“Henceforth, the daughters of this kingdom make their own fate.”
When a princess rejects a sociopath’s hand in marriage, things quickly turn into a chaotically bloody mess. Hulu’s The Princess, directed by Le-Van Kiet, stars Joey King as a defiant young royal with an incredible set of combat skills. She must make it to the bottom of an enormous tower in order to save her family, avoid a forced marriage, and stop a tyrannical overthrowing of her father’s kingdom. The stakes couldn’t be higher for our leading princess.
The live-action adventure also stars Dominic Cooper as the film’s main antagonist, Julius, who places a brutal number of obstacles between The Princess and her escape. She is met with bloodshed, several swords, and a lot of tough decisions as she maneuvers her way through the castle’s walls. Her journey is relentless, to say the least.
With enchanting opening music and sights of a nauseously tall, Rapunzel-esque tower, The Princess’ classical fantasy elements immediately bring one to a sense of nostalgia and familiarity.
Joey King is an absolute force in this role, with remarkable physicality, personality, and charm. She has the scream of a horror movie’s dream final girl, and her choreography in some scenes is breathtaking. Without her believability as a fairytale princess with superhero-like fighting abilities, the film would completely collapse in on itself; however, King’s performance manages to hold the entire story together.
The action throughout the film is a gruesome, thrilling sight to behold. There are more clever and creative ways of stabbing people than one can count. Some of the sound editing is meant to make one feel painfully anxious, especially as our protagonist tries to remain stealthy and hidden. The Princess is faced with fighting against an unimaginable number of people, and even after the 50th or so person is killed, the combat never feels too repetitive. The women are who carry the incredible fight sequences, including actresses Olga Kurylenko and Veronica Ngo.
The Princess’ flashback scenes are what hold the film back from greatness. While director Le-Van Kiet does a fantastic job at showing rather than telling, the flashback scenes can sometimes feel sloppy or awkwardly placed throughout the film. These scenes are essential to fleshing out our main character, but they sometimes feel like they are drastically slowing the movie’s pace.
The film also lacks stylistic editing choices, particularly with the soundtrack. The trailer roars with action as “Bad Reputation” by Joan Jett & the Blackhearts plays, yet the actual film is completely void of any hard-hitting tracks to back up its action sequences. There are no unique stylistic choices made to help elevate the story, and that’s a shame for a movie that seems fitting for a massive rock-and-roll soundtrack.
Olga Kurylenko, known most recently for her role in Marvel’s Black Widow, plays an amazing villainess with a great look and presence on screen. When she uses her deadly whip, it’s absolutely captivating, but Kurylenko’s Moira unfortunately falls into the sidekick role rather than being a character who can stand on her own. Her motives and persona are never really fleshed out. She is comparable to a typical video game villain that one has to defeat before getting to the boss level battle of her counterpart, Dominic Cooper’s Julius. Having a female antagonist in a sea of armored men would have been much more beneficial to the story if there was a deeper, more complex perspective from our female villain. Instead, her character has no arc and chooses to act as a mindless accomplice to the main villain’s motives.
Ultimately, it is Veronica Ngo’s Linh who saves the entire film. Her energy on screen is radiant, and everything feels much more epic once Ngo’s character enters the fold. Her stunt work is exceptional, and audiences are sure to admire Linh from the moment she’s introduced as The Princess’ mentor. Ngo adds a dynamic element to the film, especially in her fight scenes with King, and she is truly the heart of the story.
The final battle scene of The Princess is definitely worthy of being a final battle scene. The film gains a lot of momentum toward the end, and the last couple fight sequences have a feeling of epic grandeur to them. After all of the constant violence and death, the ending is able to stick its landing and steer a clear message to its audience.
The Princess is an enjoyable and easy watch that features some amazing choreography, classic fantasy elements, and the kind of storytelling that makes one feel like they’re playing a video game. The film’s runtime is only 94 minutes, which is fairly short compared to today’s standards. For anyone wanting to see a film about women kicking ass and taking names, this is for you. While the plot remains quite simple and redundant throughout, there is an overwhelming amount of fun to be had in watching Joey King and Veronica Ngo in non-stop action roles.
★ ★ ★ 1/2
The Princess is now streaming on Hulu.