A kickass female character is generally all I need to get invested in a piece of media. It’s not that hard to hook me. Add in a royal backstory and a kingdom under siege, and I’m all in. Such is the scenario viewers are presented with in The Princess.
This premise arguably should have set it up for success. Throw in Joey King as the leading character, and you would think that it would come together nicely. Unfortunately, no. The dialogue, lack of character development beyond respective archetypes, and King’s subdued princess (despite the kickassery) come together to make a rather forgettable film.
That’s not to say that The Princess won’t be something that resonates with younger viewers. This is a film for those who say they’ve outgrown Disney princesses. There is a clear homage to Rapunzel, with a dash of Sleeping Beauty in those first few minutes, that will generate nostalgia.
But make no mistake, this princess is for those who are ready for a little bit of blood and gore with their royal escapism.
Simplicity is both a blessing and cure for this film. In The Princess, viewers are thrust straight into the action. The kingdom has been taken over by the king’s brother, Julius (Dominic Cooper), after being rejected at the alter by the titular princess (Joey King).
Aided by his men and his righthand henchwoman (Olga Kurylenko), they kidnap, drug, and lock her up at the top of the castle’s tower.
What commences is almost wall to wall action sequences, with the princess picking off Julius’s men one by one. The best parts of this film are in these action sequences. The different fighting styles shine in these moments, especially when Veronica Ngo‘s Linh gets thrown in to pair off with King. Lorenzo Senatore’s camerawork here helps heighten the frenetic feeling needed for these moments.
For a film being released in 2022, the dialogue might transport you back to the 2000s. It feels dated in its attempts to be edgy. You have the men the princess fights against who insult her in some fashion. If she does get a moment to talk, it’s an attempt to be witty that generally falls flat.
Though the flatness of King’s performance overall contributes to this as well. The actors try their best with what they’re given, but it’s quite painful at times. There’s also a minor run-on joke meant to be comedic relief throughout the film but, in this day and age, it’s lazy to tap into fatphobic humor.
Circling back to King, while it’s clear that she has put a lot of work into training for these extensive fight sequences, her attempts to inject a personality into her character falls flat. Outside of exhaustion (rightfully so given what viewers see), we don’t get insight into who the princess is. All of this coupled with King’s attempt at a general British sounding accent makes the character hard to connect with.
It’s not entirely her fault, though. Breaking down each character, they are essentially archetypes with very little else fleshed out it seems. Everyone is trying to bring some semblance of essence to the role, but there’s nothing special here. Dominic Cooper may be the only one who pops off the screen, but he has the villainous role that allows more flexibility for creativity.
Barebones characters can’t do much. What’s provided by screenwriters Ben Lustig and Jake Thorton barely works as a template for both the actors and director to work off of. And director Le-Van Kiet does try here if we consider the action scenes.
The Princess is an action-packed journey from beginning to end. There’s no question of that. You’ll want the good guys to succeed just based on the scenario alone. Good triumphing over evil is a solid gameplan for any fantasy story like this.
With that said, though, there’s not much memorable about King’s take on the princess, and the material doesn’t lend itself for the cast to shape out the characters enough to make them pop off the page. The Princess channels its inner badass but fails to make much of an impression in the long term once credits roll.
THE PRINCESS REVIEW SCORE: 4.5 OUT OF 10
The Princess is now available to stream on Hulu. The film is rated R for strong/bloody violence and some language.