After The Witcher – transposition by some loved, criticized by others by Andrzej Sapkowski’s books – Netflix retries the path of fantasy with Letter to the King, also the result of an adaptation.
Letter to the King is based on the eponymous children’s novel written by the Dutch Tonke Dragt in 1962 (which won the National Prize for Children’s Literature in 1976) and focused on the events of the young Tiuri (Amir Wilson), dealing with a dangerous mission for the salvation of the world.
A plot that is not exactly original, but that could conceal some surprises and many reflections on the meaning of heroism and the spirit of sacrifice.
Letter to the King, whose first part in six episodes has been available on Netflix since March 20, 2020, begins with a tone that is not exactly original. You can immediately see the classic fantasy system, based on the development of conventional topoi. There is an alternative world made up of warring kingdoms and a ruthless and eager prince of conquest. There is a prophecy that announces the arrival of the one who can defeat the evil sovereign and there is a protagonist apparently unable to play the role of the hero, but in reality destined to demonstrate, in the course of the narration, the courage to stand out from others.
This imperfect hero is Tiuri, a fifteen-year-old boy who does not particularly excel in fights and who, for this reason, feels out of place in a world that exalts the war value in young men. However, a chance encounter leads him to face his own destiny, in a mission that will expose him to many dangers.
We are therefore not faced with an innovative plot, but with something seen and reviewed, both in literature and in the media. The analysis of the work cannot evade this unoriginal debut, but must also evaluate the target audience, the positive messages it intends to convey, the quality and ability to entertain. All the more so if originality is sought in the details.
Letter to the King is based on elements that are sometimes a little obvious, but still enjoyable and well managed. The technical realization of the series recalls that of a cinematographic work, while the good management of narrative times guarantees the involvement of the spectator. The linear plot facilitates understanding, while dynamism is guaranteed by the diversity of points of view.
On the one hand, Tiuri’s task follows the main story, on the other, the group of comrades in charge of finding him gives a look at what appears to be the “opposing side”. The real adventure, however, is a choral one, capable of exalting both the exploits of the individual and those of a group of courageous heroes, against the oppression of the antagonist.
Letter to the King: a story of courage against an evil conqueror
Letter to the King, with his spectacular settings (between New Zealand and Prague), his clean screenplay, good direction and a well-kept photograph, is the demonstration of the fact that a poor product does not necessarily follow a poor original. As a fantasy series for kids, this title knows what it is doing and manages to achieve perhaps the most important intent: entertaining and transmitting some edifying messages, such as courage, the desire to stand out, solidarity and determination.
The system of characters is also interesting, often diverting attention from the protagonist to rebalance it in a more collaborative context. Indeed, not only Tiuri bears the weight of the mission, but the ally Lavinia (Ruby Ashbourne Serkis) and a group of young heroes who are not always well-characterized, but well inserted in the narrative context. Even the figure of the enemy, Prince Viridian (Gijs Blom), could have been more deeply investigated from a psychological point of view. Although his attitude is more thoughtful and less impulsive than the villain cliche, the scenes involving him are overly similar to each other and lack tension, including the ending that closes this first part of the series.