At long last, the hit Netflix series The Last Kingdom, an adaptation of the Saxon Stories book series by Bernard Cornwall, has come to an end. Seven Kings Must Die is a 2-hour movie that encompasses the final three books, differing from the show where one or two books at most would be the focus of an entire season of episodes.
My first thought is that this was a poor choice. I don’t read Hollywood news, so maybe there were budgetary concerns or perhaps some of the main actors wouldn’t commit to two or three more seasons of work, so they chose this out of necessity. But the two-hour timespan made for a story that felt rushed.
For example, an entire book in the series, the eleventh is completely glossed over, with just some few elements taken and sprinkled throughout the movie. Now this book felt like a lot of fluff to begin with, so maybe it’s not the worst idea, but the twelfth book, a far more pivotal entry in the series, was done in about ten minutes on screen and rather poorly. The English king is made out to be a psychotic, borderline-sociopathic murderer who is drunk with power, a complete distortion of the character in the books. The grand battle that cemented the king’s claim to the throne was watered down to a war of words at London’s gate.
Even the final, climactic Battle of Brunanburh felt less climactic. The battle in the books is built up for quite a few chapters, as the hopeless position of the English king is revealed, and negotiations to buy time drag on. In the movie, you get the sense that the enemy army has the advantage, but their victory does not seem so assured as it does in the books.
The ending of the movie was okay, though I won’t give any spoilers here.
All in all, it felt to me that both the books and the Netflix adaptation went too long. The series should have ended once Uhtred, the main character, reclaimed his lordship over Bebbanburg, since having it stolen from him as a child was the start of his character’s story arc and his all-consuming obsession throughout the first 10 books. Eventually, it all got a little stale.
If you’ve read the books and you’re dying to see for yourself how they were adapted, you should watch Seven Kings Must Die with an open mind. If you’ve only seen the show, my recommendation would be to ignore the movie since the final episode of The Last Kingdom was, in my opinion, a good ending for Uhtred of Bebbanburg.