Review: ‘Damsel’

Netflix’s YA Version Of “Game Of Thrones” Has Millie Bobby Brown Clashing With A Dragon

“There are many stories of chivalry. Where the heroic knight saves the damsel in distress. This is not one of them.”

Thanks to the popularity of Game of Thrones, there’s a renewed interest in old-school Medieval stories. Kings, queens, knights, dragons, and everything I loved as an 80s kid from Dungeons and Dragons fan is back in the public lexicon. Hell, we even had a D&D movie last year Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, and it was friggin awesome (even though it didn’t seem so looking at the initial trailers). Needless to say, it’s a great time to be a fan of old-school fantasy, and Netflix wanted to keep it going with their latest film Damsel.

Damsel focuses on Elodie (Millie Bobbie Brown), a young princess living in her starving and impoverished kingdom. When we meet Elodie, she and her sister Floria (Brooke Carter) are out trying to find firewood as people in their area are both freezing and starving and pretty much ready to leave for greener pastures. Her father Lord Bayford (Ray Winstone) and her stepmother Lady Bayford (Angela Bassett) are doing their best to hold the kingdom together, but times are tough. Lucky for them, they are about to receive an offer they can’t refuse. An emissary of Queen Isabelle (Robin Wright) from a nearby kingdom wants to marry off the queen’s son Prince Henry (Nick Robinson), and they are willing to compensate handsomely for the marriage.

As Elodie and her family venture to the nearby kingdom, they see a lavish land full of riches and they are pretty much star-struck at the red carpet-styled reception they receive. While Elodie is nervous about the pending marriage, she will do her princess duties and be married off for politics and alliances. Plus, everyone is so nice to her and her family. Her father has a brief meeting with the Queen and when he returns, something’s wrong. He won’t say, but it’s enough to make Lady Bayford want to call the wedding off, but Elodie decides to continue the marriage. It’s a fairy tale wedding, full of lavishness, beautiful gowns, and the promise of traveling the world and a better future for her and plenty of gold for her family.

Unfortunately, in Damsel, that excitement is short-lived as it’s revealed that the kingdom has a pact with a dragon to sacrifice a princess of royal blood to the dragon, in exchange for riches and of course, the dragon not burning the kingdom to the ground. Prince Henry is the one who deals with the final betrayal and throws her into the dragon pit. After barely surviving falling into a cave, Elodie learns she’s not alone. First, she just sees fire, then comes face to face with a fire-breathing worm who wants to kill her… and the dragon is voiced by none other than Shohreh Aghdashloo, who has the perfect voice for the role (talking dragons!).

A bulk of Damsel is all about Elodie trying to survive encounter after encounter with the dragon in a cave that’s as tall as it is deep. She quickly learns that she’s not the first woman to be sacrificed as this kingdom has been doing this for 100 years with hundreds of “princesses” being killed by the dragon. Elodie is in full survival mode, getting burns, trying to see clues left behind by the killed princess, and basically toughing it out. There will be some mouth breathers who scream “woke” as she faces off against the dragon countless times for her survival through the film’s hour and forty-eight-minute runtime. Through her adventure, she learns the “true” secret of the kingdom and has to find a way out of this inescapable mess.

Damsel works very well, and it’s almost 100% on Millie Bobby Brown’s shoulders. Most of the movie is her talking to herself as she tries to problem-solve her situation (and also tell the audience what’s going on without countless scenes with no dialogue). With her cutting her teeth in Stranger Things and appearing in Elona Holmes, it’s clear Netflix loves her. In fact, she’s an executive producer of the film as well. Damsel is also surpringly dark for a PG-13 movie. We get to see a ton of blood, people being burned, bloody sword battles, and everything in between to love about the genre. In addition, you can never go wrong with Angela Bassett, Ray Winstone, and Robin Wright as all three deliver solid performances.

Not everything works perfectly in Damsel. Because a bulk of the film is in the dragon’s cave, we are treated to endless darkness. Like that infamous episode of Game of Thrones, you might want to update the brightness of your TV so that you can see everything going on in the cave. The dragon also is hidden for the first and most of the second acts. We see the dragon’s silhouette, aerial shots from the dragon’s point of view, or just hear the dragon’s voice. While it may seem at first like it’s to hide inadequacies in the CGI department for the dragon, but when the dragon is finally revealed, the CGI is impressive, so it’s more a choice for the director to hide the monster until they were ready to show it in its full glory.

That said, Damsel is a fun time. It truly is a story centering on the women in the film as Brown and Bassett both show heart and strength through the film. Elodie not needing a knight to save her is probably the most effective part of the film as she holds it down. I think it’s safe to say that Milly Bobby Brown is the new “Mother of Dragons!”

Damsel is currently available on Netflix.