Photo: ‘The Princess’
Fairy tales have existed for thousands of years. As far as we understand, people have always been interested in stories of dragons, fairies, witches, and unicorns. Everyone is familiar with a handful of tales of princesses, princes, castles, and maybe a fairy godmother every now and then. Many great stories begin with once upon a time.
Today, we have companies like Disney delivering us modern takes on classic fairy tales, as well as new stories of princes, princesses, and a healthy dose of talking animals. We’re no stranger to the format, which is what makes it all the more exciting when that format is broken. Hulu’s ‘The Princess’ diverts all expectations to deliver a thrilling, gory, and revenge-ridden story, without losing the puffy dresses or winding castle halls.
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‘The Princess’ – Plot Overview
‘The Princess’ opens like many fairy tales do, in a tower, with a princess. The music playing is nearly as beautiful as the sunrise. The princess (Joey King) rests peacefully (or so we think). When enemy guards enter, eager to bring the princess to the chapel to be wed, she does what any princess would – she slaughters them both. We find out that the princess was set to be married to a lord, not by her choice but by her father’s, the King. The marriage is arranged and nowhere close to what the princess wants for herself, so she refuses, a refusal that does not go over well with the lord.
The lord, Julius, decides that if the princess won’t agree peacefully, he’ll force her to comply. Julius puts the castle under siege, takes the royals captive, and begins the waiting game; the princess must cave eventually, right? Maybe some would, but not this princess. The princess has something to fight for and something to prove. She needs to save her family, and, along the way, prove to the King that she can be perfectly fine on her own, without a man to protect her, let alone a male heir to become the next king. She’s soon battling her way across the castle to prove her worth and rescue her family.
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Princesses in a New Venue
The princess (who is never given a name) is meant to be attending a very familiar setting, a royal wedding. We’ve seen these in real life, in many many movies, in picture books, and verbal stories from a young age. It seems inevitable that the princess will find a prince to marry and they will live happily ever after in a castle with a moat. This is certainly not the case for our princess. From the beginning of the film, it’s clear that she won’t be following the traditional path and she won’t be living a life somebody else chose for her. Her diversion is reflected in the visuals and pacing of the remainder of the film.
In many ways ‘The Princess’ felt like you were watching somebody play a video game. The format of the film was strikingly similar to gameplay, with a new level coming immediately after beating the previous one. The princess needed to make her way down the castle and each floor was like a new level. She needed to defeat her finance’s consort, she succeeded, she made her way to the next floor, a new challenge awaits, repeat. Though the format stays relatively constant, the story stays interesting with the character development we see from the princess, and her increasingly torn wedding gown to match it.
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Femininity is not a Weakness
The princess is a fighter, and a great one at that. She has enough martial arts skills to take down any enemy that comes her way, she can wield a sword, a crossbow, or any other weapon that can get her closer to her goal. She’s skilled, she’s capable, and she doesn’t need to take her gown off to do it. Yes, it would probably be more comfortable to fight in pants, but that’s beside the point. ‘The Princess’ showed a woman succeeding, physically and mentally, without needing to sacrifice her femininity to do so. Even if a wedding gown isn’t the most ergonomic outfit choice, it’s what it represents that matters.
The princess embracing her femininity is extra impactful when considering the themes in the film. Her goal is to demonstrate that her father doesn’t need a male heir to the throne. She is fully capable of taking over herself. She fights for her independence and autonomy. She isn’t a prize for the lord to win. There are times when films focus too hard on conveying these types of messages that end up muddled, with little plot to support them. However, in such an action-packed film, the messaging served as a tool to achieve balance.
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Overall: A Refreshing Take on a Classic Genre
We’ve seen an influx of princesses who don’t need a man to guide them; Elsa (granted, a queen not a princess) does not have a love interest in either ‘Frozen’ film. In instances like these, the topic is usually never mentioned. There simply isn’t a romantic plot for the character. This approach is incredible and necessary, normalizing stories of strong women who can be strong on their own, no fuss needed. However, a little fuss can be a good thing.
The messaging in ‘The Princess’ is blatant, with no beating around the bush. This is equally important, telling stories and delivering messages unapologetically. But that isn’t the only refreshing part of the film. ‘The Princess’ is, first and foremost, an action film. It’s nowhere close to a fairy tale (that is if you remove the princess and the castle). It isn’t a once upon a time or a happily ever after. It’s a woman being strong, and that’s all it needs to be.
Cast & Crew
Cast: Joey King, Olga Kurylenko, Antoni Davidov
Director: Le-Van Kiet
Writers: Ben Lusting, Jake Thornton
By Lara Glennon
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Lara Glennon is an aspiring screenwriter looking to share her love and passion for all things film and television. She aims to use her writing to shine a light on artists who are working to make change, both in media and in the world. The Hollywood Insider’s focus on substance over gossip is perfect for Lara, as she wants to highlight the good in the world and those who create it. She enjoys spending her time creating and consuming art, searching for unique voices and ideas in media.