Review: The Princess (Hulu)

The Princess has arrived on Hulu. Due to my exceeding low expectations for this stereotypical modern princess movie, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. There were some contrived themes about overcoming the patriarchy and women being stronger than men, but the protagonist was surprisingly relatable thanks to Joey King's stellar performance. Although the trailer gave a good baseline of what to expect, there were a few things that were misleading such as the irreverent comedy aspect, which was heavily downplayed in the actual film. I appreciated that the movie took itself more seriously than the trailer led me to believe. There's nothing ironic or innovative about seeing a delicate-looking woman kick everyone's ass in a modern film. It was the more serious elements that provided an opportunity to enjoy at least some parts of The Princess.

The Princess on Hulu starring Joey King

Someone working on this film thought it would be a great idea not to give the main character a name, and I think that was a huge mistake. Referring to her only as "The Princess" takes away her sense of identity that she was fighting so hard throughout the film to claim. Other characters, such as her captor, Julius, and her mentor, Linh, have names, but not The Princess herself. The story is about her trying to prove herself to her father as a worthy heir in a kingdom where women are not allowed to ascend the throne. She learns how to fight from a young age under the guidance of Linh, a skilled female warrior, despite her father's disapproval. In that respect, the plot shares similarities with Disney's live-action Mulan, but I actually enjoyed this one more due to having more believable physics and a more relatable heroine who suffers several injuries throughout the course of the film, proving she is not invulnerable.

One thing that the trailer accurately portrays is that the majority of the movie takes place in a single day as The Princess beats up a bunch of goons to escape a tower that her tyrannical fiancé trapped her in. Everything else is revealed in brief flashbacks as she makes her escape. The movie isn't a non-stop bloodbath sequence like I was afraid it might be. In fact, considering how it was marketed, there was surprisingly little gore despite all the action. It gives the audience plenty of opportunities to slow down and breathe, particularly in a tense sequence where the princess hides behind the walls of the castle and spies on Julius from afar awaiting the perfect moment to strike. She does not behave like someone who believes they can do anything. She has real fears and emotions that make us worry for her safety every time a new attacker shows up. In that respect, this movie was handled better than many other "female empowerment" films from the past decade.

I usually have trouble staying focused during movies with this much action because they tend to go on way longer than they should. With a runtime of only 94 minutes, this film knows when enough is enough, making it easier to sit through to the end. It was only during the final third of the movie that I started to get bored of all the fighting. The Princess's deep bonds with her mentor, Linh, and her younger sister, Violet, provide just enough additional tension to carry out the third act of the film without getting too repetitive. I was also impressed with the way the ending was done, despite how predictable it may have been. Even though the trailer went for shock value to appeal to non-princess fans, it seemed like the writers understood the kind-hearted and emotional nature that resides within the hearts of those of us who love them.

Is The Princess just another stereotypical action movie about destroying the patriarchy and how women are stronger than they know? Yes and no. The plot is nothing we haven't already seen a million times already, but the way it's handled shows at least some respect for the genre and for the women who watch it. This film is by no means a classic and reminds me of one of those forgettable made-for-TV family films of the '90s (despite being rated R), but I appreciate that it still had some respect for its audience. It acknowledges that women are just as susceptible to pain and injury as anyone else and how deeply we care about the most important people in our lives. If you're on the fence about this movie, I suggest checking it out once. It probably won't become a new favorite, but it might still surprise you.

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