A review of Joey King’s The Princess


A review of Joey King's The Princess

(from left): Joey King and Veronica Ngo in The Princess.

(from left): Joey King and Veronica Ngo in The princess.
photo: 20th century studios

A yawningly simple and completely irrelevant action film, The princess lacks the certainty and clarity of purpose of his title character on a narrative level. Devoid of any accompanying sense of self-made adventure, the result is something that is neither fish nor flesh – too generic for most genre fans and too violent for pre-adolescents, who in this tale of a young woman who protects them some degree of Rah Rah lift seek kingdom with sword’s blade.

Directed by Le-Van Kiet, the film begins with a captive, handcuffed princess (Joey King) defeating some henchmen sent to get her. The evil Julius (Dominic Cooper, who acts with empty mockery), with the help of Moira (Olga Kurylenko), has kidnapped her parents, the king (Ed Stoppard) and queen (Alex Reid), as well as her 11-year-old sister Violet (Katelyn Rose Downey) to coerce the princess into agreeing to the marriage and thus consolidate his takeover of power.

Flashbacks show the princess leaving Julius humiliated at the altar and also training with Linh (Veronica Ngô), an ally and friend of her parents. After escaping and initially hiding, the princess battles many marauding mercenaries and even allies with Linh for a moment. In its third act, the film fakes a pivot where Julius hatches an alternate plan to simply marry Violet, but quickly dismisses the darker implications of this turn and reverts to more conventional plots.

There are early signs of this The princess, written by Ben Lustig and Jake Thornton, lacks some resources to bring their grand vision to life. In one take, as a group of men work to drop a supposedly heavy wooden beam that would effectively seal a gate, the accompanying sound effect sounds like a knock on a hollow table. A few scenes later comes a moment that may represent the worst CGI fire ever brought to screen. In between and after, there are sequences of assembling attackers screaming or growling insanely, as if the film had exhausted its opportunities for dialogue with stunt performers.

It should be stressed that none of these bits, individually or collectively, are enough to elevate the film to “interestingly bad” status. Rather, they are merely indicators of daily deficits, cutbacks and compromises that make the film unsuccessful.

When you zoom out from the production itself, it’s a little hard to understand The princess‘ Story as a spec-script sale, especially since its only distinguishing feature is a total lack of distinguishing features. The story of a princess called to her younger sister’s defense or pushed to action could be interesting and even carry additional heightened emotional clout in a post-Roe world. But the script’s treatment of this aspect is superficial; her subject is a headstrong, capable, and independent young woman who just happens to have a younger sibling. There is no nuance or depth in Violet’s relationship with her sister.

Even though Moira initially seems to be following the tradition of witchy, king-whispering proxies who secretly crave power or amass power for themselves, the film abandons even that trope, instead making the character just a physical enforcer with a slightly more notable weapon of choice (a spiked whip). Even a moment of clumsy political message in the first 10 minutes (“You welcomed outsiders – you should have defeated them!” Julius scolds the king as the camera cuts to a small group of pathetic, differently colored refugees). falls away, so is allergic The princess to any kind of specificity.

This leaves viewers with you… just a lot of action. As, many of the plot – all very familiar, and most of it staged with little imagination. Going too far into its largely unmotivated nature might risk coming across as a genre hater. But it’s worth noting that m doesn’t really existHere, too, a different story than “getting” the princess – who in turn has already been arrested. Does the marriage actually have to take place within a certain period of time or be witnessed by certain parties? Who exactly is appeased by a forced marriage? A viewer never really knows.

The princess understandably despises Julius. But their opposition is not rooted in arguments about love or attraction, but rather that women can serve as royal heirs. But what does a “win” look like for the princess, and what is the plan to achieve it, aside from simply killing hundreds of people trying to get Julius’ wedding wish?

To be clear, if it’s just the latter, that’s fine too. but The princess never really articulates that survival on the seat of the pants. It’s a series of scenes in search of a story. And in the absence of a more restrictive and tightly defined setting that could hypothetically have borrowed some of the appeal from something like this The raid (or at least gave the film a structurally stable video game board clearance feel), The princess Basically, it just serves an endless assembly line of idiots who are bad at their job. Eventually, the princess is captured but then escapes, allowing the vaguely defined chaos to begin again.

King, who first gained recognition as a child actor in 2010 Ramona and Beezusand then proved herself to be a capable young performer in 2019 The act, struggles to deliver a full-dimensional character here. She didn’t do a lot of favors with the material, that’s true. But she doesn’t communicate steely, refined determination, nor does she deliver believably as an action heroine. The film instead relies on editing and manipulated frames-per-second sleight of hand (never quite slow-motion, never quite hyperkinetic) to sell its physical confrontations.

In total, The princess is forgetful — just another number in a library of entertainment content, the sort of thing executives refer to as content or programs at shareholder meetings. There’s no glory here for anyone involved, nor a pleasant, distracting escape for a viewer.

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