Escape Velocity

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Elodie, the daughter of a Lord, agrees to marry the prince in order to secure a better future for her people. The union seems like something out of a classic fairy tale, but a terrible secret will soon be uncovered...
Damsel site

I had heard some rumors about this movie maybe being not so good, but avoided reading any reviews before going into it. I’m glad I did because I actually really enjoyed Damsel.

Damsel isn’t a masterpiece. But I would argue it’s not trying to be. This movie was clearly meant to be a subversion of a classic fairy tale. Girl gets sacrificed to a dragon, but lo and behold, she’s strong enough to save herself. Much like the fairy tales this movie takes its queues from, Damsel really isn’t that deep. I heard people complaining that Elodie’s father and stepmother don’t even get named. To me, however, this to me is another indication that this is really just supposed to be a classic story about a princess from a far away land.

I really enjoyed the themes of this movie. It’s very much about standing on the shoulders of women who came before you; how sometimes you can’t save yourself, but the work you did to help yourself can still help others. The movie is is both about literal and metaphorical sisterhood. It’s also about not being afraid to burn shit down. Once again, are the themes super well developed? No. But they’re developed enough to be defensible.

The ending of the movie is pretty predictable, but the way they get there is quite twisty and turny. I do have to admit that it gets frustrating at times, because you know how it’s going to end. However, at the end I did feel like the steps the movie takes to get to its ending serve a purpose. If Elodie just did the logical things that you as a viewer keep shouting at her to do she a) wouldn’t have defeated the dragon (which was kinda what the movie is about) and b) she could have died anyway.

I have mixed feelings about Millie Bobbie Brown’s acting in this movie. On the one hand, she manages to carry this movie really well. On the other hand her line delivery seems super stilted at times. I don’t know if I can really blame her for that. Most of the time she’s just kind of talking to herself. It has something viedeo game-y to it.

Overall I saw enough positives to recommend this movie. Just don’t expect the most elaborate story or developed characters.

Already before the release of Damsel, I had heard some very positive reviews that made me excited to watch this movie. In all fairness, I probably would have been thrilled anyway, because it is a fantasy movie with a dragon (!!!) and Millie Bobby Brown. However, shortly after its release, some lukewarm reviews dampened my initial drive to go and watch it. It took me a week or two to come to the conclusion I should just form my own opinion (and thereafter write a review for others to take to heart or ignore :p ).

Going in, I had a vague idea about what to expect: a dragon and a subversion of the ‘damsel in distress’ trope. I think the movie does a decent job at keeping you somewhat in the dark in the first act of the story. You know something is going to happen when the protagonist (Millie Bobby Brown) and her family move to their soon te be in-laws. The athmosphere is off, everything too good to be true. And where is that dragon from the beginning hiding? It’s an intruiging mystery. I thinks this set-up not only works when you have a good grasp of the traditional role of dragons in faerie tales and the usual story structures, but also when you go in blind.

The first plot twist, however, did not really surprise me. Frankly, I was a little impatient with the protagonist for her low ‘sense motive’ rolls (excuse my Pathfinder jargon). I couldn’t really stay mad, though, because of reasons I will soon elaborate on. First, I want to mention another thing I thought was interesting on a meta level. After the aforementioned plot twist, the tone of the movie suddenly changes into something very similar of a classical horror movie. I quite liked that, though it didn’t make the rest of the story less unpredictable in the end.

The absolute best part of this movie, for me at least, is undoubtedly the dragon. A whole star of this review is dedicated to her; I was squealing in delight every time she showed up. Menacing, beautiful and at times unneccesary brutal. She really felt like a terrifying predator. And because – unlike the protagonist – I had rolled very high on my perception and sense motive checks, I was absolutely rooting for her from the beginning. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised to see that her story took the turn I hoped it would take. All in all, Damsel’s dragon was a perfect example of why I like dragons in the first place.

As for Millie Bobby Brown’s acting, I must confess I was less impressed. I find it hard to pinpoint the specific reason why, but during the whole movie I just felt her performance was less convincing than what I’ve seen from her in Stranger Things and the Enola Holmes movies.

Ultimately, I didn’t think the plot and the themes of Damsel were as strong as they could have been. Though there’s enough of an ancient Greek deity in me to greatly appreciate the downfall of people due to their hubris, most of Damsel’s characters didn’t get enough spotlight to make me feel many emotions about their fate. Similarly, the feminist message of the story felt a little underwhelming to me.

Still, Damsel does more than enough good things to make it worth your while. The dragon, for example. So go watch it!

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