REVIEW: All Hail the King [2014]

Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

Rating: NR | Runtime: 14 minutes | Release Date: February 4th, 2014 (USA)
Studio: Marvel Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Director(s): Drew Pearce
Writer(s): Drew Pearce

“Bloody hell. It’s not exactly the Ritz is it?”

I loved Iron Man 3. I know I might be in the minority, but Shane Black and Drew Pearce‘s creation was right up my alley comedy-wise and twist-wise. It really pissed off fans that thought the whole Mandarin thing was a giant cop-out: you know, him being Aldich Killian (Guy Pearce) by way of Trevor Slattery (Ben Kingsley). I get their affinity for canon and desire to have an over-the-top villain such as he brought to life, but Marvel has steeped their universe in as much reality as can be conjured with a God coming down to Earth to fight with a hammer. This subversion of the whole comic book exuberance was brilliant; the highlight of a film that got at the human element of what these superheroes and villains deal with beyond advanced technological fisticuffs.

It’s no surprise then that I found myself in stitches watching Trevor’s life unfold in prison during the Marvel One-Shot All Hail the King. Kingsley is a hoot as he retains the ego of an actor who fooled the world yet couldn’t get a CBS pilot on air years before. The short deals with him being interviewed by documentarian Jackson Norris (Scott McNairy), a man hoping to get at the heart of the man behind the monster. Frustrated that he’s yet to crack the story despite this being his final day, Norris pulls out all the stops an old photo and an appeal to the sociopath’s vanity. But Trevor is having too much fun basking in newfound fame behind bars with his “butler” (Lester Speight‘s Herman) and hoard of star struck inmates in awe of his faux criminality to care.

The film is at its best when Kingsley’s in gen-pop amongst his admirers and detractors—namely Matt Gerald‘s White Power Dave. The tone matches that of Iron Man 3 perfectly thanks to being written and directed by Drew Pearce while the eventual reveal serves as a sort of apology to fans for what he did to their beloved Mandarin. All Hail the King eventually becomes a subversion of Pearce’s original subversion, re-introducing The Ten Rings as a real world entity beyond Killian’s charade (unsurprising considering its inclusion in the background of Iron Man). Where it goes from here we can’t really know since the Iron Man series is all but dead with Robert Downey Jr. finishing out a couple Avengers movies before hanging up the costume, but Marvel could always bring the terrorist group back elsewhere.

So, if you liked Slattery from Iron Man 3, this expansion should be a ton of fun. If you didn’t, well, perhaps Pearce makes up for his “error”. Either way, definitely watch for Kingsley’s portrayal alone as he’s created the standout character of the entire Marvel Universe in my mind. Not only that, but the equally great Sam Rockwell returns for a small cameo during the credits to show where Justin Hammer has gone since his own villainous demise at Iron Man 2‘s end. The prison setting provides us a DC-like Arkham Asylum environment to show how the “other half” lives while our superheroes continue squashing evil outside. It may not seem like much right now, but this short vignette has the potential of playing a much larger role in the future as a result.

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