Arthur the King: Moving and Heartwarming

When it comes to movies about animals, I tend to fall in love with the story, mostly because I love animals. I’d seen enough previews of Arthur the King to know that I was looking forward to it. Even though it does have its predictable moments, the way the director builds the story, keeping the focus on the plight of a stray dog and the travails of the adventure racers, has created a film that is moving and heartwarming.

Arthur the King is an adventure film directed by Simon Cellan Jones and written by Michael Brandt, the story is based on the nonfiction book “Arthur-The Dog Who Crossed a Jungle to Find a Home” by Mikael Lindnord. In the film, Michael Light (Mark Wahlburg) is a washed up adventure racer who has issues working with a team. But knowing that he wants to be remembered for more than failing, his wife Helena (Juliet Rylance) encourages him to give it one more try, even though it will mean being apart from her and their daughter Ruby. Michael gathers sponsors and a team- veteran racer Chik (Ali Suliman), superstar Olivia (Nathalie Emmanuel) and previous teammate and social media darling Leo (Simu Liu). The team must race for days across treacherous terrain, running, hiking, biking and canoeing through the jungle. After a stop for a rest, Michael feeds a stray dog a meatball and afterwards, the stray follows them through the jungle. The team find themselves adopting the dog, naming him Arthur for his gentle and noble demeanor. Despite wounds and pain, the dog remains with them to the end, through a harrowing journey that is physically challenging for humans and dog alike. 

The story is the most impactful part of this film. While it is predictable and relies on viewer’s love of dogs, it doesn’t solely center the film on Arthur. The director and story take the time to build the narrative, providing background for viewers to connect with Michael despite his stubborn nature. From the beginning, we see his passion and love for his family. Little moments like him allowing his daughter to paint his nails cement his status as a family man while we also have time to see just how hard it is for him to work with others. The film also does a good job of interjecting Arthur’s journey alongside the teams, allowing us to see some of the abuse and challenges the animal faces before he encounters the team. Besides Michael’s story, we see that Chik faces aging and a bad knee, Olivia’s father is dying of cancer and Leo wants vindication for his previous loss at Michael’s hands. Those story beats connect the viewer with the characters and makes you care about their struggles right from the start. 

The filming is dynamic, showing us the terrain and the physical challenges of the race. It depicts the mental and physical drain that happens for a race that happens over days. I like how we’re shown each stage of the race and what is expected of the racers. We also get treated to how Helena tracks the race each step of the way and how Michael’s team rises to the challenges, managing to go neck and neck with those in the number one spot. The film shows the thrill and tension of the race, keeping viewers on the edge of their seats.

The dynamic between the actors is excellent. While Mark Wahlburg is the driving force in the film, perfectly embodying the attitude and heart of his character, it is his interactions with both the other human actors and his canine star that are at the heart of this film. There is a wonderful sparring quality between him and Simu Liu starring as Leo. The humor in their sparring adds to the film. He has a warm quality with both Nathalie Emmanuel and Ali Suliman, both empathetic and warm as their characters. That warmth with each other and with their canine star makes the film warm, moving and heartwarming. 

The film is predictable. Given that it is based on a real life story, you have some idea of the fate of Arthur already. And the story does play on your heart deliberately. But as an animal lover, this film still had me in tears and made me invested in the beauty of Arthur’s story.

If you like movies about animals or those who strive against the odds, then this film is for you. The actors do a fantastic job giving a performance that makes viewers invested in the fate of Arthur and the team. Mark Wahlburg is the perfect embodiment of Michael Light, despite the fictionalized nature of the character. He has a wonderful dynamic with his canine co-star and the other actors. Arthur the King will tug at your heart and move you to tears by the end of the movie. 

Rating: 4 out of 5 trails

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