Damsel (2024)


A fairytale turned adventure film, Damsel pits a feisty heroine against a fire-breathing dragon. Hundreds of years ago, a foreign king invaded the caverns of a dragon and made a bargain with it to keep his lands safe. Now, Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown) and her family struggle to survive and take care of their peasants in a land without much water. When a foreign queen (Robin Wright) proposes a marriage between her son and Elodie, the family agrees and travels across the sea to an island rich with flowers and food. Though she would rather travel the world, Elodie agrees to the match since the marriage price will provide her people with food for a long time.


And she looks forward to getting to know Prince Henry (Nick Robinson). Trussed up in a fabulous dress, decked out in jewels, and delivered to the altar, however, Elodie soon becomes aware that a much different fate lies in store for her. Her new husband transports her in style up the mountain to take part in a ritualistic ceremony that dates back centuries. And at the end of it, he tosses her down a chasm into the caverns beneath the mountain, where the fire-breathing dragon still prevails. Elodie must find a way out, if she can…


This movie is excellent in some respects, and less so in others. Some plot holes are obvious, but to get into them exposes spoilers. So avoid this paragraph if you don’t want anything spoiled. The queen picks up foreign princesses or nobility, marries them off to her son, and mingles their blood so it fools the dragon—but why not just pick up random girls off the street, and instead go through all the money and expense of a giant charade? If the dragon can’t tell the difference thanks to a little blood mingling, just find three orphans to chuck down the ravine. And for goodness’ sake, Eloise knows there is a dragon in the tunnels, so why does she keep screaming? If the dragon can talk, why does it take Elodie several days to try to reason with the dragon or to tell her the truth? It also makes no sense that her father knew about it; why would he be so callous about his daughter’s life as to trade it for gold? He should have known nothing, and have found out the truth after she went missing, with scenes leading up to her family’s horror. End of spoilers.


Where the film excels is in its powerful and likable heroine, who is both emotional and strong. And it does have a satisfying ending, as well as arise sympathy for the villain (dragon). It has absolutely fantastic costumes and sets and CGI, with a unique design for the dragon that doesn’t look like every other “creature” you’ve seen. It hits a lot of the right emotional beats, and has a good score. I sat on the edge of my seat for most of it, and liked the original concepts like glow-worms and crystal tunnels. But… there are some problems. Like every other trope-laden feminist movie now, none of the men are any good. They’re all simps or corrupt, ruled by or dominated by the strong women all around them. Elodie’s father sells her for money. The king never even has a word of dialogue. Henry is easily governed by his mother. Meanwhile, it’s all women, everywhere. An evil queen. A strong stepmother who winds up caring more about her stepchildren than their actual father. Even a female dragon. Just a tiny bit of balance and fairness to the men would have made this movie perfect. Make Eloise’s father sympathetic and protective of his daughter. Have Henry have a change of conscience and try to save her, but he can’t or he dies in the process. Anything!


You can have a feminist fairy tale in which a damsel saves herself, without having to weaken all the men so that she looks better. That’s not equality. That being said, I did enjoy it, minus some of the cruelties endured by people and beasts alike. A lot of it is undone at the end thanks to the healing properties inside the cave, but it’s still hard to watch. But I won’t say no to seeing it again. It’s well done and Millie gives a great performance, and she looks spectacular in her costumes.

The dragon incinerates people with fire, squishes them with gruesome results, or sticks her claws into them. Blood pools under a few stabbed dead bodies. Elodie sees tons of skeletons in the caves, and a girl with her face badly burned. She’s burned many times by the dragon and has sizzling flesh. She also defends herself from the dragon with a sword and a knife, piercing the dragon’s eye and destroying its sight, sticking the blade through one of its forearms, then into its chest, and ensuring it incinerates itself with its own fire. We see the bodies of baby dragons, slain when they were born. Eloise gets other injuries, like a hurt leg. Glow worms heal her wounds, and those of the dragon. We see thousands of birds on fire, swooping through the air, slamming into pillars, and dying. The dragon incinerates a horse (just off-camera) and lays waste to an entire mountain and later a city that she leaves inflamed.

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