Movie review: Késárí is an intriguing story with a poor execution

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Késárí - The King

“Késárí: The King” is a captivating Nigerian film that embarks on a mystical journey through historical and cultural references, interweaving them into a unique narrative fabric. The movie’s storyline, set in a traditional African context, combines elements of mythology, folklore, and contemporary storytelling, creating an engaging and thought-provoking experience.

You’ll begin “Késárí: The King” reminiscing on other ancient Yoruba-themed stories and the aesthetic of the stories. But, it progresses from there into contemporary society.

Originally released in August 2023 to the theatres, the movie was recently debuted on popular streaming platform, Netflix. It was directed by Tope Adebayo and Ibrahim Yekini, who doubles as Kesari

Movie review: Késárí: The King

Plot – “Késárí: The King”

The story begins with Kesari as a god figure laying waste to a band of thieves terrorising the world. 

The plot centres on Kesari, (Ifadola – his earthly name), whose transformation from a god to a human and back again forms the crux of the narrative. This concept, while intriguing, is not executed with enough clarity to be fully impactful. 

As the narrative progresses, his journey into humanity and eventual return to his divine origins are meant to signify a profound transformation. 

However, the transitions in his character arc are abrupt and confusing, leaving viewers puzzled about the rationale and implications of his changes. A more gradual and detailed exploration of this transformation would have strengthened the story.

In his transformation back to a god in contemporary society, Kesari becomes a notorious robber, who uses the proceeds to help the poor. But, that is hardly cleared out in the story and we only take the hint home, not the action. 

The writer also introduces a mysterious book held by one 200-year-old baba. This book supposedly contains crucial knowledge about Kesari’s journey and destiny, but its contents and significance remain unexplored. 

The police officer’s role in using this book to send Kesari back to the spirit world adds another layer of mystery that is not adequately addressed, creating a narrative gap.

The initial references to familiar stories like the Three Wise Men and Robin Hood serve to ground the story in a relatable context. These references are intriguing but are not seamlessly woven into the main plot. Instead, they feel more like decorative elements rather than integral parts of the narrative.

Késárí: The King

These affect the story’s cohesion.

No doubt, the film’s narrative structure is ambitious, aiming to weave together multiple layers of myth, history, and personal transformation. However, the pacing and structure occasionally falter, leading to disruptions in story progression.

A particularly jarring element in the narrative is the portrayal of law enforcement. The scene where policemen kill an unarmed criminal raises several questions. Is that a portrayal of what is normal for the police force?

Read also: A story rough around the edges: A review of “Afamefuna”

Characterisation

The characterisation in “Késárí: The King” is one of its weaker aspects. 

Kesari/Ifadola

Kesari, the main character, is depicted as a complex character with a dual nature—both divine and human. While his internal and external conflicts are central to the story, the abruptness of his transformations makes it hard for viewers to connect with his journey.

The depth and nuances of his character are hinted at but not fully explored.

Again, why must Kesari undergo a human existence only to return as a deity? This disruption in the story progression could have been better explained to enhance the narrative coherence.

Amoke Ade

Amoke Ade, Kesari’s love interest, is portrayed as a calming influence on him, especially during his moments of rage. 

However, her character is underdeveloped, and her role in Kesari’s transformation is not clearly defined. This lack of development diminishes the potential impact of her character on the overall story.

Most of what we see is Kesari almost killing three men because they had offended her, and her reappearance in his life as a Police informant thereafter. 

The police officer 

The police officer, who plays a crucial role in the climax, is another character that lacks depth. 

His actions, particularly using an unexplained book to send Kesari back to the spirit world, seem arbitrary and lack sufficient background or motivation. 

He’s hardworking and committed to his job, quite alright, but we only see that through the bold motivational speeches and conversations when he meets his team. 

The 200-year-old mystery man

Another intriguing character is the 200-year-old man, the wise elder who possesses a significant book on Kesari. Baba’s role is somewhat ambiguous:

Who is Baba? Is he another god, a spiritual guide, or merely an aged scholar with access to ancient wisdom? His extensive knowledge of Kesari’s destiny and the spiritual world adds an element of mystery, but his character remains underdeveloped.

Movie review: Késárí: The King

The in-depth development of secondary characters, like the Baba, would have added depth to the narrative. Understanding their motivations and roles more clearly would have enriched the story.

As we talk about the old man, let’s not forget the significance of the book – a key plot device.

It presumably contains prophecies or knowledge about Kesari’s journey and mission. However, the contents and significance of this book are not fully explored, leaving viewers to speculate about its true importance. What we know is that it was Kesari’s doom – or forced return to the spiritual realm. 

It didn’t even seem like the police officer had any control even after opening the book. 

Picture quality

The picture quality of “Késárí: The King” is one of its strong points. The visuals are clear, and the use of vibrant colours adds to the film’s aesthetic appeal. 

The traditional African settings are beautifully captured, creating an immersive experience for the viewers. However, despite the good picture quality, the cinematography lacks substance. The camera work does not always enhance the storytelling, and at times, it feels static and uninspired.

Visual effects

The special effects in the film are reminiscent of techniques used around 1992, which makes them feel outdated. 

This is particularly evident in scenes involving supernatural elements. The effects fail to convincingly portray the intended mysticism and otherworldliness, often breaking the immersion for the viewers. 

For instance, sequences that require a depiction of divine intervention or other supernatural occurrences come across as unconvincing due to the lacklustre effects. If you see the hanging gold head of Kesari, you’d wonder why exactly it had to hang in the first place.

Transitions

The transitions in “Késárí: The King” are a significant area of concern. The shifts between different scenes and narrative arcs are often abrupt and jarring, disrupting the flow of the story. 

The sound effects, which should complement these transitions, are sometimes out of sync with the visuals, further detracting from the viewing experience. 

A more thoughtful approach to scene transitions and sound design would have greatly enhanced the narrative flow and viewer engagement.

Harry Potter, which comes decades before this, did a better job. Let’s not, however, forget funding and infrastructure.

Verdict 

In summary, “Késárí: The King” is a film with commendable ambition and potential but falls short in execution. 

Its strong picture quality and thematic depth are overshadowed by its shortcomings in narrative coherence, character development, and special effects. The plot, though intriguing in concept, is marred by unexplained transformations and underdeveloped characters. 

The film’s outdated effects and poor transitions further detract from its overall impact. 

With more cohesive storytelling, better character development, and updated effects, future Nollywood films could better capture and sustain audience interest, pushing the boundaries of storytelling and cinematic experience.


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