Review by Sean Boelman
One of the consequences of the acquisition of the former Fox enterprise by Disney is that many of the original films that initially would have gone to theaters are instead headed to streaming on Hulu, for better or worse. Well in the case of The Princess, it’s arguably for the better, because this is a horribly dull action flick, but worse yet, it thinks it has energy.
The movie follows a strong-willed princess who refuses to marry her sociopathic betrothed, causing him to lock her in a remote tower of the castle and sending her on a quest to escape and save the kingdom. It’s set up almost as if it’s a fairytale John Wick, which is admittedly a cool premise, but doesn’t bring much to the table in execution.
Somehow, despite how relentlessly aggressive the film is, the whole affair ends up feeling rather boring. There is a feeling of “been here, done that,” as the movie feels entirely derivative of other, better action pictures that have come out in the past few decades. And while setting a film like this in this time period is an inspired choice, they do very little with it.
Indeed, instead of leaning into the anachronisms to make a powerfully feminist tale, the movie just feels like a bland female-led action movie. And while younger girls (many of whom are probably too young to see the movie anyway) may find the character to be an exciting addition to the canon, older audiences will be disappointed by its derivative nature, especially compared to some other female-driven spins on the formula like Atomic Blonde.
It definitely would have helped if the characters in the film weren’t downright vague. Choosing to refer to the protagonist by only “The Princess” might have made her sound like a badass superhero in theory, but it inadvertently creates a distance between the audience and the character. And the antagonist is so generic that he isn’t even menacing.
Perhaps another part of the issue is that the cast isn’t all giving it their A-game. Dominic Cooper, who is usually at least fun to watch, is nowhere near exaggerated enough for that role to work. Joey King fares much better as an action heroine, and while it would be great to see her in another role like this, this script just wasn’t it.
For what it’s worth, the action choreography in the film might be phenomenal for all I know. But it’s shot in a way that is so dizzyingly frenetic that it’s hard to keep track of what’s happening. The film can’t be faulted for a lack of trying, because it is constantly dialed up to eleven, but it’s so aggressive that you become desensitized to everything that is happening after a time.
The Princess should have been an enjoyable, bloody action flick, but it ends up being a senseless barrage of violence. The least that an action movie can do is shoot its action in a way that is coherent and fun, and this film falls short in that regard.
The Princess is now streaming on Hulu.