Arts & Entertainment

FILM REVIEW: ‘Damsel’ is no princess in distress

This new take on the classic fairytale genre emboldens young female protagonists with a new narrative against the “damsel in distress” trope. 

“Damsel” takes audiences into a sword-wielding, dragon slaying rampage feminist fairytale, one that subverts the classic storytelling narrative of saving a damsel in distress.  

Rising “Stranger Things” actress Millie Bobbie Brown stars as the young adoring protagonist trapped in a battle of the wits against a tumultuous dragon. Stuck in a dark and entrenched den beneath the surface she finds the courage and will to rise above her fears and kill those who betrayed her.  

In a long and entertaining battle, “Damsel” is a look into the unconventional world where women are the obstructing force and leading hero. Girls are the formidable piece of the puzzle not an expendable one.  

From the start, we are following our reluctant hero Elodie, played by Brown. She is a resourceful gal who can take care of herself and others during a time when her people are struggling to survive. The film takes a decently long time to lay out the groundwork of this world’s story.  

Elodie is strong but naïve. She is caring but at times too cautious. She loves her family but wants to see the world and experience more life. When she meets her soon-to-be young husband, she begins to envision what her new life could be like.  

The character development of Elodie is a key aspect of the film’s world building. As we watch Elodie’s mentality begin to unravel, we see how important her resourcefulness and intelligence become when she’s desperate. She thrives as a captive in a physically demanding situation, fighting to save herself and her family.  

As depressing as it is to watch her character fail time after time, she slowly inches her way back to freedom while gaining a new sense of self along the way. The film makes it easy to root for her to find a way out and become a stronger person.  

Where the story struggles to engage its audience is the supporting characters. Robin Wright, who plays Queen Isabella, is a strong but rigid character meant to obstruct Elodie’s fairytale. She is the queen of Aurea, a land far from Elodie’s homeland that is meant to home Elodie’s new family, until Elodie discovers the true nature of their sinister intentions.  

Elodie’s stepmother Lady Bayford, played by Angela Bassett, struggles to develop a real connection with her stepdaughter. She wishes to connect with her but instead becomes a lingering reminder of Elodie’s inhibition to trust outsiders. Rather than mend this bridge between both characters, the story rapidly picks up and somehow manages to resolve all issues almost instantaneously by the end of it.  

These aspects do not take away from the rest of the film, like the incredible CGI used to showcase the dragon that fights Elodie. From the moment the uproarious beast came onscreen, I was in awe of the detailed special effects. The dragon, played by actress Shohreh Aghdashloo, commands a staggeringly loud and omniscient presence.  

The dragon is a mix between Drogon from “Game of Thrones” and the fire breathing monster Smaug in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” Meant to create chaos and villainy, the dragon possesses both sadistic and malevolent qualities. Trying to wear Elodie down both mentally and physically, she drains her of any hope that she has left. Their relationship is the cornerstone of the film and helps to reflect the bitter savagery of men who wish ill upon others for their own greed.  

Elodie is a nice girl who transforms into an audacious young woman ready to take on the next challenge. She is no damsel in distress, and instead reinvents the narrative of young innocent girls.  

While the film is a refreshing take on the classic fairytale, it struggles to find the right pacing and cohesive supporting cast. That doesn’t mean it’s not a fun and enjoyable ride with hard gasps and strong seat gripping moments. “Damsel” takes you into a new fantasy world with complex character buildup and female empowerment.  

Movie poster for “Damsel”. Distributed by Netflix.

Featured Image, Millie Bobbie Brown in “Damsel” Distributed by Netflix.