DIRECTOR: Le-Van Kiet

CAST: Joey King, Dominic Cooper, Olga Kurylenko, Veronica Ngo

RUNNING TIME: 95 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: An imprisoned princess (King) must escape a remote tower and save her kingdom…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

For a generation of young girls, Disney princesses like Belle, Ariel and Jasmine were to them what action heroes like Schwarzenegger, Stallone and Willis were to young boys, so combining both elements into an action-packed fairy tale such as The Princess is honestly a rather clever idea that potentially unites both genders by giving them exactly what they want in both cases.

However, while The Princess was perhaps a fun movie to pitch – presumably with the USP of “what if John Woo directed a live-action remake of Disney’s Sleeping Beauty?” – the actual movie is sadly not quite as inspired as its main idea.

It’s a very easy movie to describe: a princess (Joey King) wakes up in a tower, where she’s being held captive after she refuses to marry her psychotic suitor Julius (Dominic Cooper), who has staged a coup of her kingdom in retaliation. With her family in danger, the princess begins slaughtering her way through Julius’ guards as she descends down the tower level by level, and tries to stop Julius from taking over. That’s basically it in terms of plot: The Princess offers no extra surprises, and rarely detours from its central focus (aside from brief flashbacks to establish certain things) to be anything other than what it was originally pitched as.

The problem, however, is that the script is too light to match its own potential. The viewer is thrown into the situation right away, as soon as the main titles are over and done with, without providing the slightest bit of context for what we are seeing. Who is this princess? Why has she been locked in this tower? What is happening to the rather small kingdom happening underneath? And how can she suddenly fight like she’s an extra in a Bruce Lee movie? While the film does provide some answers later by way of flashbacks that are awkwardly edited in to the main action, we are still none the wiser when we are first introduced to all of these elements, which leaves a gaping hole in the storytelling that the viewer isn’t invested enough in to fill those blanks. Already, we are just expected to side with this character despite not knowing a thing about her, and what we do later learn about the princess, it’s no different than the several examples of more active princess characters that have emerged post-Frozen, so there’s an even less sense of freshness to this thin plot.

Most things about this movie are surprisingly unambitious, from the repetitive action sequences where the princess fights some guards, then fights some more guards, and then fights even more guards before eventually facing Dominic Cooper or his whip-harnessing sidekick played by Olga Kurylenko, to some pretty bad effects that shatter that all-important suspension of disbelief (a character is set on fire at one point, and the flames seriously look like they’ve been transplanted from a PS1 game). The budget for this movie could not have cost more than a few million, because this whole kingdom seems to be comprised of this massive tower with similar locations, and an incredibly small courtyard with citizens you can practically count on one hand. It is all so unimpressive that at no point do you ever feel that you’re watching what is essentially a fairy tale version of The Raid or Dredd, but more so a bunch of sets with actors in costume doing fight choreography in front of some blatant greenscreen in the background.

Some aspects, though, work okay. There’s never a point where you feel like the movie is taking itself too seriously, with one-liners and parts of the choreography that amplify its sense of humour which does give it the feel of a campy B-movie. Meanwhile, Joey King delivers a committed physical performance that makes her a promising action lead, and Dominic Cooper is having a blast with his hammy villain performance, but both need a better script that actually makes them proper characters outside of their simple hero/villain archetypes. Some of the action sequences, as repetitious as a lot of them can get, are choreographed reasonably well despite almost never being fully believable.

However, if the filmmakers wanted to make a film that matched the crazy promise of its original pitch, then sadly they failed, for The Princess lacks both ambition and engagement to really care about the plot and its characters, with stunted production values which scream of a constrained budget that probably prevented them from making this a much more insane experience. There is definitely potential for a violent action-orientated fairy tale movie to exist, but it needs better resources to prevent it from looking and feeling like a mediocre TV movie you’d find on Freeform.

SO, TO SUM UP…

The Princess wastes its action-heavy fairy tale potential, not to mention a promising action lead for Joey King, on a light script that fails to provide appropriate context or character investment to care about the simple plot, and unambitious production values which make the film look cheaper and far less impressive than it ought to have been.

The Princess is now available to stream on Disney+ Star

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