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  • Nate Adams

'Damsel' review: Millie Bobby Brown squares off against a dragon

Courtesy of Netflix


Keeping her acting career firmly planted within the Netflix wheelhouse, Millie Bobby Brown is headlining another potential franchise in “Damsel,” which could basically be pegged as “Game of Thrones” for pre-tweens. It’s a harmless streaming excursion that benefits from decent special effects and a beautiful look at the Portugal countryside, though I’d estimate most of the movie was probably filmed on a soundstage. Still, “Damsel” doesn’t reek of the disposable fantasy young adult dreck Netflix usually puts out (“The School for Good and Evil”), but it suffers from generic and inherently predictable plot devices, leaving the versatile “Stranger Things” star to hold down the fort. 

And, for the most part, Brown makes for a believable heroine. She plays Elodie, one of those headstrong types who, when we first meet her, wants nothing to do with tradition and scoffs at an invitation to marry Prince Henry (Nick Robinson), future king of Aurea, a place that has no identity other than its name. Elodie agrees to marry Henry, because she wants to put “her people” above herself even though we never understand who these “people” ever are (does she rule a kingdom?). Dan Mazeau’s screenplay never fleshes out those finer details. Her stepmother (an underused Angela Bassett) advises against the ceremony after having a strange intuition about the royal family. 

And boy was she right! After the nuptials are shared, and a strange blood oath is forged, the Queen (Robin Wright), alongside Henry, toss Elodie into a fiery pit where she comes face-to-face with a dragon (voiced with sniveling glee by the always great Shohreh Aghdashloo) in what becomes a weird medieval spin on “Ready or Not.” Here, “Damsel” morphs into a cat and mouse game where the resourceful Elodie tries to claw and climb her way to freedom or suffer the same fate as the others who came before her. Along the way, we learn the secret behind this sacrifice, which revolves around a generational debt made centuries ago by the Queen’s bloodline. 

Following on the heels of both “The Princess” and “Rosaline,” director Juan Carlos Fresnadillio does a serviceable job of infusing some spark into this otherwise airless thriller. The creature effects are impressive (if only because the movie wisely keeps the dragon hidden in the shadows for most of the film). Considering the scope of the project, “Damsel” may have benefited from the big screen experience (the sound design and voice work are solid), but it should have no trouble finding its audience in the Netflix sphere and quench the thirst of those eagerly awaiting for “Stranger Things” to return. 

Grade: B- 

DAMSEL streams on Netflix Friday, March 8th 


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