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He said, she said: ‘Damsel’

Garrett Hartman, he, and Ariana Powell, she, share their dual perspectives on the March film “Damsel”
Elodie, played by Millie Bobby Brown, in the March 8 Netflix release of “Damsel.” Courtesy: Allied Global Marketing/Netflix

Damsel”, released March 8, directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo stars Millie Bobby Brown, as Elodie, a princess sent off to marry a prince of a foreign land for the good of her people. 

After she discovers the sinister intentions of her family to be; Elodie is thrust into a struggle to survive against a dragon.

He said:

“Damsel” doesn’t leave you guessing, from its title obviously pointing to its intended subversion of the classic “damsel in distress” storyline, and foreshadowing that is almost too overt in the first act, it’s a film which shows its hand early. Despite this, “Damsel” is still a fun and engaging film. 

The film’s initial conflict slightly stretches its own logic, pulling you out of the film. Like when a character in a horror movie makes a dumb decision; It’s the kind of contrivance that is necessary for the plot but seems forced.

The plot hits its stride as we follow Elodie’s fight for survival in a cat-and-mouse game against a dragon. Shohreh Aghdashloo gives a haunting performance as the dragon’s voice, a standout which helps create an oppressive and intimidating atmosphere.

Lords and ladies look on as the royal family conducts its traditions. Courtesy: Allied Global Marketing/Netflix

The second act begins to explore the more interesting aspects of the film’s premise. The kingdom, which has pushed our protagonist into her current struggle, has a generic cultish appearance. It becomes clear Elodie is not the only woman to fall victim to this scheme. Learning about the kingdom’s prior victims, and how they contended with our leading lady’s predicament adds intrigue and tension.

It also emphasizes the notion that Elodie is not the only fighter who stood up to the dragon and serves the film’s female empowerment theme. The film also pushes this in the way it is almost entirely driven by women, even in its antagonists. 

Despite a more intriguing and tense second act, the film winds back down to a predictable and generic conclusion. However, the tight pacing keeps the film enjoyable without wasting the audience’s time. The plot ultimately does what is necessary to deliver a satisfying story without doing much more than that.

Where the film really excels is its presentation.  The CGI in the film is not as impressive as some blockbusters, but compensates for this with an outstanding visual style. The film has an almost uncanny look which emphasizes its fantasy setting.

Its vibrant color palette, wide angle lens and high frame rate make the whole thing look “off” in the best way possible. It kept me fascinated and invested in a world that felt familiar yet alien and supported the weaker plot elements.

Overall, “Damsel” is a fun little action film worth a watch for those with a Netflix subscription. I wouldn’t recommend subscribing to Netflix for this film, however, I was pleasantly surprised at how well-crafted and satisfying it was as a whole. There is something to be respected in a tightly crafted film which achieves what it sets out to and does so well. 

She said:

This film falls under the “don’t judge a book by its cover” cliche, at least from my point of view. After reading the film’s preface, and of course watching the trailer, I was predispositioned to, well, hating it.

At first I figured it would be similar to the 2022 “The Princess,” an action film that was 80% action and 20% story, but I was wrong, to an extent.

I figured it would be your usual limited narrative action film with base level character and narrative development, think Marvel films meets “Jane and the Dragon,” but there was more to the film than meets the eye.

The film is all about misgivings and trying to figure out what is true, but it lacks real mystery.

Unfortunately, the trailer reveals pretty much the entire first act, but it does leave the ending up in the air.

Elodie, played by Millie Bobby Brown, and Prince Henry, played by Nick Robinson, in the March 8 Netflix release “Damsel.”Courtesy: Allied Global Marketing/Netflix

The first part of the film is designed to look like a true fantasy dream as the main character Elodie is forced to marry the crown prince, played by Nick Robinson, of a kingdom she has never heard of. It also follows the stereotypical fairytale, from the castle, to the supposedly perfect royal family, to even the prince’s name: Henry … how original.

Despite her misgivings and admittance to being guilted into the match, Elodie finds herself surrounded by elegance and riches she has never beheld.

This is emphasized by the film’s use of fantastical camera shots and an exaggerated aura that exists around the grand castle and its inhabitants. The visuals of the film make up for the stereotypical plot, narrative and dialogue.

While clearly not your typical noble lady, the royal family’s forced makeover on Elodie makes her seem like a traditional waif damsel in need of saving by a big strong man.

But once she’s betrayed by her new family and sacrificed to the dragon, she has to rediscover her own power, which is, unfortunately, signified by Elodie losing more and more of her clothing.

From darkness comes the light however, in how Elodie becomes the now stereotypical bad-ass princess. However, Brown’s depiction of Elodie was parallel to her past performances in films such as “Enola,” so some of the scenes and lines were stale and predictable if anyone is familiar with her filmography.

The film loses its stereotypical visage and becomes slightly less predictable, however if anyone pays attention to Elodie’s limited, action-based character development, the film’s ending is clear and predictable: She either has to kill the dragon or become the dragon.

I would not watch this film again, and I hope they do not make a sequel, but it makes a statement regarding female rage and empowerment. Specifically, that women have the ability to fight against systemic oppression, they just need to find their inner dragon and not be afraid to learn the truth and let their screams fly.

Garrett Hartman and Ariana Powell can be reached at [email protected].

Ariana Powell can also be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Ariana Powell
Ariana Powell, Editor-in-Chief
Ariana Powell is in her fourth year at Chico State as a media arts (criticism) and journalism (news) double-major. Now in her fourth semester on The Orion and having assumed the editor-in-chief position, she is prepared to continue helping upcoming journalists and endeavors to continue building her repertoire of multimedia and writing skills. In her free time, she enjoys writing, watching and analyzing films, reading and spending time with her loved ones.

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