A New King

Not dissimilar to A Christmas Carol, every year schools, churches, TV and Film studios attempt to bring a new spin to the age-old traditional story of the Nativity. However, A New King, with director Baz Luhrmann at the helm, expect more spin to this tale than one of Shane Warne’s flippers.

Set during an alternative modern age, King Herod hears stories about a newborn baby who is to be the king of a future generation. Afraid for his future, Herod sends out his assassins Melchior, Caspar and Balthasar aka The Three Wise Men to capture the baby and bring him back where the king will sacrifice him to his gods. However, the journey from the East for the Magi is eventful and holds many surprises for the three, including appearances of celestial-like beings, miracles in the night sky and the introduction of mysterious assassin sent to spy on the Magi.

After the less than impressive commercial success of Australia, Baz Luhrmann uses the inspiration of the Nativity to rediscover his magical touch and tells this ageless story – from the perspective of King Herod and the Magi. Luhrmann thankfully avoids the obvious option of turning this into a glitzy, stylish, polished musical number, but allows his brilliant direction to ensure the film is not exclusively driven by melodies and choreography. Instead, Luhrmann takes himself out of his comfort zone and transforms the ‘Nativity’ from a joyous tale of how our Saviour was born into a darker account of how authority and an abundance of power can corrupt.

Chiwetel Ejifor’s (Salt) Herod exemplifies the above, slowly turning the king into a paranoid maniac. His performance ranks as the best of his career to date portraying a ruthless tyrant that will do anything and everything possible to maintain the grip on his throne. The support offered by Adrian Lester (Love’s Labour’s Lost) as Melchior, Cliff Curtis (Die Hard 4.0) as Caspar and Hugh Quarshie (Holby City) as Balthasar is superb presenting an innovative insight into the characteristics of the Three Wise Men.
A unique aspect about this unconventional nativity story, but for a very brief appearance, is that Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus, barely feature in this movie.
The musical score and soundtrack is as expected – imaginative and wonderful with BAFTA award winning composer Craig Armstrong who has previously worked with Lurhmann on Romeo & Juliet and Moulin Rouge, fusing electronic beats and hip-hop for an ingenious, superb OST.

A three and a half hour running time seems extensive but there is no doubting this oozes creativity. A New King, visually, is a cinematographer’s dream and this epic picture needs to be experienced on the big screen. There are no shepherds watching their flocks by night, but what is featured is an underlying sinister, edgy but an excellent stylish take on the greatest story ever told.

By Leon Nicholson

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