"Snapshots of a Life Do Not a Movie Make"
What You Need To Know:
Sadly, the quality of PRINCESS KA’IULANI, the movie, is not nearly as captivating as the tales of the legendary heroine. The movie fails at its most basic goal: telling the story of this young woman’s life. Instead, the movie relies on disjointed vignettes, or snapshots, of Ka’iulani at different times. The movie’s political aspects, arguably the most interesting and dramatic parts of this era in Hawaiian history, are overshadowed by incongruous montage sequences that do nothing to further either the plot or her character arc.
(PaPa, Ro, B, CC, AP, L, VV, S, A, M) Mostly mixed, strong pagan worldview with some pagan elements of native Hawaiian traditions and elements of Romanticism but with a good positive moral tone, plus some strongly positive, overt Christian elements such as positive mention of missionaries and “faith in God,” grace and forgiveness are extended and prayer is shown in a positive light, but with some anti-American and anti-democracy comments and actions made in light of the forced annexation of Hawaii; no obscenities and one light profanity as someone says, “For God’s sake”; strong violence when native Hawaiians are gunned down in a scene of violent overthrow of the natives by US citizens who are seizing control of the capitol, plus father slaps daughter; no sex scenes but unmarried kissing occurs; no nudity; light alcohol use depicted; no smoking or drugs; and, lying, racial remarks about the Princess being a “jungle tigress” and a “barbarian princess.”
PRINCESS KA’IULANI is based on the true story of a 19th Century Hawaiian princess, who fights for the freedom of her people and the preservation of the Hawaiian monarchy during the U.S. annexation of the Hawaiian Islands in the 1890s.
After a political uprising in Honolulu, Princess Ka’iulani is forced to leave her homeland and flee to England. For the next several years, the Princess is schooled in England, far away from her beloved islands. While in the British Isles, the Princess falls in love with a young Englishman. However, when news of her sovereign government’s imminent overthrow and annexation by America reaches England, Ka’iulani immediately leaves her fiancé and travels to the United States to seek an audience with the President.
While in the U.S., the Princess wins the hearts of both the press and the public, convincing the masses that the natives of Hawaii are not barbarians, as the media has painted them out to be. Instead, she shows them they are an educated people who have been positively influenced by the missionaries who came to their islands decades ago.
Even though her quest to maintain the sovereign freedom of Hawaii’s monarchy fails and her islands are eventually annexed as a U.S. territory, Ka’iulani does, however, manage to secure voting rights for the island’s natives. Many view her life as a heroic tale of courage and hope, and she has been an inspiration to native Hawaiians for over a century.
Sadly, the quality of PRINCESS KA’IULANI, the movie, is not nearly as captivating as the tales of the legendary heroine. The movie fails at its most basic goal: telling the story of this young woman’s life. Instead, the movie relies on disjointed and ineffective vignettes, or snapshots, of Ka’iulani at different times. The political aspects of the movie, arguably the most interesting and dramatic parts of this era in Hawaiian history, are overshadowed by incongruous montage sequences that do nothing to further either the movie’s plot or her character arc.
In one scene, she is sad at losing her mother. Cut to another scene, and she is running on the beaches of England with her friends. Cut to another scene, and classmates are abusing her at her boarding school. Cut to another shot, and she is riding a bike with the young Englishman with whom she is becoming affectionate. Literally, these snapshots happen within a matter of minutes, but none of them further the story. At times, both the script and the movie feel disjointed, with no clear direction of the story being told.
That said, apart from some anti-American sentiment at the annexation of the Hawaiian Islands, the movie does not contain much objectionable content. There is one exclamatory, light “for God’s sake” profanity, but other than that, there is no foul language, no sexual content or nudity. The movie contains some violence in the civil unrest sequences as U.S. citizens in favor of annexation gun down natives.
All in all, PRINCESS KA’IULANI is a mediocre retelling of an extraordinary young woman who fought for her country and inspired generations of native Hawaiians. The movie could have been so much better than it was, if only the filmmakers knew what aspect of this remarkable story they wanted to tell.