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Movie Review: “Outlaw King”

There are many movies that are worth seeing, but there are a lot of stinkers as well. My goal here is to weed out the good from the bad.

Netflix Release: 11/9/2018

Netflix Release: 11/9/2018

Synopsis

When Scotland was left without an heir to the throne, Edward King of England (Stephen Dillane) was chosen to appoint the new king of Scotland. Rather than appoint a new king like he was asked, King Edward decided to invade Scotland and absorb the land into his rule. The war lasted eight years, but has finally reached its conclusion with England coming out victorious. The leaders of Scotland have accepted King Edward's terms to facilitate peace, but a Scottish man named Robert Bruce (Chris Pine) wastes no time starting a rebellion to take back control of his homeland.

In igniting a new rebellion, Robert Bruce has been named—by the people of Scotland—as King of Scots. In this new role, Robert struggles with protecting his family, the importance of chivalry, and risking the lives of good men. He must find a way to work out all of these issues as a leader, and he must do so while at war with the nearly unstoppable English army. England’s army is a force to be reckoned with, but Robert’s army is filled with men desperate to preserve their nation’s freedom. Unfortunately, the outlaw king and his army are severely outnumbered, so they will need more than their righteous passion to succeed.

Official Trailer

The Pros & Cons

All movies start with an average score of 75pts, points are then added or subtracted based on each Pro and Con. Each Pro or Con is designated points, ranging from 0-10, to convey how significant these Pros or Cons are.

The ProsThe Cons

Chris Pine (+5pts)

Edward & The Dragon Banner (-4pts)

Chivalry (+6pts)

Slow Start (-4pts)

The Action (+8pts)

The Battle, Not the War (-3pts)

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Pro: Chris Pine (+5pts)

Chris Pine delivered a decent performance here. It was not exactly memorable, but he was able to say a lot with his eyes, and with his facial expressions. The character never explained what was going on in his head, but I could always see what the character was feeling. It was not a performance that will stand out, but his performance added a lot of layers to his character. These were layers that were not written into the story, but they were layers that gave the story depth and will keep viewers watching. The script did not give him much to showcase his talent, but Chris Pine's portrayal added a lot to this movie, and I think he deserves a lot of praise for that.

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Con: Edward & The Dragon Banner (-4pts)

Edward (Billy Howle) was setup as the primary antagonist, but he did not really do much in opposition of Robert. He led the men of the Dragon Banner who were setup as the baddest men that England’s army had to offer, but they did not do much in this movie to deserve that title. Edward was the son of King Edward and he was the heir to England’s throne, but he spent the whole movie talking about what he was going to do, rather than actually doing anything. While Edward and the Dragon Banner were setup as Robert‘s primary obstacle, the majority of the movie was spent showing Robert going up against another leader in the English army.

The other guy was Aymer de Valence (Sam Spruell) who essentially shared the role of primary antagonist, but he got no development at all. Edward got some development, but the result was two protagonists who were very one-dimensional and were just evil for the sake of being evil. The main issue here was that there was a lot of story to tell, and not enough screentime for both of these characters. By trying to fit them both in here, the filmmakers did not have the screentime to make either interesting.

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Pro: Chivalry (+6pts)

No, this does not mean that a bunch of guys held a bunch of doors open for a bunch of gals in this movie. Rather, I liked was that this movie explored chivalry in the context of medieval warfare. I liked seeing how chivalry was incorporated into Robert’s storyline, as he always aimed to be respectful and honorable, even toward his enemies. The filmmakers explored what it meant to be chivalrous in war, as well as what could force a man to abandon that chivalrous mentality.

Robert started out chivalrous, but he was repeatedly pushed closer and closer to his breaking point. What do you do when you care about honor and respect on the battlefield, but your opponents do not share that mindset, and are gaining the advantage as a result of that? Robert’s development felt natural because of what he was up against, and I liked seeing this character having such strong morals, then being pushed to the limits of what he was willing to tolerate, and questioning those morals. It made Robert a compelling character, because I respected his morals, but I totally understood his reasons for potentially abandoning them.

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Con: Slow Start (-4pts)

Once the movie got going, I liked it, but it took a little while to get there. I got the impression that there was too much story to tell in this movie, and I think it was one of those movies that would have been better off as a Netflix series. The movie started at the conclusion of an eight-year war. Rather than show any of that war or what led to it, which could have been pretty interesting, the movie started with a bunch of guys vowing not to fight each other.

We do not know any of them or what they were fighting for, so the vow of peace meant very little. Then there were a bunch of dialogue heavy scenes between characters we did not know, only for those characters to eventually break the vow of peace that kicked off the movie. It just made the whole beginning feel pointless. We got one pointless scene after another, and these scenes could have been impactful if we knew the characters in them, but we did not. Once the movie finally got rolling, I thought it was pretty good. I just thought the filmmakers started the movie in the wrong spot, and thought that this story could have been great if the filmmakers were able to make it a series, where they could flesh out all of these characters and build tension toward the scenes surrounding the vow of peace.

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Pro: The Action (+8pts)

I am not going to lie, I did not expect much from the action in Outlaw King, but I was pleasantly surprised by how good it was. There was plenty of it, and it was awesome while it was happening. Each action sequence was unique in one way or another, but it all felt brutal, dirty, and real. There was not unnecessarily gory, nor was it unnecessarily tame. I thought the action hit the sweet spot of brutality, and grittiness, and it had me totally entertained while it was happening.

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Con: The Battle, Not the War (-3pts)

I am going to keep this brief, because it is in reference to the ending of the movie. My issue with it was that the movie ended with the conclusion of a battle, but it did not end with the conclusion of the war. As a result, it did not feel like a true conclusion to the story that I had been watching for the entire movie. Then, as if the filmmakers were aware of the problem, a bunch of text popped up on screen, explaining the fates of all the characters who were still alive.

I already said that the movie started in the wrong spot, but the same was unfortunately true for the ending. This was just more proof that the filmmakers had way too much story to tell in one movie, and that the movie would have been better served if it was made as a series. If was a series, the filmmakers could have fleshed out everything that led up to the war, shown the war itself, and shown the actual end of it. The whole thing was a shame because there was a good story, but the filmmakers did not have enough time to tell it, and I thought the movie suffered as a result of that.

Grading Scale

GradeCategoryPoints

A+

Amazing

95-100

A-

Great

90-94

B+

Good

85-89

B-

Decent

80-84

C+

Average

75-79

C-

Watchable

70-74

D+

Bad

65-69

D-

Terrible

60-64

F

Garbage

45-59

movie-review-outlaw-king

Grade: B- (83pts)

Outlaw King had a slow start, and a slightly disappointing conclusion, but I liked it anyway. The major problem with this movie was that there was way too much story to tell here. The whole movie was based on real events, and the filmmakers decided to form the foundation of this story from text that would appear at the start of the film that would explain what happened in the eight years leading up to the events of the movie. They then ended the movie before the true end of the story, and used same method to conclude the movie. The filmmakers kind of just picked a spot to end the movie, then threw text on the screen to explain how the rest of the war played out and what happened to all the characters after.

Rather than make this a limited series that could explain everything, the filmmakers gave us a ton of screen text that did not allow the audience to connect with what that text was explaining. The result was a movie with a boring beginning, and main characters that were not fleshed out properly. The action was surprisingly good, and Chris Pine added a ton of depth to his character. It had a slow start, but once the movie got going, it got good. I also enjoyed how the filmmakers explored chivalry, and I enjoyed seeing the main character have his morality put to the test. It had a slow start, and ended in somewhat unsatisfying way, but despite those issues, I still had a good time watching this movie.

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