Damsel Is a Flimsy Feminist Fantasy With Grit

Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown stars in a Ready Or Not-inspired fantasy.

Millie Bobby Brown in Damsel
Inverse Reviews

Once upon a time, a plucky princess with a flowing auburn mane was forced to fight her way out of a nefarious arranged marriage. This probably sounds a lot like the plot of The Princess, the revisionist fantasy that starred Bullet Train’s Joey King. That film lived a woefully short life on its host streamer: Hulu pulled the film after less than a year on the platform. Its disappearance was a bummer for those who enjoyed its unique brand of genre mashup — but fans of fairytales, B-movie brawlers, and general feminist musings now have a new film to fill the void it left behind.

The Princess has been reincarnated in the form of Damsel, a near-identical fantasy vehicle starring another teen starlet. This time, it’s Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown in the red princess wig, but aside from ceremonial duties and a general disdain for wedding dresses, her Princess Elodie has a much more grave threat to contend with. Where The Princess felt like a splice of Rapunzel and The Raid, Damsel takes the best parts of cult-y thrillers like Ready or Not and gives them the fairy tale treatment. With a misunderstood — but no less terrifying — monster in the mix, there are certainly worse ways to spend an afternoon.

Princess Elodie hails from a nondescript kingdom in the north. Her family finds itself in the midst of a devastating frost, and with no resources left to protect her people, her dad (Ray Winstone) is entirely without options. That is, until a mysterious courier from a wealthy island nation extends a marriage proposal. With the gold and resources from Elodie’s match, their people will never starve again.

Like any princess worth her salt, though, Elodie craves freedom. Marrying a stranger, however charming he seems, is obviously not ideal. But she’s got a duty to her people, and an example to set for her beloved younger sister (Brooke Carter). So she sets her strong-willed ambitions aside and travels to the kingdom of Aurea to take the hand of their prince (Nick Robinson). Their wedding has scarcely ended before Elodie finds herself at the center of a creepy ritual... and unceremoniously tossed head-first into a chasm.

Our princess quickly learns that she’s the latest in a long line of ritual sacrifices. In order to protect their kingdom from a bloodthirsty dragon, Aurea’s royal family have been poaching young girls from far-flung kingdoms and offering them as tribute. Obviously, no one has managed to survive, but Elodie’s not like other girls. It won’t be easy, but she’s uniquely qualified (not to mentioned determined) to escape. Her journey will bring her face-to-face with a handful of fantastical horrors, some more effective than others. But it all ultimately leads to a showdown with that aforementioned dragon (who talks!), and a handful of serviceable action scenes.

Millie Bobby Brown takes a big swing for action stardom in Damsel.


Damsel is not a film that leaves much of a lasting impression. As a Netflix original, that’s not much of a shock — but it’s also not a total wash, either. It owes a lot to the schlock-y, “girl power!” narratives that have been dominating recently, and its efforts to subvert the eponymous archetype take a lot of inspiration from its predecessors. Despite its predictability, Damsel does make for a fun fairytale remix. A lot of that manifests in some truly creative creature designs: its dragon (voiced by Shohreh Aghdashloo) barfs lava rather than breathing fire, and the cave in which she dwells is teeming with an ecosystem all its own.

Brown serves as executive producer of Damsel, and for better or worse, this film is her Tomb Raider. It works well enough as a showcase for her skills as an action star, even when disjointed effects and gratuitous Acting™ threaten to get in the way. It’s not going to reinvent the wheel, but does it really have to? Sometimes, it’s enough to simply watch a plucky princess take down the patriarchy, one sword-swinging metaphor at a time.

Damsel is currently streaming on Netflix.

Related Tags