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April 16, 2024

Damsel boasts pretty visuals but fails to scorch a lasting impression

By ALICIA GUEVARA | March 13, 2024



Millie Bobby Brown plays Elodie, a warrior princess in the new fantasy film, Damsel.

I admit, I’m a simple being. It takes relatively little to make me happy: warm socks straight from the dryer, cookies fresh from the oven, no homework or impending midterms to stress about and — dragon movies. I will watch any movie with a dragon in it. The Hobbit? Bring it on. How to Train Your Dragon? Of course. Shrek? A classic. 

So when Damsel, the latest addition to this very specific category of films directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, was released on Netflix on March 8, I of course put aside the assignments and work I had originally planned to tackle this weekend to watch it. I have priorities — fire-breathing reptiles come first.

In the movie, Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown) agrees to marry a wealthy prince (Nick Robinson) for his money. The two have a tepid love affair over a few days that culminates in a grand wedding ceremony. However, immediately after her marriage (literally, 10 minutes tops), Elodie is sacrificed to a dragon living on a giant mountain. Betrayed, Elodie must find a way to survive and escape the blood-thirsty beast.

I will say, this movie is pretty: The landscapes are picturesque; the CGI on the dragon looks good; Brown with long red hair is iconic; and Elodie’s bedroom even looks like paradise. I get that she was tricked and sacrificed and everything, but the prince did not spare any expense. She lived in luxury for those 48 hours.

A major complaint I had while watching the film, though, was that I didn’t understand some key plot points; they didn’t seem logical. For example, how Elodie can be sacrificed to the dragon despite not being a princess by blood is hazy to me: Just by touching a shallow cut on her palm to a matching cut on the prince, they “exchange” blood, so now she smells like a royal to the dragon. 

How is this enough for her to have completely different blood? It’s not like she undergoes a blood transfusion or anything. They hold hands for a second and this tricks the dragon for days, even though Elodie sustains injuries that bleed heavily throughout the film. So, either the dragon is stupid (which I refuse to believe), there is something I don’t understand about blood transfer (entirely possible) or there is something I don’t understand about the prince’s blood (which, if so, should have been explained).

The story is largely centered around this deception, which upsets me. Why are we here experiencing this drama if the film could have been over in five minutes? I understand it’s cooler for Elodie to dodge blasts of fire lava and wave a sword around, but the plot seemed so thin to me. I just wanted to yell at the dragon, “Smell her again! Smell her father, who comes down into the cave to try and rescue her!” 

And while I loved the dragon for the most part, it was weirdly skinny. Its face, eyes and mouth were great and the fire was beautiful, but its arms were like twigs. It was also oddly curvy and had a skinny midsection that made its figure seem almost hourglass-like. The dragon is supposed to be female, but I do not see the point in trying to “feminize” its appearance if that was their goal. It’s a dragon — it burns and eats people. No one cares if it has a waist.

I do have to note, though, that Brown’s acting carried the movie. As soon as she’s dropped into the mountain, she does a great job conveying Elodie’s grit and determination to survive, as well as all of the pain and suffering she must experience along the way. I believed her, even when the film itself made little sense. And the Mulan-esque montage where she puts on armor and cuts off all her hair? Loved it.

The prince was also so mediocre and weak, and I couldn’t tell whether I loved that or hated it. The film obviously wanted to give Elodie her “feminist moment” when she escapes the dragon and confronts him and his evil mother, but I go back and forth on whether I wanted him to be that sniveling. He might have been more interesting had he been a more autonomous character, but the director clearly wanted him to be no match for Elodie.

All in all, Damsel is a fun film if you enjoy jump scares and pretty scenery. It reminded me of films like Jaws, where the protagonists must evade and ultimately try to kill a hungry creature with sharp teeth, but it gave the monster more depth, which I appreciated. If you’re looking for a film that is flashy and entertaining, Damsel is a decent option. 

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