Considering some of its reviews, it’s probably better that The Princess, currently streaming on Hulu, isn’t based on a real princess. The new movie is a royal mess, critics say.
Turns out, Joey King’s character in the film, simply called The Princess, is inspired by a fairytale character, not a real-life figure. When 20th Century Studios acquired the spec script for The Princess in October 2020, the project was billed as a cross between the Rapunzel fairy tale and The Raid, the 2011 action thriller set in a high-rise tenement, according to Deadline.
Joey King plays a “beautiful, strong-willed princess” with a plight similar to Rapunzel’s.
20th Century Studios’ synopsis of The Princess shows how the film puts an action-packed twist on the classic Rapunzel story: “When a beautiful, strong-willed princess refuses to wed the cruel sociopath to whom she is betrothed, she is kidnapped and locked in a remote tower of her father’s castle. With her scorned, vindictive suitor intent on taking her father’s throne, the princess must protect her family and save the kingdom.”
Dominic Cooper (Preacher, Mamma Mia!) plays Moira, Julius, the princess’s cruel fiancé; Olga Kurylenko (Black Widow, Quantum of Solace) plays Julius’ sadistic consort; and Ed Stoppard (Brave New World, Dan Dare) plays the king, the princess’s father.
Le-Van Kiet (The Ancestral, The Requin) directed the film, off a script by screenwriters Ben Lustig and Jake Thornton.
In a recent interview with Screen Rant, Ben and Jake explained that they were inspired by the idea of Rapunzel as an action star. “Jake and I have always looked at tropes, and that’s kind of been our thing, is to see how can we take something that people know and do it in a completely new way,” Ben told the site. “I was like, ‘OK, here’s all these princess movies. But what if one was a badass?’”
Critics call the movie “yawningly simplistic” and “undercooked” with “precious little substance.”
The Princess does have its defenders — The New York Times’ Amy Nicholson compares it favorably to “feminist revenge thrillers of the 1970s,” for example — many critics have savaged the movie. “A yawningly simplistic and roundly inconsequential action movie, The Princess lacks, on a narrative level, the certitude and clarity of purpose of its title character,” Brent Simon writes for AV Club.
The Hollywood Reporter’s Lovia Gyarkye says movies like The Princess “have a chokehold on a market desperate to blindly capitalize on progressive values and ideas” and “effectively teach young people that sexism ends when a woman — smarter but equally violent to the men around her — becomes king.”
CNN’s Brian Lowry, meanwhile, says “there’s precious little substance to this violent fantasy,” while IndieWire’s David Ehrlich says it’s “a straight-to-streaming cheapo so undercooked that it feels like an AMC psy-op designed to make you run to the nearest multiplex and beg for a ticket to whatever’s showing next.”