MOVIE NEWS – Seven Kings Must Die, the latest in the Last Kingdom franchise, offered a perhaps unnecessary ending to a story that has already been completed.
The television adaptation of Bernard Cornwell’s The Saxon Stories premiered in 2015 as The Last Kingdom. The series, which initially debuted on the BBC before moving to Netflix, began with the story of Uhtred (Alexander Dreymon), a native of Bexburgh who is torn from his home in northern Britain, enslaved by Danes and soon adopted. His quest to take revenge on the Danes who raised him and reclaim his birthright as the lord of Bebbanburg drives the underlying experiment to see if Saxons and Danes can live together. The series ran for five seasons until its conclusion in 2022. A year later, The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die was released, offering another ending to a story that had already been completed.
Unlike The Last Kingdom series, Seven Kings Must Die received harsh criticism from some critics and fans of the series.
As an addition to the famous and successful series, the new cinema adds The Last Kingdom to the list of television series that have spawned film sequels. Some of these continued the same narrative as The Last Kingdom, while others were simply revivals of popular story worlds. On its own, Seven Kings Must Die contains compelling battle scenes, enticing political allegiances and complex characters that explore modern themes. Still, as a product of The Kingdom franchise, the film fails to live up to its predecessor.
How did The Last Kingdom end?
In 2022, The Last Kingdom ended with Uhtred fulfilling his destiny and reclaiming Bebbanburg, offering Northumbria a safe haven for Saxons and Danes alike. In doing so, Uhtred refuses to allow Northumbria to recognise Edward (Timothy Innes) as overlord but promises to eventually enable the country to recognise a king who can unite England without the troubles caused by Edward. This ending to Uhtred’s journey has placed him in the company of his children and the allies he has made along the way, fulfilling the promises he has made throughout the series while paying tribute to his Saxon and Danish heritage. For Uhtred, his surviving family and friends, The Last Kingdom provide a fitting conclusion confirming the destiny the series has destined for him from the start.
What does The Last Kingdom: Seven Kings Must Die contains?
The Seven Kings Must Die does not pick up where The Last Kingdom left off but continues Uhtred’s story, returning him to battle and fulfilling his promises. The film features several familiar faces, including his trusted friends Finan (Mark Rowley) and Sihtric (Arnas Fedaravicius), as well as Father Pyrlig (Cavan Clerkin) and Aldhelm (James Northcote). The five work together once again to complete a plan to bring the now deceased. The five work together once again to complete a plan to place King Edward’s eldest son, Athelstan (Harry Gilby), who has since died, on the throne.
The film ends with Uhtred entrusting Athelstan with the province of Northumbria, asking him to promise never to marry or have children and to name his brother Edmund as his next heir.
Shortly afterwards, Uhtred receives a Valhalla-induced vision involving many of those who perished in the Last Kingdom, including Brida, Ragnar, Haesten and many others. With Edward’s death, the events of The Seven Kings Must Die begin, leaving only six more kings to die before the prophecy that seven must die before England is united is fulfilled. Among the casualties of the final battle were five kings who were not crowned, bringing the total to six. Uhtred’s death would fulfil the prophecy, and his vision of Valhalla suggests that his story will come to a grim end, upending the hopeful ending of the TV series.
Has The Last Kingdom’s reputation been tarnished?
The Last Kingdom, modelled on Cornwell’s novels, stays true to the text and the history that inspired it. However, the conclusion of the series offered a final, ambiguous ending that did not require expansion. The fulfilment of Uhtred’s destiny left viewers hopeful for what the future might hold for Bebbanburg and his allies. While Seven Kings Must Die lacks this optimism, the sombre ending is not its problem.
The Last Kingdom provided well-executed pacing to show Uhtred’s tumultuous journey to achieve his destiny. Seven Kings Must Die does not share this pace during its nearly two-hour playing time. It attempts to offer some insight into the time between the series and the film, as well as the current tension that will drive the film’s narrative. This proves to be a daunting task, not helped by the lack and lack of appreciation towards several Last Kingdom characters.
By focusing so much on the completion of Uhtred’s journey and the beginning of Athelstan’s journey, the omission of key characters such as Uhtred’s eldest son (Finn Elliot) and daughter Stiorra (Ruby Hartley) leaves the film feeling incomplete.
Also, the omission of the fates of Lady Ælfwynn (Phia Saban) and Lady Æelswith (Eliza Butterworth), who were essential pieces in the development of both Uhtred and Athelstan in the later seasons of The Last Kingdom, seems to make the film forget a significant part of the line.
Ultimately, Seven Kings Must Die adds little to The Last Kingdom. Without the physical presence of these characters, the film could have at least mentioned them, but it doesn’t. For a series that ended with Uhtred reunited with his family at his ancestral home, it is utterly implausible that the film introduces a final ending, such as Uhtred’s probable death, without merely mentioning his missing children.
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