Why Damsel doesn’t need saving. 

By Claudia Bradley

March the 8th is always a great day for female empowerment, and the fact that Netflix chose International Women’s Day to release Damsel is no shock and very fitting. 

Milly Bobby-Brown stars in this hundred-and-ten-minute fantasy-turned-thriller, when Princess Elodie is promised to marry handsome Prince Henry (Nick Robinson) in exchange for gold for her starving and bankrupt kingdom. After some gorgeous scenery and a charm reminiscent of 2007’s Stardust, Elodie discovers the hard way the whole arrangement is a trap and is thrown into a cave with a fire-breathing dragon focused on vengeance.  

In this story, the damsel fights the dragon herself. 

The world is created with costumes that feel both periodic and modern, architecture that is at once medieval and futuristic, which encapsulates the narrative: a fresh twist on a classic tale. These elements are carefully underscored by short bursts of eerie religious choirs, medieval strings, and a booming, ominous trumpet. 

We feel what Elodie feels as she struggles to help her people; explores the wonderous new kingdom that’ll be her home in bejewelled gowns; and starts to question her surroundings, the mysterious traditions, and the husband who won’t quite meet her eye. It’s a testament to the ever-growing talent of Millie Bobby-Brown. 

The characters around Elodie add to the building tension as the story unfolds. Robin Wright’s fierce-eyed Queen, Ray Winstone’s shift to an angry and detached Lord Bayford, and the anxious warning of Angela Basset’s Lady Bayford, Elodie’s surprisingly caring stepmother (another twist from typical fairytales) cause shifts and stirs as Elodie tries to settle into the kingdom. This is offset by Prince Henry, who is just charming enough to be likeable, but just reserved enough to raise questions. 

As fast as the arrangement is made, Elodie is married. She’s abruptly thrown to the dragon all in about thirty minutes, effectively cutting down the part of the story the trailer already showed us and plunging the next eighty minutes into darkness, which had me leaning closer to the screen for both the right and wrong reasons. 

The dialogue of the film was at times weak or predictable, but the strong sentiment remained. While Netflix has given this film—and its budget—more thought than I would’ve expected, certain sequences of animation were at times questionable. But while a general rule of thumb is that bad characters can’t carry a good story, but good characters cancarry a bad story, a fantasy film with an excellent setting can fill in any cracks. 

At the last, the direction this story took was truly unique and incredibly satisfying, solidifying it as an epic twist on a classic, tired-and-true narrative. It surpassed my expectations. This damsel did indeed save herself—and got more than a happily ever after. 

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