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DAMSEL (2024)

Release Date: 03/08/24 [Netflix]
Genre: Action. Adventure. Fantasy.

Studio: Netflix. 

"A dutiful damsel agrees to marry a handsome prince, only to find the royal family has recruited her as a sacrifice to repay an ancient debt." 


Damsel begins well enough, with immaculate backdrops resembling the image of classic tapestries of old classics rather than utilizing an off putting CGI undertaking. Its scenery is majestic, seemingly out of an inspired fairy tale. Not to say these settings weren’t digitally inputted, but visually they resemble something grander. Now this applies to the majority of the film 100% as Damsel amplifies the horror elements, letting fear overtake the young princess and having the dragon be encompassed in shadows. Along the lines of the 110 minute mark after a graze with escape, things turn for the worse. 


Millie Bobby Brown is fantastic in the role of Elodie. As someone who has never gravitated toward her as an actress, this role really spoke to me over her roles of Eleven, Madison Russell or Enola Holmes. Her accent may be rocky at times but as the film pushes on, it all becomes one with the film. The audience witnesses Elodie’s sense of hope, fear and desperation to what she’s been thrown into; a pure game of cat and mouse. 


Outside of the entrapment, Elodie finds herself in lay the royal family and her blood family that gave her away for riches. There are some terrific names within these two family lines: Ray Winstone, Angela Bassett, Brooke Carter, Nick Robinson and Robin Wright. These actors are brilliant on their own but within this universe are lambs for the slaughter, beyond the one on one rivalry between Elodie and the dragon. It was a bold choice to have the dragon speak, with Shohreh Aghdashloo voicing the fiery beast. This decision elevates the dragon’s godlike visualization to a level of humanity, allowing the idea of rationalized hatred and revenge to be at the forefront of the beast’s actions. 


For a vast majority of the film, it is just about Elodie’s survival against a fierce dragon. The creature is absolutely frightening when hidden in the shadows or being shown with minor details, but once the beast is shown entirely - it loses its edge. In its large set pieces and leaps into adventure over tension, the film spirals away from a movie that the Brothers Grimm would be proud of and instead into YA cinema, predictable ending and all. 


I wish I could say that the final act of the film didn’t make the entire picture suffer, but it does. It begins as a wonderfully original take on a “damsel” in a fairy tale setting, relying on no one but herself within a survival horror narrative, to a more traditional fantasy adventure in the latter half. The ending almost feels as though it were a copout for something much darker originally, but that’s entirely speculation on my part. o in at your own risk, because maybe the shift in genres at the very end of Damsel will delight some out there. From a must see with terrific worldbuilding and set design to an overindulgent final act, that hinders every ounce of enthusiasm I once had for the project.

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