Mar 13, 2015

Alternative to What: "Mirror Mirror" (2012)

Welcome to Alternative to What: a weekly column that tries to find a great alternative to driving to the multiplexes. Based on releases of that week, the selections will either be thematically related or feature recurring cast and crew. The goal is to help you better understand the diversity of cinema and hopefully find you some favorites while saving a few bucks. At worse, this column will save you money. Expect each installment to come out on Fridays, unless specified. 

Mirror Mirror (2012)
- Alternative To -
Cinderella (2015)

It is likely that everyone already knows a lot of older literature based on the films that are being churned out by studios, specifically Disney. With their quest to do annual brand deposits, Cinderella comes across as the latest entry to remind us of another film that we just so happened to like from many decades ago. I don't know if there's any taboo to actually just rereleasing something that appeals to audiences (though new money is enticing), but it does feel like a question on what exactly is new and being brought to the story that is worthy of this remake. Yes, there's plenty of subtext in these short stories that is likely beneficial to each director giving them their own take. With Kenneth Branagh at the helm, I'm sure that there's something more to it than visual similarities.
However, there are few cases that are worth noting as the 2012 double header of Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. In both cases, the story of Snow White was updated to the modern ideal with both being a different form of feminist power. However, one was a droll action film and another embraced the giddiness in ways that not only made it successful as a kids film, but possibly one of the more enjoyable and unique princess films of the decade so far. In Tarsem Singh's film with Lily Collins in the lead, there's plenty of room for whimsy and empowerment that goes side-by-side in a story that feels original enough to engage while staying loyal to the subject matter.
For the most part, Mirror Mirror was an odd departure for Singh in that he was coming off of darker films that while stylishly executed, dealt with unfortunate subject matter. With this film, he almost went too silly and it likely turned off audiences immediately. However, it was all part of a bigger execution. With Julia Roberts in a supporting role, the script managed to be wittier than the trailers, which relied on groan-worthy statements such as "Snow way," which thankfully didn't make the final cut. The film as a whole is one of the purest family films to come out in quite awhile.

For starters, it was a story that was true in its subject. However, when it chose to address the conflict regarding beauty, it went in a far more interesting direction. With lush costumes, there was more time to focus on Roberts' character, whose obsession with beautiful was played to a more comical effect, choosing to comment like an aging housewife with odd remarks. Among the slapstick came the film's dissection of beauty in ways that were different and actually gave the story a more complex study of gender roles.
This is only because Collins as White was something else. Yes, the film does play into a few too many dumb characters for humor's sake, but it presents a compelling case for altering the female gaze of White. She saves the Prince (Armie Hammer)  in one fight and ends up saving the day overall. While it is a male-dominated world, there's a sense that White is striving to be different from the expectations. She doesn't have a shallow obsession with beauty. Even if you don't focus on this interesting text, the film is still kinetic and fluid in ways that prove that sometimes adapting old materials can be allowed to take liberties.
I cannot comment to Cinderella or its quality. It has gotten rave reviews, but what exactly will be different about it? I am not opposed to seeing if the film manages to update the source material in new and refreshing ways. However, there's a difference between Disney's current trend of brand deposits and the adaptation that Singh brought to the screen. There is both a need to stay loyal and bring something important to the story. I don't exactly know what could be brought to Cinderella, but we're living in an era where there's countless knock-offs of this story. Hopefully the one who mastered it decades ago will have a few tricks up its sleeve.

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