Netflix's Damsel Movie Review — Visceral, genre-bending fun

Netflix rewrites the damsel-in-distress narrative with Damsel, an exciting fantasy adventure that turns the generic fairy tale on its head with surprising results.

Millie Bobby Brown plays Elodie, the eldest princess of a starving kingdom who spends most of her time chopping firewood for her subjects instead of doing what fairy tale princesses do. As luck would have it, the richest kingdom in the land is looking for a suitable bride for their prince, and Elodie has no choice but to go with the plan to give her people a fighting chance.

But it all goes awry when she discovers that the royal family she married into has a terrible secret: they have been sacrificing brides to a dragon who has been terrorizing their lands for millennia! Soon Elodie finds herself fighting for her life with nothing but a knife and a will to survive unlike anything you’ve seen from any fairy tale.

You might think fantasy action/adventure holds no surprises for you, but Damsel is shocking in its intensity. Pulling no punches in putting Elodie through the wringer, Damsel sends Millie Bobby Brown to get slashed, scratched, burned, and thrown around rock faces and 30-foot drops, punctuated by her guttural screams of pain and frustration. Going Tomb Raider-mode on us as she looks for a way out of her cavernous prison, Brown is believable as a scrappy, street-smart princess fighting for her life, propped up only by her steely resolve and her MacGuyver-esque knowledge.

Brown does her best to carry Damsel, but it stumbles halfway as it trips over itself dropping clues to the movie’s deeper mystery. For a supposed death sentence of a dragon’s lair, it’s hilariously accessible that even princesses with no prior experience with spelunking can find their way around. In addition, Brown's supporting cast of powerhouse actors like Ray Winstone and Robin Wright do their best but feels tacked on. Even Academy Award-nominee Angela Bassett, who plays Elodie's well-meaning stepmother, says some lines and is largely forgotten.

But even with contrived dangers and superfluous cast, Damsel is still a tense affair with the always-looming threat of the stalking dragon right around the corner. It also feels like cheating for the dragon to be voiced by Shohreh Aghdashloo, whose gravelly timbre doesn’t even need to be run through post-production to be unsettling and menacing!

It’s easy to write it off as your typical “fantasy adventure with a twist” movie, but Damsel is engaging enough to be worthwhile. If you’re in the market for a fantasy movie starring a princess that kicks plenty of ass, you’ve come to the right place.

Damsel is now streaming on Netflix.

Post a Comment