Movie review: 'Damsel' makes Millie Bobby Brown exciting digital dragonslayer

Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown) shed her princess garb in battle. Photo courtesy of Netflix
1 of 6 | Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown) shed her princess garb in battle. Photo courtesy of Netflix

LOS ANGELES, March 7 (UPI) -- Damsel, on Netflix on Friday, is a satisfying fantasy adventure. They don't make them like they used to make Dragonslayer or Conan the Barbarian or even The Lord of the Rings, anymore, but Damsel holds up against the modern incarnations.

Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown) agrees to marry Prince Henry (Nick Robinson) for the sake of her kingdom. On her wedding day, Henry and his mother, Queen Isabelle (Robin Wright), throw Elodie in a dragon pit.


Elodie survives the fall and manages to evade the dragon, to whom the royals have been sacrificing brides for generations.

Most of the action takes place in the cave. Elodie must not only dodge dragon fire, but also navigate the cave formations and avoid falling into pits.

Previous sacrifices have left Elodie helpful messages about which corners are safe from the dragon's reach. Elodie talks to herself for the audience's sake, so viewers know what she's thinking, but maybe it's to cope while being alone in a dragon cave.


The dragon, designed by Patrick Tatopoulos, looks good. It's animalistic and scary, with the voice of Shohreh Aghdashloo.

The computer-generated dragons that were revolutionary in 1996's Dragonheart are now de rigeur on television, but Damsel's dragon compares favorably to Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon.

It's not just its fire, but its claws are formidable too. A physical tail might have actually whipped the actors in closeups.

There may be a few pieces of cave built in a studio, but the more vast spaces large enough to allow a dragon to roam freely are clearly digital.

The kingdom above ground is not entirely real, either. Damsel filmed in Portugal, but made background shots in Ireland -- and the two do not blend entirely seamlessly. Such is the nature of modern filmmaking.

Last year's Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves incorporated a bit more physical creature work to great effect, but even the Hobbit prequels leaned more on digital than their Lord of the Rings predecessors. Damsel at least looks more convincing than The Hobbit.

Tolerances for the digital environments may vary, but at least the queen's court and villagers are dressed in elaborate medieval-style wardrobes. That helps sell the feeling of being in a fictional history, and gives Elodie layers to shed as she becomes an action hero.


Damsel is about the cycle of violence. The dragon was wronged centuries ago and has visited vengeance upon the kingdom for generations, which in turn leads the kingdom to keep committing more wrongs.

The film ultimately offers a positive message about breaking that cycle, while still empowering Elodie to save herself and others. But if one just wants to see a hero walk away from fire, Damsel has that, too.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001, and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012 and the Critics Choice Association since 2023. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

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Left to right, "Stranger Things" actors Gaten Matarazzo, Caleb McLaughlin and Millie Bobby Brown arrive for the 68th annual Primetime Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on September 18, 2016. Photo by Christine Chew/UPI | License Photo

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