Cinderella: the classic fairy-tale that has been retold and translated across time and space; the very story that gave step-mothers and step-sisters a bad rep, and little girls a penchant for dashing Prince Charmings. Classics fairy-tales such as Cinderella are like oil wells for authors (who would modernize the story) and movie producers (just look at money-makers A Cinderella Story and The Prince and Me). Gosh, even Youtubers are making parodies of sorts to poke fun of the viability of fairy-tales in real life.
So of course, as the creator of the animated film from 1950 that brought Cinderella alive, Disney gets to cash in on Cinderella. Twice.
By making a live-action film of Cinderella.
Seeing how Disney was the production company behind Cinderella (1950) that I’ve re-watched like a kid on sugar high, I had mixed expectations of this film. On one hand, Disney could produce yet another smashing version of Cinderella (the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, right?). But on the other hand, the 1950s version would be hard to top. To be a good remake, it couldn’t be an exact replica of the original (because what would be the point), nor could it be over-compensated by special effects and weird characters to differentiate itself from the original such that it would be too distracting. Scarred by traumatizing remakes such as the Wizard of Oz, I didn’t know whether I was ready to give up eight bucks for a “maybe”. However, in the end, I decided that if Disney was brave enough to remake Cinderella into a live-action movie, I should be brave enough to watch it.
First things first, I was blown away by the amazing costumes. They were so beautiful and detailed. Every scene was like flipping through a fashion catalogue. The guys looked dashing, despite the tights, and the ladies were glowing. They made me want to throw on a corset and crinoline, and prance around in a castle even though I know I’d probably be unable to breath in corsets — beauty is pain, after all.
The chemistry between Cinderella and Kit (Prince Charming – yes, he has a name this time) is much more apparent in the remake. Their chance meeting in the forest was the cutest thing ever as they couldn’t seem to take their eyes off each other. This was refreshing as compared to the original, where the Prince seemed to be more entranced by her beauty than her personality. However, during the ball when Kit was showing Cinderella his secret place, the chemistry felt more artificial, and it seemed like the two didn’t know what to say. But, I guess it is difficult to portray love between two people when they’ve only known each other for a few hours, so the effort to make the attraction gradual is commendable.
I also liked how this Cinderella seemed to have more of a backbone. As the movie rolls on, it becomes evident that Cinderella is patient with her step-family not because she’s a pushover, but because she refuses to stop looking after her family home. I liked how she has to constantly remind herself to “be kind and have courage”, because it shows that she’s human, not a saint. She finds it difficult to keep her promise to her parents, but she does, nonetheless, because she’s strong. I think that makes a vast difference from the original Cinderella, who seemed like a ditzy girl taken for granted by everyone.
One thing that really bugged me was how the characters kept dying from illness. It was irritating to see them kill off characters with a crappy excuse. Not only was it uncreative, it was unsatisfying. I mean, I’m sure medicine wasn’t as advanced before as it is now, but how could it be that people were so conveniently dying of sickness just when the storyline requires them to? There were bandits lurking everywhere in the past. Why couldn’t Cinderella’s dad – a merchant – get killed by them instead of randomly falling ill on a trip? [Budget constraints? Ed.]
Before watching the movie, I was highly anticipating Cate Blanchett’s performance, because not only is she one of the more experienced and critical acclaimed actresses in the cast, she’s also playing the elegant yet villainous Lady Tremaine. I was also excited to watch Helena Bonham Carter as The Fairy Godmother— duh. Bellatrix Lestrange using magic to help a muggle? Oh my, Voldemort would probably Avada Kedavra her to outer space.
Said actresses do live up to their name, although I was disappointed by Helena’s lack of screen time. She made a comedic, quirky and likeable Fairy Godmother, who I actually loved more than the original sweet and grandmotherly Fairy Godmother. I liked how they included the classic line (“bibbidi bobbidi boo”) which invoked a bit of nostalgia for me. Cate Blanchett made an great Lady Tremaine. She was sophisticated, and yet amazing at portraying the desperate emotions of Lady Tremaine. At some points, I even felt sorry for her.
Honestly, although I entered the cinema with expectations of which actors or actresses I thought would be good or bad, I ended up having to acknowledge that the cast was perfect. Lily James made a great Cinderella, despite people saying that she’s “not pretty enough”. I found that she was able to portray the inner beauty of Cinderella very well, considering how it’s inner beauty, which isn’t supposed to be easily shown, it’s a praiseworthy feat. Richard Madden (Prince “Kit” Charming) was a exemplary male lead who had great chemistry with Lily James, and does a wonderful job of looking like he was in love with her.
To sum up, Cinderella (2015) is a good remake, and its earnings at the box office are very well-deserved. It is a great follow-up to it’s animated film. I would recommend the film if you’re a fan of the animated film, and want to see your favourite characters come alive. However, if you’re expecting something new, or a twist to the original film, this remake is the wrong place to look.
Disney plays it safe by keeping close to the animated film, which could be a blessing or a curse. It could have potentially been the next best thing if things went right and people liked the change, but it could also have became another failed remake. But I guess we’ll never know.