Though Netflix’s latest female-led action flick was released on International Women’s Day, Damsel makes an unconvincing case to empower anybody.  Especially when the film stops in its tracks to have its heroine Elodie (Stranger Things’  Millie Bobby Brown) denounce the story’s deliberate discriminatory attitude towards young women.  However, if viewers are looking for a fun romp where that same heroine is in a cavernous cat-and-mouse chase from a fire-breathing, angry dragon, Damsel is just the ticket.

Elodie, caught up in a transaction between her impoverished family and royalty, is arranged to be married to Prince Henry (Nick Robinson of Love, Simon).  But abruptly, she realizes why Henry’s royal family truly needs her – to abide by a ritual and to be sacrificed to a dragon.  Surprisingly enough, and with minimal injuries after being pushed from a cliff into the dragon’s lair by Queen Isabelle (Robin Wright of Land), Elodie seems to stand a chance against the menacing beast (who she can also communicate with).  Darting through chasms, scaling walls, and narrowly escaping vicious fireballs, Elodie learns she also must fight to survive.

Directed by Spanish filmmaker Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later), Damsel finds its stride when it embraces its outlandish qualities as an action-adventure, entertaining audiences as if it’s an upgraded (and unofficial) version of the Tomb Raider film franchise.  Brown carries the film well against CGI creations and through its obstacle course narrative.  Even if this flick becomes lost in the wash of Netflix Originals, this vehicle is still a strong display of what the rising star is capable of. 

I would encourage kids who have been following Brown’s career to check out Damsel, but I’m also hesitant since the movie dishes out random spurts of extreme fantasy violence (Fresnadillo wants his audience to see how deadly those dragon burns can be).  However, for older (and forgiving) audiences who are looking for a fantasy fill, Damsel is worth saving time for.


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