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'DAMSEL' REVIEW

BY BECCA JOHNSON MARCH 12, 2024
Damsel

Friday 8th March was International Women's Day, a global day to honour the achievements of women throughout history and to continue to fight for gender equality in all aspects of life. So, what better day was there for Netflix to release newest original Damsel, a fantasy adventure that promises to flip the 'damsel in distress' trope on it's head.


Featuring queens of the screen Millie Bobby Brown, Angela Bassett and Robin Wright, Damsel boasts an excellent performance from it's leading lady and a well-designed dragon with plenty of screen-time. The dialogue is iffy, as is the storyline that drags in places, but overall it's quite a fun flick that has enough action to make for a fun weekend movie night.


SYNOPSIS

A young woman agrees to marry a handsome prince -- only to discover it was all a trap. She is thrown into a cave with a fire-breathing dragon and must rely solely on her wits and will to survive.



REVIEW

From Stranger Things to Enola Holmes, Millie Bobby Brown is a Netflix regular and has proved herself to be a fantastic leading lady. Her performance here is no exception, playing lead Elodie with charisma and likeability. Elodie is a fierce and strong fighter, who puts her family and her people first and never backs down despite the hardships she faces. Brown embodies this with ease, creating a young warrior in her dedicated and fearful performance. Easily the best part of the movie, she is a star; it may be worth watching for her alone. The supporting cast is made up of greats including Ray Winstone (Sexy Beast), Robin Wright (Forrest Gump) and Angela Bassett (Black Panther). Whilst they all deliver good turns, it's a shame to see such talent wasted. This is of course intentional, as the focus is and should be on Elodie, but the talent being underutilised here is undeniably aggravating. Bassett is an absolute powerhouse of an actress, one of the best in the bizz, so it's hard to see her in such a small role where she doesn't get to show her range.


Damsel

The visuals are a mixed bag. The focus on the landscapes works well, especially during the first act when Elodie and her family travel to the castle of the royal family she is marrying into. Full of luscious greens, rolling hills, royal reds and golds and startling gowns, it looks lavish and enticing as any fantasy world should. On the flipside of this, the tall mountain and dragon's lair are dark, cold and eerie, easily invoking uneasiness unto the audience. When the dragon enters the screen, it's great to see how surprisingly good it looks. Designed well with decent CGI, it's equal parts terrifying and cool to look at. This dragon takes up the whole screen, breathes plenty of fire and its looming presence is exciting. Unfortunately, the movie as a whole is littered with not-so-impressive CGI and effects, and as gorgeous as the production design is, the use of green-screen is obvious. Damsel really does try to look the part, but it doesn't always get there.


Outside of the lead performance, the next best thing here is the action. There's enough to make it periodically entertaining, and surprisingly, it's not afraid to get quite violent. For a flick aimed at a younger audience, Damsel includes a fair amount of blood, and our dragon wreaks plenty of havoc onto or human characters. However, anything outside of the action is a little drab. The first act is used purely to set the scene, and it's too slow to get to the good stuff – we're a good 30 minutes in before Elodie gets thrown into the lair. When we know what's coming due to reading the premise and viewing the trailer, it's a tough wait. Once Elodie is in the lair and face-to-face with the dragon, it does have a fun survival-thriller element, but it does get repetitive. The same beats are explored over and over again, and even following her expected escape, the film continues to do the same thing. The talky scenes are lacklustre due to the messy dialogue; half of it attempts old English, whereas the other half is a bit too modern. Utilising phrases like 'girl talk', it's not very of its time and is very jumbled.


Damsel

Damsel appeals because we don't get fantasy flicks like this very often. It's not a perfect example of one, due to the occasionally bad CGI and repetitive plot that's both formulaic and predictable. However, what it does boast is plenty of dragon content, a fearsome lead performance from Millie Bobby Brown and entertaining action sequences. Young audiences are likely to enjoy the ending much more than adults, and may even find it empowering. Some finer tuning in the script would've helped this excel, especially the dialogue. Damsel is just fine.


STAR RATING

Rating Damsel

DAMSEL IS STREAMING NOW ON NETFLIX

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