry V receives many gifts from the royals of Europe and a seemingly mocking gift from the King of France. His sister, who’s married to the King of Denmark tells Henry not to trust anyone, which Falstaff had already told him. Soon, a supposed assassin sent from the King of France is captured, and several other incidents occur that force Henry V to go to war against France. Against overwhelming odds, Henry and his small army defeat the French at Agincourt. Falstaff dies valiantly. The French successor to the throne, the Dauphin, is killed, and the French king, Charles, surrenders on condition that Henry marries his daughter.
[SPOILER] Soon, Henry finds out that he was duped by all the political intrigue so that his noble court could gain more property. Thus, it continues.
The good news about THE KING is that the sex and violence is muted compared THE ROBBER KING and other Netflix historical programs. Except for being tedious in a few places, the movie is entertaining, although it never rises to the level of Kenneth Branagh’s HENRY V or even Laurence Olivier’s 1953 movie.
The movie’s major problem is that the lead actor, Timothée Chalamet, doesn’t look like he could have a fight and win with a 9-year-old. His fighting looks like flailing, and his speeches are more like yelling, as opposed to Kenneth Branagh’s great St. Crispin’s speech to his beloved men before the battle of Agincourt. Any thought that the Battle of Agincourt was a miraculous intervention of God is ignored.
Although there are scenes of Henry V praying, there is no apparent connection with the living God that was so instrumental in people’s lives at that time. Although there’s some very tame sexual encounters, there seems to be no love, and the scene with the dying Falstaff is a great disappointment.
Toward the end when we discover Henry was duped by the noblemen, we realize Falstaff was right. and there’s no reason for war. During the discussion with the movie’s writer, director and producers after the screening, it came out that the director’s previous movie, WAR MACHINE, as well as this one, are antiwar movies, and filmmakers were chosen for this movie because they were humanist. The trouble with postmodern humanism such as this is that it has no humanity and carries self-love to the point that it would only appeal to Freud and Marx. How limited these people’s visions are!
There are several important historical points that need to be addressed. First, HENRY V is set at a time where there were no nation states, which arose after Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. Since the time that the Normans were led to invade England by William the Conqueror, the kings in England had inherited significant tracts of Western Europe, just as the Norsemen, which came to be known as Normans, held significant tracts of what is now called France, as well as Sicily, Southern Italy and much of Russia. The King of France was really the king of the Isle de France in the midst of the Seine who had made alliances with several of his neighboring nobles. Everyone wanted more land and wealth, and skirmishes, wars and rumors of war were constant. When talking about France, nobody thought of the country we now imagine. Very few people in the area now known as France spoke the French of famous literature, about 10to12%, England was not the United Kingdom, and Germany and Italy weren’t united until the 1860s.
Why is all this important? Because he who forgets history is doomed to repeat it. Revisionist history has whitewashed, Stalin, Lenin, Mao, and even Hitler. It misses the valid reasons for standing up against tyranny and assumes ignorant, invalid, half-cocked reason for going along to get along. In truth, like its wimpy portrayal of King Henry V, THE KING is a sad attempt at political correctness. One can only hope that audiences and youth will seek the truth that will set them free form this quagmire of a deceptive battlefield.