21 March 2024

Damsel is a fun yet ultimately shallow take on the fantasy genre

| Jarryd Rowley
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Millie Bobby Brown stars in Damsel

Millie Bobby Brown does her best to lift Netflix’s newest film, Damsel, despite its identity crisis. Photo: Netflix.

Netflix’s new film, Damsel, is the latest chapter in the “Millie Bobby Brown signed a Netflix deal when she was 14 and is now stuck making mediocre movies” saga.

While nowhere near as insulting or hard to watch as Netflix’s more recent releases, such as Rebel Moon, Spaceman or Heart of Stone, Damsel still fails to deliver the streaming giant the critically successful fantasy film they’ve been dreaming of.

Damsel follows Millie Bobby Brown as Elodie, the eldest daughter of a highborn lord in the world of Aurea.

As the eldest daughter, Elodie is used as a bargaining chip as a potential wife to other powerful families. She is eventually betrothed to the Queen of Aurea’s son, Prince Harry.

At the wedding, Elodie is betrayed by her new family and sacrificed to a dragon in hopes her death will bring peace to the world.

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Spoiler alert, but for the movie to happen, Elodie doesn’t die. Instead, she must return to Aurea and get revenge.

Now, for those expecting Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones-quality fantasy, this isn’t it. Think more Fast and Furious meets Clash of the Titans, which is fitting because the previous works of the lead writer of the film, Dan Mazeau, include movies in both those IPs.

My biggest issue with this film is that it just doesn’t feel real.

I understand that the genre of this film is fantasy, but I didn’t believe anything I was seeing. If you look at the best fantasy films of all time, Lord of the Rings, Narnia and The Princess Bride, even though their premises are wild and in no way realistic, they at least follow the rules set up by their own worlds.

What I mean by that is, in Lord of the Rings, for example, if only certain wizards can use magic, throughout the entire trilogy only wizards use magic. Or if when Frodo gets stabbed, he isn’t jumping around slaying dragons in the next scene. These are subconscious rules made by the film/world. Even though it is fanciful, it is grounded by the limitations of its characters. Damsel consistently ignores any of its character’s limitations. The film could have honestly swapped Millie Bobby Brown with Vin Diesel, put him in a wig and called him a princess and you would still be forced to accept it.

Add annoyingly bad CGI, which is becoming consistent in Netflix movies, and you’re left with another shallow fantasy film.

This wouldn’t be such an issue if the movie didn’t take itself seriously.

Ms Brown is a fantastic young actress. Her turn as Eleven in Stranger Things is one of the most iconic TV characters of all time, but even she is left confused about how to carry this film. In the film, her delivery is a mix of grittiness followed by borderline fourth-wall-breaking jokes.

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This gives the movie an identity crisis. I don’t think the film would have been that enjoyable if they’d stuck with grittiness. The other aspects of the film – the storytelling, the visuals and the dialogue – don’t deliver the harsh tone the film is aiming for.

However, if it was more comedic like Ms Brown’s previous work in Enola Holmes or the 2023 fantasy comedy Dungeons and Dragons, the film would feel a little derivative of better movies.

Damsel is a strange movie to review. A lot of people watching won’t want an overly epic fantasy, even though it tries and fails to be. Because of its over-the-top nature, it serves more as a movie you chuck on in the background or to please others when you have people over.

If early streaming numbers are anything to go by, a lot of people have tuned into this movie, which means it’s a success for Netflix. Despite the huge viewership, I just don’t think anyone making this film was particularly interested in making it. It was barely promoted, and the actors have done barely any press, and due to this, it feels like such a non-event.

Damsel is a completely fine time killer and nothing more. It’s far from the worst movie released this year, but due to its heartless vibe given off by the cast and crew, it feels a lot more like a contractual obligation than a passion project.

Damsel is now showing on Netflix.

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