Directed by Kenneth Branagh.
Starring Lily James, Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera, Helena Bonham Carter, Hayley Atwell, Stellan Skarsgard, Ben Chaplin and Derek Jacobi.
When her father unexpectedly passes away, young Ella finds herself at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and her daughters. Never one to give up hope, Ella’s fortunes begin to change after meeting a dashing stranger.
Re-boot, Re-imagining, Re-telling, Re-make, Re-hash, regurgitation… There are a lot of “RE’s” in Hollywood lately, some of them work… (Dredd, Evil Dead, True Grit) and some of them don’t… (Spider-Man, Total Recall, any recent Tim Burton films). Unfortunately the latest uh… re-telling, I guess… Cinderella falls into the latter, but its not all bad…
We all know the story so I’m not going to bore you with the glass slipper routine, it’s just a shame that the makers of this film didn’t have the same idea. I’m all for a film sticking to its “fairy-tale” roots, but it was all so incredibly close that I was almost dying for a bit of controversial artistic licensing; “Instead of going to the ball, Cinderella opened a small but modest cleaning company”. I mean it’s surprising for a film that surged on its opening weekend ($70.1 Million!) and is a sure-fire hit for Disney regardless, I was just bemused that so little here felt fresh.
The title role is played by Lily James of Downton Abbey fame but you may as well call her Cinder-Bot or Robo-Rella. Some of her lines were delivered with such stiffness you could have easily mistaken her for Sleeping Beauty or Snow White when she’s in that clear coffin thingy. She was perhaps going for coy or maybe meek but it came out more zorp and bleep. Some of the other cast members fare better, Richard Madden is nigh on perfect as the dashing Prince Charming despite not changing his trousers once in the ENTIRE film. Helena Bonham Carter is a lot of fun in the role of the Fairy Godmother, even though we’re only treated to 15 minutes of screen time. Don’t let those big posters fool you, she doesn’t even turn up at the wedding. Cinderella’s Sisters are a strange duo as they provide the majority of the laughs in the film, but one is kinda hot whereas the other is a little strange looking. I thought they were supposed to be the “Ugly Sisters”?
This film does undeniably belong to Cate Blanchett, who takes the role of the Wicked Step Mother and actually does something really different with it. She is unnervingly cool in her demeanor and is far crueller than she would have you believe. This is exactly what the film needs as it gives the viewer a sense of realism and stops those over-the-top moments from becoming too sugary for too long. The outfits that she wears are among the best designs for a film of this kind, some of the ballroom scenes are a feast for the eyes and you can tell that a lot of work has gone into the costume designs. Hats off.
Kenneth Branagh does an admirable job filming but it never really feels like he is flexing his directorial muscles here, a lot of the camera angles feel very ‘Safe’ with little or no risk taken whatsoever. A colourful movie like this deserves some clever cinematography, although to be fair to him the palace ballroom scenes are superbly shot. Some of the CGI elements of the film left me feeling a bit cold, while you can tell that a lot of money has been pumped into the special effects it doesn’t really hold up on the big screen. It would’ve been nice to have had more in the way of real animals etc, as it was quite obvious that they weren’t really there a lot of the time. This was highlighted with some particularly bad special effects in the ever crucial Pumpkin-into-carriage scene which kind of took you out of the moment.
Now there’s no denying that I’m probably not Disney’s target audience when crafting a film like this, it’s bright, loud and full of Schmaltz. I imagine that any girl from the age of 3 to 33 would probably enjoy the romance of it all, especially if they sing “Let It Go” more than a few times during a day. I do believe though that a film like this could appeal to more than just the Frozen generation, if Disney didn’t have such an old fashioned way of telling Fairy Tales.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Martin Burgoyne – Follow me on Twitter