Saturday, April 7, 2012

Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror is the first of two big-screen adaptations of the Snow White fairy tale to grace movie screens this year -- and with Snow White a central character to the TV show Once Upon a Time's mythology, it's undeniable that Snow White's star is on the rise. Mirror Mirror is a glossy, colorful confection of a film where the visuals are the undeniable star, leaving the story a bit...hmm...lacking. I have to think this is due in large part to director Tarsem Singh's background as a director of music videos and commercials, and his previous films like The Immortals. Visuals are of course a critical part of any film, but as a personal preference I generally like to see them complemented by a decent script, and that is where Mirror Mirror falls short. That said, this movie has a good heart, and the child in me that's loved fairy tales since -- well, ever since I can remember, loved Mirror Mirror's lush, romantic, over-the-top style.

Perhaps the most striking aspect of this film's promotion was the introduction of Julia Roberts, America's one-time silver screen "sweetheart," as the "Evil Queen" of legend. Her on-screen reputation coupled with her larger-than-life costumes make Roberts the most self-absorbed, and frankly silly Queen that I think I've ever seen on film. She's selfish and petulant and whiny, and while to some extent it's a fun change to see Roberts play this very anti-heroine type of character, the script doesn't give her Queen any real sort of menace. She has magic, or rather utilizes it, but there's never any whys or hows, or real rhyme or reason -- instead it is just accepted as a matter of course. Without much in the way of context, this queen is just petty and mean, you know? But she has some pretty amazing clothes. And I'm not gonna try and deny it, the red peacock dress kinda rocked my world (red being my favorite color and all). :) Also, I did think it was interesting how this film handled the whole "magic mirror" thing -- so the mirror was in fact an extension of the Queen's psyche? Thoughts?

Lily Collins as Snow White is perhaps one of this movie's strongest assests character-wise. The Mirror Mirror princess is never meant, I think, to be a completely post-modern radical, so as a princess cut from a more traditional fairy tale mold Collins fits the bill nicely. She has the youth and delicate beauty that makes her an ideal film princess, very much cut from the cloth of the traditional legend. However, this Snow is no complete wilting wallflower -- she grows up a lot in this film as expected by modern standards. But she's not as perhaps quite revisionist as as other modern princesses of her ilk (think Rapunzel in Tangled or Snow White in Once Upon a Time) -- more of a stepping-stone, a midway point between traditional fairy tales and more recent, radical retellings. This Snow is kind and sweet, socially conscious and spunky, and very, very game, especially considering some of the costumes she has to wear in this film (particularly the swan ballgown with its ridiculous headpiece, ha!).

I was rather concerned with Armie Hammer's casting as the heroic Prince Alcott. The more I saw of Hammer in the promotional materials, the more he just didn't appeal to me as a princely type -- and that is a big drawback when it comes to the romantic escapist factor of fairy tales. But you know, Hammer really grew on me as the film progressed. Anyone who can sell adoration towards the princess in question while giant rabbit ears sprout out of his top hat deserves some credit, hmm? *wink* Hammer carries much of the film's silliness on his shoulders and to his credit he seems game. Also, I liked the fact that he could be patently ridiculous but still well-meaning and likable, if that makes sense. The "puppy love" sequence which got a lot of play in the movie trailers unfortunately becomes one of the movie's longest-running gags. But I liked the "twist" that sees Snow awakening her Prince with a kiss, instead of vice-versa, and I'm enough of a romantic sap that the Prince's declaration following the kiss made me met a little inside. :) Oh! -- I cannot forget to give the movie props for accentuating Hammer's 6'5" height with the Best. Coat. EVER. I don't think I've ever seen a coat swish to more dramatic effect.

The script tries really hard to be slyly modern and self-aware, and most of the time it felt a bit awkward. I really think that overall the film would've worked better if they'd played thing straighter with the source material and not concerned themselves with jokes about the ridiculousness of Snow's name, or the penchant for townspeople in fairy tales to dance and sing, etc. :P The script doesn't really do anything new for the dwarves as supporting characters except make them bandits instead of miners, which does, admittedly shake up the legend -- but unfortunately doesn't result in any more well-drawn supporting players. Though I have to admit, I did find the dwarf Half-Pint's (Mark Povinelli) crush on Snow kind of sweet. :)

The end of this movie was interesting. In a surprise twist the fearsome beast the Queen had been using to hold her people hostage through fear turns out to be Snow's father. I don't know what the heck he was supposed to be, exactly -- part snake, dragon, dog, wolf?? Go figure. Anyways, I can only think that the film has Bean show up at the end in an attempt to lend the resolution of the storyline some sort of gravitas -- but for me, anyway, the Sean Bean ship sailed a long time ago. We're a long, long way from Boromir and Sharpe, I'm just sayin'. That said, I appreciate any fairy tale where the parents don't all end up dead, you know? Though it would've been nice to again have some sort of explanation for how the Queen's magic worked, or why she turned the King into a beast instead of just killing him outright.

I realize many are probably going to think I'm being way too hard on this movie, or that I didn't enjoy it all -- that's not the case. I just love fairy tales, and I love inventive, well-done retellings, and on the latter score Mirror Mirror falls a bit flat. It's well-intentioned and good-natured, but it suffers from a lack of focus in the script department. The visuals and costumes are a veritable feast for the eyes, but they don't completely atone for the storyline's deficiencies. And personally I think we really, really could've done without the Bollywood-style musical extravaganza over the credits as well (it should be noted that music-wise I really did like Alan Menken's vibrant score). That came completely out of left field. There's a lot to like here, and the world of the movie is undeniably, gorgeously-rendered on-screen -- this is eye candy I can't help but love, even when it is crazily over-the-top. :) But tone-wise Mirror Mirror can't seem to decide if its a straight fairy tale, a post-modern update, or some sort of mash-up of the two. (The Ella Enchanted film does a better job, I think, of balacing slapstick and camp humor within the trappings of an updated fairy tale.) Mirror Mirror is a colorful, candy-coated slice of cinema that will hopefully serve as an introduction to the glorious, imaginative world of fairy tales and the remakes in both books and films that prove how these classic stories have such staying power.


Rissi said...

Yay! Ruth's review of Mirror Mirror is here. =)

I really (really!) enjoyed this one. I think the more that I ponder it, the more sweet it becomes. Definitely will buy a copy on DVD, and am now considering that MAYBE I will "have" to see the second version in theaters, too.

Bollywood ending: That was likely added as a means to showcase Lily's voice - it was cute. Ella Enchanted is way sweet too, and this ending is reminiscent of that. As for Hammer... I liked him okay but I thought he was a bit too silly to be a great princely prospect. Still, everyone played their parts really well. (Sorry but I've got to say: Loved the dwarfs! The whole crush thing was TOO cute!)

Gotta' love those fairy-tales. ;-)

Unknown said...

@Rissi - Aww, thanks for you enthusiasm. :) I will be adding this one to my DVD collection at some point as well. And regarding the upcoming Snow White -- that one looks much, MUCH darker. Will be interesting to compare the two.

I think you are right about the Bollywood was cute. But I wasn't nuts about it. However, I'm always up for new takes on old favorites. :) Fun times!

Kristin said...

I'm hoping to see this for my birthday in two weeks, if it's still playing at our theater. :)

I've loved fairy tales for as long as I can remember, too, so I'm always up for a film adaptation. I think this one looks goofy and a little over-the-top but something I would still enjoy. :)

{I went through a phrase when I really loved the Ella Enchanted film. Then I reread the book (which I've loved since I was about 10 or 12 years old) and was so disappointed by all the changes. But now I think I'm back to the point where I could enjoy its silliness. :)}


Heidenkind said...

If Ella Enchanted is a better movie, then this must be pretty bad. ;) I was looking forward to this one more than the other because I like Julia Roberts more than Charlize Theron, but they both look pretty boring, in all honesty.

Jess said...

hmm, I admit to being concerned about much of the same things you were; really enjoyed your review!
And I'll definitely give this one a shot when it's out on dvd. I've been curious about both new Snow White adaptions since you first posted about them.

Unknown said...

@Kristin - Oh I hope you get to see this on the big-screen, Kristin! Though the script is a bit lacking, the costumes are amazing! Ridiculous at times but amazing eye candy!

I actually read the Ella Enchanted book 1st, and was as a consequence pretty disappointed by the film -- but my infatuation w/ Hugh Dancy won me over in the end. :)

@Tasha - I liked this for what it is...just had to adjust my expectations when it became clear it was all about looks vs. story, you know?

@Jess - Thank you! I hope you'll let me know what you think!

Charity said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charity said...

(Sorry, some of my words went missing.)

What you said about this film sums up why I'm not interested. I could tell from the previews that it would not be my kind of movie. It's a bit too silly and immature to suit my morbid tastes. I'm far more hyped about "Snow White & the Huntsman." =)

Kate Scott said...

I really want to see this. I know it's very different from Snow White and the Huntsman, but I'm curious to see how the two will compare ratings-wise. Great review!

Unknown said...

@Charity - No problem. :) I still enjoy a good bit of silliness occasionally...but yeah, the script problems here are going to ensure this movie isn't for everyone. I'm really looking forward to Snow White & the Huntsman...if only Kristen Stewart wasn't the star...I have yet to have a favorable tolerance of her on-screen. Curious how I take her in this film... (since, obviously, I am a total sucker for all things fairy tale related!) :)

@Kate - I hope you enjoy it! Thank you!

Luciana Mendes said...

(My comments have spoilers, in case some reader of the blog hasn't seen the film) Finally a review of this movie that talks about Armmie Hammer's coat! ;P Man, that's the best coat ever! I do sound a little bit crazy, but it has to be the best piece of costume! Ok, enough of the coat, I did like this movie, even with flaws in the script and all. Regarding how the king became the beast, I thought that it was the result of the excess of the love potion the queen gave him, but who knows... The apple thing got me thinking, did the queen eat it or not? Did she just go away and aknowledged Snow's victory? But I did like it, I had a lot of fun watching it. I really liked the twist of the princess having to kiss the prince to save him instead (I also love the scene with the gypsies in "Ever After" when Cinderella saves the prince \o/). It was the sort of feminist change I didn't mind. And I really liked the fact that in the end Snow can't save the things on her own, I mean, she's the one to cut the necklace, but she needed the prince and the dwarfs too, as the prince alone was not enough to help her. That was a very nice thing, to know you sometimes need others and there is no shame on it. I'm just sorry I had to watch it dubbed (I'm Brazilian) as the subtitled copies were all too late or too far from home, but I'll try to watch it again in English.

Deborah said...

Very late to the game but i just saw this movie this past week and surprisingly enjoyed it. I was going to pass it up (Huntsman is more of my type of movie) but one of my girlfriends decided to do a girl night out so we went. And I'm glad we did. Agree with most of what you said (LOVE THE COAT). I could not stop staring at Lily Collins' eyebrows. The one liners (and the mutterings) were hilarious. Slightly embarrassing but when Sean Bean is revealed, I literally yelled out in the theater (luckily there were only 6 people there) "OMG it's Ned Stark!!!! (huge game of thrones fan) and then because my friend doesn't watch GOT, i went "BOROMIR!!!" Yes I was shocked and pleasantly surprised that it was him lol. Though in the Bollywood sequence he looks so out of place. And I love Armie Handler like whoa...TWO scenes without a shirt!

Unknown said...

@Luciana Mendes - So sorry it has taken me a week to respond to your comment! Computer issues and a crazy week! Anyways, glad you appreciated Armie's coat too! :) Loved it. And I'm so glad you enjoyed the film is cute, was a very fun time, and I'm looking forward to revisiting it when it releases on DVD.

@Deborah - I'm so glad you enjoyed this movie too! I swear Armie's coat should've gotten billing it was so awesome LOL! And I know exactly what you mean about Lily Collins' eyebrows...they were pretty amazing. I mean kudos to her for owning that but WOW...not the norm out of Hollywood that's for sure! So glad you liked this one! :)

Li said...

Great review Ruth! Glad to know I wasn't the only one who noticed the whole coat swish with Armie Hammer ;) I didn't mention it in my review but I did enjoy that twist of Snow White's kiss awakening the Prince from the spell he was under =)

Unknown said...

@Lianne - Thank you! Gosh Armie's coat...AMAZING! :) Keeps me coming back lol!