Film Review: Mongolian Action Fantasy “The Princess Warrior”

the princess warrior / princess khutulun film movie poster one sheetIn the film Princess Khutulun it’s feudal times in Mongolia and the warring factions are scheming how they can take over control of the kingdom. They don’t have a crown or scepter to denote control and the ostensibly holy approval to rule the kingdom, instead, it’s the revered “Golden Sutra”, a book that contains the wisdom of Gautama Buddha. A book that is a prime target for theft, particularly from the king’s scheming and jealous opponent Khubilai.

Terminology note: This film was originally released under the name “Princess Khutulun” and then renamed “The Princess Warrior” for its American release by distributor Film Movement. What makes this particularly confusing is that director Shuudertsetseg Baatarsuren has an earlier film called “The Princess Warrior” that is not the 2024 movie released in the United States. To be consistent with global film naming, I am calling this “Princess Khutulun” throughout.

The princes of the kingdom, however, live in blissful ignorance of all that is brewing, enjoying a peaceful childhood of hunting and play. The boys compete to be the toughest but it’s young Khutulun (Tsedoo Munkhbat), their sister, who is a crack shot with her bow and arrow. She’s not interested in growing up to be someone’s trophy partner, however, so when the king dies, she’s already left and is training to be a great warrior. Even against the wishes of her family.

When Khubilai’s assassin steals the Golden Sutra, she and her group of fellow warriors are off to recover the Sutra and regain control of the kingdom. Those warriors are, in a typical mythological manner, all named after their spirit animals: Eagle (Tumurtogtokh Davaakhuu), Wolf (Umravdan Oyunbileg), Hawk (Altantur Altanjargal), and Bear (Temuujin Odkhuu).

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Khutulun (Munkhbat), from “Princess Khutulun”

This is a prototypical hero’s journey with an Asian flavor, full of great drama, excellent action sequences, fights, and some humor. As is also typical, there’s very little romance or exploration of Khutulun’s life beyond her quest to recover the Golden Sutra. Still, just as Mulan is a relatively timeless adventure of a woman who defied gender expectations in feudal times to become renowned, so is Princess Khutulun an action hero to inspire girls and women around the world.

The fight sequences are worthy of note because this is clearly inspired by similar Chinese historical actioners and like most modern movies, it’s important to go into the story expecting some level of the fantastical. In this film people can ignore what would otherwise be mortal wounds, jumping back up and rejoining the fray because their country or their honor is at stake. Remember: suspension of disbelief.

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The Gang, Ready for Adventure, from “Princess Khutulun”

And the Golden Sutra? That’s really just a MacGuffin in the sense that no-one actually seems to read the sacred text or even quote from it throughout the story. It’s just a placeholder, as indeed a crown or scepter would be for a feudal nation.

Based on popular Mongolian and Asian mythology, the film Princess Khutulun is a fun and typically Asian action/fantasy film. With a running time of 109 minutes, it’s also a great introduction to the genre without overstaying its welcome on the screen. Shot almost exclusively outdoors in Mongolia with lots of attention paid to traditional Mongolian costumes and spiritual traditions it’s also a delightful triptych into this rather unknown land.


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dave taylor vertigo film swirl backgroundPlanet Dave is run by Dave Taylor, who has been writing about film, cars, games, and his lifestyle for many years. He's based in Boulder, Colorado and assures readers he's only occasionally falling into a gravity well or temporal distortion field.

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