Princesses, Dragons, and Missed Opportunities: Inside the Cave of Damsel’s Disappointment!

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Art of Lily K
| March 14, 2024
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Alright. Where to start? 

I was excited about this movie; I was. Its first teaser was fantastic and piqued my interest right away. I don’t watch more than one trailer when it comes to any type of media, but I unfortunately saw the second one for this. It put a tiny bit of fear in me. Not because it didn’t look exciting or that it revealed too much of its story, but because it looked… off. I have no better word for it. As much as the first trailer gave me goosebumps, the new one was just every other fantasy trailer you can find on the market.

And… yeah. It turned out to be a disappointing movie, unfortunately. There are many great things worth mentioning, but I couldn’t help but think throughout the entire runtime what an incredibly huge missed opportunity it was. Before I get into the review itself, here’s a tiny synopsis of the story itself: 

Elodie (Millie Bobby Brown) is set up to marry a prince (Nick Robinson) to save her father’s dying kingdom. All seems to go well, up until the wedding and a mysterious ceremony afterward where they literally drop the young girl in a cave. Yes, Daddy dear (Ray Winstone) agreed to this sacrifice, valuing gold more than his own daughter. Why worry when he has another girl (Brooke Carter) who can just step into her big sister’s place? Elodie is no damsel in distress, though, as, after the first encounter with the dragon that rules over the cave (voiced by the fantastic Shohreh Aghdashloo), she quickly starts working on a plan to get away and survive. 

Now, let’s move on to the review, but I must warn all of you: SPOILERS are ahead! 

Elodie hoping to find her freedom

Let’s start with the good things because, as I mentioned, there was potential here. 

The concept of the whole story is brilliant by itself. A (somewhat) classic fairytale with a relentless dragon and a damsel who is just trying to survive the ordeal she got into. I liked this, especially after seeing that first teaser. I was hoping to get a dark twist on it all, especially with the whole cave setting, and for a good few minutes, it did seem like the creators themselves were heading that way. Alas… this ain’t no fairytale, but more on this in the disappointing part. 

The visual effects and all the settings are just breathtakingly beautiful. I take my hat off in front of the dragon itself. It was one of the most gorgeously designed dragons I’ve seen in a long while. From how it moved, to all the little elements they added to make it all feel real. I especially loved how they designed the fire she was breathing. It was more like lava, and it worked perfectly. Since I talk about the dragon in great detail, I will mention the greatest thing in the movie: Shohreh Aghdashloo, the dragon’s voice. I swear to God, this woman could tell me the most boring story in the world, and I would still just sit there and listen to the whole thing. Her voice is something out of this world. I also love seeing her in person (I highly recommend The Expanse, where she has a significant role), but if I can just hear her voice, I know I am watching or playing something excellent (looking at you, Mass Effect). Shohreh is perfect in this movie as the dragon’s voice; she embodies all that power but, most importantly, all the pain that is in the beast’s heart. The second I first heard the dragon speak, I nearly jumped out of my skin. It was so perfect. 

This movie is far from boring, with some incredibly thrilling sequences. However… it is time to talk about the bad things… 

Elodie facing the Dragon

Big, dramatic sigh

Oh, those missed opportunities. How I wish they wouldn’t have left you all in the dust. 

You see… the movie’s whole cave setting reminded me of the fantastic The Descent but instead of the awful humanoid crawlers, it had a bigass dragon trying to eat the protagonist. And they do lean into that claustrophobic feeling that a narrow and dark cave can give people… for like 2 minutes, and they let it go. This is one of the biggest chances they missed with the entire concept. If they had used more of the setting itself to REALLY make those goosebump moments memorable, this movie could have easily been a nine out of ten because when they used the setting, it produced some of the best scenes. But they were so relentlessly working toward getting the suspense out of the way and progressing the story itself that these incredible moments didn’t have time to last.

But the even bigger mistake that this movie carries is that some things are so dumb in there that I had to pause it for a second to gather myself. 

First, they want us to believe that all the princesses sacrificed to the dragon survived a fall that no one would have survived otherwise. But they did, and some of them even got deep into the cave, surviving not only their encounters with the dragon but two near-death experiences before they arrived at a “safe spot.” How do we know this? Because we watch Millie Bobby Brown nearly dying twice before getting to that point, and then find the names of a bunch of princesses carved into the wall. BUT EVEN BETTER! They have a map on the wall! So one of them – it’s implied that it’s a girl named Victoria – not only went through the EXACT same route that Elodie used, but after discovering the potential escape route, she was kind enough to go back to the safe spot and put everything on the wall for others.




*sigh* I really should finish my screenplay, I swear… 

Anyway. The sins do not end there. Oh no, no, no, no, no… I love Millie. I truly do love her. And she is excellent here… for the most part. But the end… The end is a fucking cringe-fest. I literally could not control the way my entire body, mind, and everything cringed. The way Elodie walks in at the very end, after telling the truth to the dragon and returning to the evil royal family’s castle to stop another wedding from happening, I swear to God I got secondhand embarrassment. Millie Bobby Brown turns into one of the worst actors at that moment and I am not even joking – I wish I was. The line delivery is laughable, the way she so visibly tries to look cool as fuck, it’s the worst thing almost ever. If you don’t ever want to watch Damsel, I can compare this entire end scene to that one viral scene from another Netflix original, The School for Good and Evil, where the good girl turned baddie makes a reveal appearance, making audiences gag in horror. I don’t know what the creators were thinking, but let me tell you one thing… 

Many have tried to capture what Sigourney Weaver delivered as Ellen Ripley in the Alien movies, and so far, everyone has failed miserably. Because Ripley is a badass without even trying. She doesn’t have to look cool, or be tough, or say lines like: “Because I am a woman” or anything like that. She goes in and does what she is supposed to do, and it’s all done. 

And the thing about Damsel is… and their BIGGEST LOGICAL FAIL… is how they fool the dragon. You see, the sacrifice to the dragon is needed because centuries ago, a King from the same bloodline massacred the dragon’s children, and in order to save his own life he promised to give up his 3 daughters who are of royal bloodline then and every generation to come. The way they trick the dragon is that during the ceremony, before they drop the girls in the cave, they cut the prince and princess’s palms and put them together, and the smell of the royal blood fools the dragon. THEY LITERALLY COULD HAVE GRABBED ANYONE FROM THE STREET TO DO THIS WITH. Nothing here says that they have to fool other kingdoms, trick the daughters into marriage in such an elaborate way, and have them sacrificed when all they are doing to fool the dragon is cutting their palms. OH MY GOD, THIS IS SO INFURIATINGLY DUMB. They wanted to make another girl boss movie, but there’s logically nothing here that makes that work. And Millie Bobby Brown is a good actor, we all know this, but this whole: “I’m gonna ACT tough” at the end shenanigan just proves that in the hands of a not-very-good director and writers, for that matter, even a good actor can turn bad. 

Elodie, the Brave

Are you gonna be entertained when you watch Damsel? Yes. Absolutely. Honestly, it’s worth a watch, even just for the dragon itself. Will it be a memorable experience? Eh… probably not. Is it a bad movie? No. It’s just a story that needed much better writing, not just on the story itself, but the characters too, and creators who were braver. 

I do not regret watching this movie at all. But I am very disappointed because, as I said, I do believe there was so much more here. 

Gets a 6 out of 10 only because Shohreh Aghdashloo is fantastic, and she deserves all the praise.

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Kevin Clawson
Kevin Clawson
26 days ago

I’m editing my episode where I discuss this movie and it’s almost exactly the same, down to the 6/10 rating! It’s just “fine.” Yes, it’s pretty, but so much of what was advertised doesn’t deliver. And I also praise Shoreh with almost the exact same words LOL

Drew Lewis
25 days ago
Reply to  Kevin Clawson

Agreed. Shoreh’s voice as the dragon was the best surprise and incredible casting choice.

Drew Lewis
25 days ago

I thought the writing wasn’t that bad for this up until the end…where it get’s a bit cringy to watch…but even then that’s a directors visual treatment. The blood transfer thing was pretty fucking dumb. The whole wedding bit was a bit of theatre that wasn’t really necessary. lol. I agree that it was a missed opportunity but I think they did a good effort on story and visuals to make this something of a Sunday afternoon hangover watch. haha

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