Adapted from the manga of the same name, Kingdom is an action adventure film set in China during the Warring States era. It follows Xin from an early age as he dreams of growing from a member of the lowly servant class to a great general. Xin’s journey begins as the rightful emperor, Ying Zheng, is overthrown by his half-brother, and he’s thrust into intrigue and battle to unite China.
If there’s one thing that can be said about Kingdom, it’s that it takes its budget and makes good use of it. The production values hit exactly where they need to in order to sell an expansive wuxia-like world that can sometimes be a bit over-the-top. Whether it’s a shot in a slightly illuminated cave or a fantastical mountainside civilization, the movie is always making use of its budget to show the best it has to offer.
But that’s not to say it lacks in other areas. The film chugs along at a reasonable pace, managing to string together enough plot beats and substance to fill out its two hour runtime with the right consistency. It doesn’t feel like it ever goes too quickly nor too slowly for long. Considering the size of the material that it has to cram in, that’s no small feat. That does lead us well into the next section, of course.
While it paces itself through a ton of content well enough, the movie still proceeds through a lot of source material at a breakneck pace. It’s bewildering just how many plot beats we do end up managing to get through. Although it’s well-paced, this means that a lot of casual interaction gets trimmed to lean down the movie for the two hour run time. Most of the time when you see characters actually interacting, it’s a purely transactional move to keep the scenes and plot moving forward. You won’t see Xin or his supporting cast getting much of a chance to develop beyond the archetypes that are defined early on.
On a related note, there are a lot of characters. A lot of characters. It’s difficult to keep them straight even as several of them are eliminated over the course of the film perhaps only scenes after they’re introduced.
Ultimately Kingdom succeeds everywhere that an action-adventure film needs to. It doesn’t need to be a character study, but it needs to have tight pacing, likable characters with straightforward goals, and some great battle scenes thrown in to seal the deal. If you need a solid way to spend a couple of hours watching an action film, you won’t be disappointed.
It seems likely that fans of the source material will be disappointed with the way the film clearly condenses a lot of material into a very short run time, and as mentioned before the way it tends to treat characters as merely a way to keep the plot moving forward.
AniTAY was provided a review stream of this film by the North American distributor: Funimation.
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