Adventure Movies

Arthur The King Is Feel Good Adventure And Heartfelt Animal Drama

March 15, 202410 Mins Read

Dogs—we love them. They’re the best. Even the toughest, bravest and most determined of athletes cannot deny the loyalty and allure of dogs. In Arthur the King, Lionsgate’s latest romp and venture into feel-good territory, one of them is indeed a king. The movie was directed by prolific action-adventure mainstay Simon Cellan Jones, and stars Mikael Wahlberg, Simu Liu, Nathalie Emmanuel and Ali Suliman. It was also based on a true story written by Swedish racer Mikael Lindnord.

Years after an ill-fated cross-country trek, Michael Light (Wahlberg) believed he had one last chance to win the Adventure Racing World Championship long distance race. With little funding of his own, Michael recruited the best team he could find: Chik (Suliman), his old friend and retired teammate; Olivia (Emmanuel), a pro rock-climber with a grand legacy; and Leo (Liu), an athlete and social media star with some bad blood with Michael. Together, they journey their way through miles of the precarious jungles, mountains and rivers of South America—but they were not alone. With the help of a few meatballs, Michael unwittingly forged an unbreakable bond with an unusual stray dog.

What Is Arthur the King About?

Arthur the King is based on a true story, but takes liberties throughout.


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Arthur the King was based on Mikael Lindnord and his team’s encounter with a stray dog. Lindnord dubbed the dog “Arthur” for his calmness, dignity and apparent leadership during the world championships in Ecuador. He later wrote a book on the experience, “Arthur – The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home,” which was published in 2016. Even those familiar with this tale will be taken in by Arthur the King, and then shocked by the sequence of events that follow. This is especially true once the titular Arthur enters the picture battered, injured and sick. This is a movie made to tug the heart strings by way of dogs.

Although it’s set in the not-so-distant 2010s, Arthur the King feels distinctly retro, akin to the kinds of feel-good action-adventure films that are almost never made today. It has a warm and humorous vibe that will remind older viewers of the lighthearted animal-loving movies made between the 90s and early 2010s. Despite its generally joyful atmosphere, the movie has some tense and suspenseful moments that really grab viewers once the race begins. The actors pull off some intense stunts, including scaling mountains with bikes pinned to their backs, jogging through near-uncharted territory in heavy rain, and gliding on a decrepit zip line placed precariously over a 100-foot drop in the jungle. These genuinely anxiety-producing sequences were further emphasized by wide-angle area shots and claustrophobic close-ups. Even with these terrifying moments, Arthur the King barely has a mean bone in its body. It’s a redemption tale where Michael has to balance his ambitions and needs to restore his honor with bonding with his team, and later, his very adorable dog.

Arthur the King is Technically Impressive

The actors and cinematography showed off thrilling stunt work.

Michael's group smiles while taking a selfie with Leo in Arthur the King



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Director Cellan-Jones was a good choice for this movie, given his track record of leading many action and adventure films and television episodes. Arthur the King is a sports film and a more grounded sort of adventure. This is true even as it took its heroes deep into the precarious thickets of the Dominican Republic. There is a distinct focus on the athletics and physicality of the races and its participants. The race isn’t romanticized in the slightest. While the jungle, mountains and rivers are gorgeous, the actors go all out in showing the very real consequences and pitfalls of participating in such strenuous physical activities. When it came to showing sprains, blisters, dehydration, vomiting and sleep deprivation, Cellan-Jones spared no details. This gave the movie a grounded touch and plenty of tension that was more than enough to make audiences familiar with such bodily ailments feel squeamish or, at the very least, turn away and wince in pain.

The camera work added to the tension and grandeur. The cinematography made use of sweeping and glamorous aerial shots of the jungle, the urban sprawls of the Dominican Republic, and the race itself. The dense jungle added to this enormous scale. Much of the film’s best shots took a bird’s eye view of the athletes, turning audiences into real-time spectators. This was undoubtedly an attempt to emulate the real-life tale as it unfolded on television screens a decade ago. Leo, who always had his phone on hand, sometimes filmed his team’s escapades, again grounding the movie firmly in the ongoing selfie era. This was a source of much of Arthur the King’s comic relief. The camera also doesn’t skimp on gruesome close-ups of broken skin, festering wounds, scraped knuckles and fresh vomit, defying the glamorized sports films of yore. On a lighter note, this camera work also gave Arthur’s sad, puppy-dog eyes the close-ups they deserved.

The Cast Portrays Believable Physicality

Ukai as “Arthur” is a very, very good boy.


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Most of Arthur the King’s emotional torque came by way of Michael’s newfound friendship with Arthur, and the devotion between them. It’s possible that Six Billion Dollar Man star Mark Wahlberg’s genuine affection spilled into his performances when interacting with his fuzzy scene partner, though few can blame him. Many a dog owner can see a bit of themselves in Michael as he befriends, pets, cuddles, leads and cares for his four-legged friend in some of the film’s most heartwarming and heartbreaking sequences. Although Michael was already likable despite his flaws, hard-headedness and stubborn ambition, it’s through Arthur that he becomes kinder and more vulnerable. Arthur greatly improved Michael’s relationship with his team.

The supporting characters held their own just fine, especially when sharing the screen with Arthur. Chik was the grounding, straight-man and wise paternal figure of the team. He dealt with old shame, age and his injuries. Olivia started out distant and prickly, but quickly warmed up and displayed remarkable competence—especially when she was at the center of one of the film’s scariest scenes. Leo, Michael’s former teammate-turned-rival, was a glamorous social media star and athlete. His reluctant, transactional relationship with Michael developed as he underwent some very unglamorous injuries and illnesses as the race dragged on. Arguably, his character arc ran parallel to Michael’s. Both started the race as prideful men who were humbled after they learned about humility and genuine affection. It helped that these actors, with the help of some stunt work, portrayed some of the most strenuous physical activity throughout the film. They looked realistically worn-down and conditioned throughout, even if the results weren’t necessarily pretty. The main cast’s rapport is believable, most likely helped by the presence of Ukai, Arthur’s “actor.” Dogs just have that effect on people.

Special mention must be made of Ukai, a mixed-breed rescue dog with a penchant for appearing equal parts regal, intimidating, adorable, humorous, and desperately pained, tired and injured—sometimes within the span of the same scene. There is little more heartrending than seeing a dog in pain, and Ukai could put any of his human contemporaries to shame when it came to portraying suffering. It also helps that he is a big, adorable dog who bears a strong resemblance to the now-departed real-life Arthur. While Ukai doesn’t necessarily steal the thunder from his human co-stars, he is certainly a star, and a very good boy who knows how to do a good limp.

Arthur the King’s Long Runtime Hurts It

Arthur the King takes a while before it really gets going.

Arthur leads the racers during the race's last stretch in Arthur the King


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This cross-country romp isn’t without some flaws. Arthur the King has a long runtime that isn’t used wisely. Many sequences are dragged out, especially those in the first half. Many of these bordered on sleepwalking. While these gave time to provide the characters’ backstory and set up their arcs, they slowed the film down. The staid lighting that washed everything in an almost monochromatic gray did not help. Perhaps this was done to reflect Michael’s frustration and lack of satisfaction but, visually, it was too on-the-nose. The dark colors also made the first act a chore to watch. Things picked up once the film moved to the well-lit, vibrant and colorful Dominican Republic, where audiences and Michael’s team finally met Arthur during the race. From there, things moved quicker. Even the last 20 minutes crawled on, with Arthur’s fate—nonetheless a tear-jerking and anxiety-inducing sequence, even for those familiar with the original story—left hanging in the balance for a very long time. But unlike the first act, these ending scenes had a better understanding of pacing.

Some of the real story’s major aspects were also changed to suit the cinematic format and modern Hollywood’s needs. The most noticeable ones included changing Mikael’s nationality from Swedish to American, and changing the race’s location from Ecuador to the Dominican Republic. The latter was undoubtedly disappointing to Ecuadorian audiences who, to this day, view Arthur as a symbol of pride. Viewers who take historical accuracy seriously may also take issue with this change. Extra, fictional sequences were also added to amp up the real event’s drama. Many of these were unnecessary and, again, feel like a symptom of current audiences’ and studios’ love of histrionics. Thankfully, the movie used such narrative devices sparingly. Arthur the King made judicious use of its emotional drama. It held back some punches, especially in the first half. It only really let loose in the second half, especially with the nail-biting final leg of the race and Arthur’s tragic predicament. These lent an air of relative restraint to the film. While some of these scenes veered close to being overly dramatic, the movie kept things relatively stable until the final, emotional climax. Thankfully, Arthur the King didn’t portray suffering for the sake of it.

Although it stumbled at the starting line and took a good while to get its pacing, Arthur the King is an unapologetically positive and upbeat story. It has more than enough emotional stakes to affect the viewer when it counts. Although it slogged through a prolonged runtime and didn’t always have the best stamina, the payoff was worth it. And of course, Arthur the King stars a dog. Dogs are great.

Arthur the King is now showing in theaters.

Arthur the King Film Poster

Arthur the King

An adventure racer adopts a stray dog named Arthur to join him in an epic endurance race.

Simon Cellan Jones

Release Date
March 22, 2024

Mark Wahlberg , Nathalie Emmanuel , Simu Liu , Michael Landes

Michael Brandt , Mikael Lindnord

Main Genre


  • Dynamic and powerful cinematography
  • A retro-tinged feel-good story
  • Remarkable athletic feats
  • DOG!

  • Slow, meandering and dull opening
  • Inconsistent pacing
  • Unnecessarily long runtime

Arthur the King hits theaters March 15.

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