A Shakespeare adaptation has once again hit our screens, and this time the one and only Timothée Chalamet is leading the pack. “The King,” directed by David Michôd, is the newest adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Henriad” plays and the first to be created entirely by Netflix. The movie remains faithful enough to the beloved plays. However, the movie fails to incorporate some of the most memorable lines from the “Henriad.” For Shakespeare enthusiasts, this adaptation may fall short in terms of dialogue when compared to other adaptations. Still, Michôd’s “The King” isn’t a direct translation of the original plays nor does it try to be.
The movie’s real strong suit is the power of its cast. Timothée Chalamet, unsurprisingly, is absolutely captivating. It’s not hard for the audience to picture Chalamet as a young, boyish King Henry suddenly thrust into power after the death of his father and brother. Chalamet’s performance stands out in a movie that is at times terribly dull, proving that he is truly deserving of his cult like fan following. Robert Pattinson plays the Dauphin, a mad ruler who seemingly does everything in his power to taunt the immature King Henry. Pattinson’s French accent is outrageous, to say the least, but his presence on screen is suited for his character, who provides comic relief in a movie that takes itself too seriously. King Henry’s sidekick, Falstaff, is portrayed by none other than Joel Edgerton. Edgerton does an amazing job at giving Falstaff depth as well as personality. However, the film’s take on Falstaff pales in comparison to Shakespeare’s iconic character. Lily-Rose Depp plays Catherine of Valois, the soon to be wife of King Henry. Although Depp’s screen time is short, she is convincing in her role and her character serves as a nice contrast to Chalamet’s. In one of the best scenes of the movie, Catherine of Valois questions King Henry’s foolish, egotistical motivations for war. Scenes like this actually give the film a unique, modern perspective compared to previous adaptations. However, the film only briefly explores the concept of toxic masculinity that is all too present in these types of stories. Despite strong performances from the cast, the overall film is dull. The dialogue is forgettable and some of the scenes feel empty. Though shot beautifully, the cinematography does not distract from the fact that we have all seen this movie a hundred times. We are in an age where almost every period piece has been done before, and “The King” fails to use its young cast to tell an old story in a new way.
Films like “The King” suggest that Netflix is slowly beginning to push the limits for its originals. Alfonso Cuaron’s period drama, “Roma” proved that Netflix is capable of creating critically acclaimed films. Like “Roma,” “The King” had a limited theatrical release before streaming on Netflix. With the critical success of their other originals, Netflix has now established itself as a highly regarded studio. However, some members of the film industry are reluctant to let Netflix originals compete in the same category as traditional films. Recently, director Steven Spielberg has been critical of The Academy’s decision to allow streaming services to be nominated for Academy Awards. However, it looks like many highly regarded actors are eager to participate in movies produced by streaming services. “The King” boasts a star-studded cast that includes the likes of Academy Award nominee Timothée Chalamet and Golden Globe nominee Joel Edgerton. This prompts the broader question of audience turnout. For films like “The King” that attract a more niche audience, will viewers even think it’s worth seeing in theaters if streaming services will offer the movies so soon after? Audiences only go to movie theaters to see non-blockbuster, award contender films if they feel like the movie is worth it. If streaming services start offering more reputable films for mass consumption, will it lessen the credibility of the films in the eyes of industry elites? Right now, all we know is that streaming services are on the rise and with movie theater attendance hitting all time lows, it’s safe to say that films like “The King” may succeed in becoming small screen spectacles.