The King’s Daughter is a new movie starring Pierce Brosnan. That sentence is almost not true, for reasons I will explain. But here’s what’s true: Pierce Brosnan plays France’s King Louis XIV, on a quest to gain immortality by killing a mermaid during an eclipse. You know: the standard plot of a film called “The King’s Daughter”.
Why did I watch this? Especially after I showed the trailer to Brockway and Seanbaby, and they both told me it put them to sleep? I watched this because I’m a perma-fan of Pierce Brosnan. He played James Bond while I was impressionable. That role imprinted him on me. I was a duckling, and he was my mother duck, outrunning a space laser. After taking a look back at Brosnan’s pre-Bond action movie about terrorist spontaneous human combustions, I wondered what he is up to lately. IMDb said this movie came out in January of 2022. That date is the doorway to an astoundingly cursed production history.
But let’s start with the regular-bad stuff. This is a movie about King Louis XIV trying to murder a mermaid because that will give him immortality powers. In real life, King Louis XIV was famous, influential, father of at least a dozen kids, and the longest-reigning monarch in world history. That’s a fascinating person! In real life! This movie takes that fascinating Frenchy, casts Irish James Bond to play him, and makes fake mermaid-murder his whole deal. That’s ridiculous! It’s like if the people making Lincoln (2012) threw out their history books, and depicted Abraham Lincoln as… oh I dunno, what would be cryptozoological and make no sense? Oh I know! A vampire hunter. Yeah, a vampire hunter. (Okay between you and me, I do know about Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter (also 2012!), because I saw it opening week in a theater. But please don’t tell anyone I did that.)
Anyway The King’s Daughter should be titled something wilder. Sort of like how Twilight should be Sparkly Sexy Vampire Teens! with a third movie called SSVT!3: The Hyper-Baby. Once you go as fantastical/silly as these movies do, it doesn’t matter how famous your cast is or how competently somebody held the camera. It’s a B-movie about monster-love. And in The King’s Daughter, his daughter is the least interesting character.
Here’s the exciting stuff: King Brosnan commands a sea captain to catch a mermaid. The captain does that, and stores her in a Disneyland boat ride-lookin’ cave, situated under the Palace of Versailles. The movie’s cast proceeds to rave about the incredibleness of said mermaid…
…in between making plans to de-bone that sucker, because if they kill her during a solar eclipse, her golden healing powers will burst out of her and something something something.
King Louis XIV and his science flunky believe this will turn Louis immortal. And you know what? I’m open to it! As a story, anyway. The dark, hardcore version of that might be good. The dark, hardcore version is an award-winning novel. This movie adapted The Moon And The Sun, a novel by Vonda N. McIntyre that won the 1997 Nebula Award, beating a field that included George R.R. Martin’s A Game Of Thrones. According to skimming its Wikipedia, McIntyre’s book features the mermaid vowing vengeance on humanity, the Pope being an asshole, and a clever scheming dwarf becoming a key adviser to the king. I know that last thing sounds like Tyrion Lannister from Game Of Thrones. Frankly the whole thing sounds like Game Of Thrones, in a good way. It sounds better than this glossy movie about a perky princess who’s obsessed with her cello.
Background: they almost turned this book into a movie back in 1999, starring Natalie Portman (!) and made by Jim Henson (!!!!). Henson’s name reminds me this type of premise can work, if you go full Labyrinth with your vision and creativity. This movie lacks Labyrinth-itude… except for one scene they kind of stole from Labyrinth. There’s a big set piece where our unhinged nobleman does seductive ballroom dancing with the much much younger lead actress.
That’s way creepier here, though, because the male nobleman is the girl’s *father*. That’s creepy! That’s obviously creepy to everyone, right? Wrong. The makers of this film packed this thing with scenes where Pierce Brosnan has ~chemistry~ with The King’s Daughter Who Is His Daughter. Which is…a choice! For example, they could meet all kinds of ways. Their first meeting is her falling into a fountain, coming out soaking wet, and him giving her Bond Eyes about it.
After that, he makes her his royal composer, which means she sits outside his bedchamber window in a gown every morning.
He also hand-draws a portrait of her, while telling her he sent his agents to investigate what she likes.
Then they do the aforementioned sexy waltzing. Then he summons her to his sitting room, and dictates her entrance with step-by-quivering-step rules. It’s kind of royal and kind of ‘Fifty Shades’.
Then when he arranges her marriage to a rich guy, he lets her burst into his bedroom…
…so he can tell her the news while one inch away from her earlobe.
I thiiiink I know what they’re going for here? They’re going for “she reminds him a lot of her mom, who he used to boink.” Our Greatest Living Thespian (Pierce Brosnan) does a slight variation on this, playing it as “he’s gonna boink his own daughter, boink boink boink, all nuit long.” It ends up becoming kind of the main thing in this movie – even though this is a movie where King Louis XIV of France hunts a mermaid. Also I see how Pierce got there! He got there because he read the script, and saw lines like this:
She says that to a priest! Anyway, there are a ton of other scenes where The King’s Daughter pursues the movie’s on-purpose romance. She falls in love with a sea pirate guy. It’s boring. There is one funny element, which is that the sea pirate guy lives in a lighthouse, with a roommate.
Also they walk to this lighthouse from Versailles. If I’m mapping that right, his lighthouse is more than 100 miles from the sea. Now that you know the one funny geography thing, you can skip these scenes. No sparks. She has less chemistry with the sea pirate than with her father. And who can blame her? Her father is played by Pierce Brosnan. Surprise: I can blame her. The sea pirate actor is played by her future real-life husband.
Meanwhile, holy moly, there’s a friggin’ mermaid under the Palace of Versailles. You would think more of the movie would be about that. This mermaid movie does not know what to do with its mermaid. So they keep her in the movie by making The King’s Daughter take sudden, unmotivated dives into her pool.
One dive is because The King’s Daughter has a Horse Injury, and the mermaid heals it. Other dives are for funsies, I think. Honestly, I can’t remember all the specifics of this movie. It’s got a spazzy flow to it, in a way I can’t screencap. It hops from scene to scene without letting anything matter. Example: midway through, The King’s Daughter is being kept in her room by a guard. She laments that she’s as much of a prisoner as the mermaid. She laments this half a moment before climbing out a window and escaping easily.
This feeling maxes out in the movie’s climax. King Pierce is on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Below him: the mermaid, who swam to the ocean from Versailles (116 miles), because the King’s Daughter spun a big wooden wheel that messed with the palace plumbing and funneled her out. Don’t worry about it. Point is, she says King Pierce only cares about himself, because his guys are lined up to kill the mermaid with their guns once the eclipse starts. He begs her to notice that he’s changed. He is no longer the selfish immortality-seeking king he once was.
Then, twenty-eight seconds later, he tells his guys to kill the mermaid.
Is this a devilish switcheroo? Did he do this after obtaining something or other, by being crafty? No. The movie just kind of does both personalities in one scene. On the issue of mermaid murder, he “Duck Season! / Wabbit Season!”s himself. Oops! Oh well. Then he doesn’t shoot the mermaid and everyone lives happily ever after. Also, the final scene of the movie is The King’s Daughter in an ocean rowboat. She jumps into the ocean, reaches a depth of maybe eight feet, and discovers The Entire City Of Atlantis. This event gets described by a pop song’s lyrics, and by a narrator who is (no joke) Dame Julie Andrews.
I would talk about the scenes of the movie more, but there’s a much more cursed lore awaiting us in reality. The mere release date of this movie is a nightmare. Because this came out in 2022… and this got filmed in 2014. Your math is correct: this film was released eight years after they shot it. Eight years of aging, on a secluded shelf, like a pretty alright wine or an almost-Laphroaig. As a Brosnan Freak, I noticed this time warp immediately. I know Pierce’s face like the back of my own hand – and to me, Pierce looked way too freakin’ great for [uses Google to triple-check Pierce Brosnan’s 2022 age, because it sounds like a joke, but is not a joke, it’s the actual age number I’m working with here] sixty-nine.
This time warp is even weirder for other cast members. Such as William Hurt. Here he is, in this movie, playing King Brosnan’s favorite priest.
Within the eight year limbo of not releasing this movie, Hurt made four Marvel movies, four TV shows, and other stuff. A couple months after it released, he died. Guess what ended up on the top of his IMDb page, forever?
On the other end of the death/life spectrum, let’s take another gander at this film’s (legal) romantic leads:
These randos get most of the non-Brosnan screen time. You may know Kaya Scodelario from Skins or The Maze Runner. Let’s pretend I don’t know Benjamin Walker, the male lead, from his title role in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Let’s pretend I spend my time super well, actually. Anyway, according to IMDb’s trivia section, these two sweeties had their first real-life kiss in their pretend scenes for this movie. According to People.com, they’re now a married couple with two children. That means they made *a family* faster than this movie made its debut.
Why did this movie take so long to come out? We all know the usual reason: badness! That is one reason here. But this movie is more than bad. It’s also two significant financial crimes. Any bad movie with famous-ish cast members still plops onto VOD within a couple years. This movie decayed far longer, because in two separate ways, it defrauded the country of China. Surprise! This story involves China, a lot.
Sorry, China. You are a large country that Hollywood wants to reach. Some movies do that by thoughtfully incorporating China’s fascinating culture, lengthy history, or talented artists. This movie cast one Chinese actor as a trick to score Chinese financing for half their budget. This is who they cast, and who they played.
That last screencap contains all of Fan Bingbing’s dialogue in this movie. I’m not joking. I wish I were joking! She plays a mermaid who communicates with THE KING’S DAUGHTER through telepathic made-up mermaid words and telepathic music-noises. Which is bonkers, because holy cow, they booked Fan Bingbing! The most famous actress in China! A performer who Vanity Fair calls China’s equivalent of Nicole Kidman plus Julia Roberts plus Jennifer Lawrence plus Sandra Bullock. She’s so famous, I’ve only ever seen one Chinese TV drama, and it co-stars Fan Bingbing. But she’s so CGI’d up, I didn’t even recognize her. And she spends this movie trapped in a cave under the Palace of Versailles, in a non-speaking role, because the producers wanted to swindle enough Chinese cash to rent out The Actual Palace Of Versailles.
They wasted Fan Bingbing to scam foreign funding. To me, that is fraud! And to the Chinese public, Fan Bingbing is a different fraud. Because apparently this movie shot in 2014 was set for release in 2015. It got delayed for normal reasons (lamenting its badness, finishing special effects). It got extra delayed because they recut the whole thing and hired Julie Andrews to tack on narration. Then this got mega-delayed by the biggest scandal in Chinese entertainment history. Because the producers were going to cash in on this movie, and pay for Julie Andrews’s diamond-encrusted Blue Yeti or whatever, by doing a massive release in China in 2018. But in 2018, a talk show host accused Fan Bingbing of tax evasion. That snowballed into house arrest, government surveillance, an order to pay $131 million in back taxes, and new national laws capping the pay of all Chinese movie actors. And China is different from the United States. Its people do not celebrate tax evasion as life’s greatest IQ test. The furor about this meant no one in China wanted to see a Fan Bingbing movie. The next best sales pitch of “mermaid period drama starring Pierce Brosnan?” did not work in any country. I’m pretty sure this only came out at all because COVID shut down the production of better movies for a while. Without that pipeline gap, I doubt we’d ever have seen this boring, confusing movie where a French lady does a cello jam session with a scam mermaid.
So there you have it. This movie stinks and its stinkiness achieved layers. And if there’s one thing I’m surer of than ever, it’s that my main man Pierce will entertain me, one way or another. Because this movie/story sure did. Entertainment! That’s the Brosnan Guarantee(™)! Use promo code “DDOGGZZONNEZ” for a 10% stronger Brosnantee when you pre-order tickets to Mamma Mia 3. I know I will!*
*I might not.