‘Arthur the King,’ Simon Cellan Jones’s New Film about Adventure Racing

‘Arthur the King,’ Simon Cellan Jones’s New Film about Adventure Racing

©Carlos Rodriguez/Lionsagte

If an Oscar category is ever created for an outstanding performance by a non-human animal, I nominate Arthur, the lovable canine who co-stars in this inspirational film about loyalty, endurance, and dogged persistence in the face of incredible odds.

Lionsgate’s Arthur the King is directed by Simon Cellan Jones from a screenplay by Michael Brandt, who based his script on Mikael Lindnord’s book Arthur: The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home by Mikael Lindnord. It features Mark Wahlberg in the role of Michael Light, an extreme-adventure athlete desperate for one last hurrah after a humiliating misadventure when his obsessive, ego-driven personality botched his team’s chances of victory.

For this final effort, Michael seems as if he’s about to repeat his old mistakes. He assembles a team of fellow adventurers hoping to snatch one final victory in the Adventure Racing World Championship, a grueling competition in the Dominican Republic. In this 10-day, 435-mile race, the teams are pushed to their limits in a fast-paced series of hiking, rock-climbing, bicycling, and kayaking challenges.

Arthur the King

©Carlos Rodriguez/Lionsagte

There’s a lot of live-action footage in this film, which treats viewers to a generous array of scenes showing Michael and his team slogging through muddy jungles and dangling over steep ravines. But the real drama here is an adventure of the heart. As the team members were gathering in Santo Domingo prior to the start of the race, they were befriended by a scraggly stray dog who started accompanying them as an unofficial mascot. Perhaps “guardian angel” would be a more appropriate designation. Dubbed “Arthur” by Michael, the dog not only helps the team find short cuts through the jungle but also saves them from a disastrous plunge over a cliff by his persistent barking.

The climax of the film comes during the final leg of the competition, when Arthur is not allowed by race officials to ride with the team in their kayaks. Undeterred, the dog plunges into the water in a frantic effort to accompany the group, nearly drowning in the process. Though the team is on the verge of winning the race, Michael cannot bear the thought of Arthur’s loss and directs his team to reverse course to come to the dog’s rescue.

In the final scenes of this heartwarming movie, Michael is shown in his desperate attempts to nurse his beloved mascot back to health, though Arthur has been given up for dead by veterinarians. He finally obtains permission from Dominican authorities to take the dog back to the United States with him, where the two live happily ever after. Michael’s own progression from an ambitious, ruthless competitor to a sensitive and loving caregiver (for his human family as well as his newly adopted canine friend) is the most valuable takeaway from this engaging film.

Director Simon Cella Jones underscored all this by saying: “It starts as a film about the obsession of winning and then shows you that there are other ways to win. It is also about how a dog sees these people. A homeless, destitute creature who is very sick and very tired, this dog ends up having the same sort of qualities the racers have. The determination, the refusal to quit, this sort of tough, mad obsession with keeping up and getting where they need to be.”

Mikael Lindnord, whose book had inspired the film, put in this way in a recent interview: “When I took Arthur into the kayak, it was the first time in my life I put someone else’s life ahead of mine. When you’re Adventure Racing, you do everything for each other. Arthur came into our team. He was one of the team. That’s why we gave him our food. He needed it to survive.”

Arthur the King 3

©Carlos Rodriguez/Lionsagte

Rating: A

Check out more of Edward’s articles. 

Here’s the trailer of the film.


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