Kenneth Branaghís Cinderella Could Do With Some 'Frozen'-style Girl Power
If this is the price we pay for the UK invasion of Hollywood, perhaps film-makers should give us a little more all-American attitude
The Guardian, 21 November 2014
Revisionism is the word when it comes to Hollywood fairytale movies in the 21st century. Tim Burtonís 'Alice in Wonderland' saw the titular heroine returning to the Carrollian underworld as a young woman, while last yearís 'Oz the Great and Powerful' was a prequel to the story of the wonderful wizard. Meanwhile, 2012ís 'Snow White and the Huntsman' imagined a battling beauty in a swords and sorcery style epic. Exactly what take the film-makers behind excruciating rival Julia Roberts effort 'Mirror Mirror' were aiming to employ remains shrouded in mystery, but it was certainly different.
Kenneth Branaghís 'Cinderella' was reportedly put into production by Disney following the rampaging box office success delivered by Burtonís film. So the most striking point to be taken from the debut trailer for the movie, which has just hit the web, is that there doesnít seem to be very much new here at all. The actors in this live action version are largely British, no doubt thanks to the huge US popularity of 'Harry Potter', 'Game of Thrones' and 'Downton Abbey', while the 1950 animated classic featured an all-US-accented cast. There are no squeaky singing mice to be seen, and the ugly sisters (played by Holliday Granger and Sophie McShera) are really quite pretty. But elsewhere, Branagh appears to have opted for a relatively straight remake.
Cinderella, as essayed by 'Downton Abbey'ís Lily James, is still struggling under the evil hegemony of her wicked stepmother, now portrayed by Cate Blanchett. She is still reliant on a fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter) to help wrest her from this servile purgatory, and her life ambitions still seem to include marrying a prince and wearing a very nice dress.
Early on in the trailer we see Cindersí late mum, played in flashback by a blonde-wigged Hayley Atwell, teaching her daughter that all you have to do in life is be all lovely and everything will work out for the best. It must be noted that this is a feminist mantra conspicuously absent from the works of Mary Wollstonecraft or Germaine Greer.
If such a staid and bloodless approach is the price we pay for the Anglicisation of Hollywood fairytales, Disney might have been better off plumping for some all-American attitude. From the look of the trailer, Branagh does not seem to have brought any of the verve and poise he delivered for the excellent, cod-Shakespearean Marvel comic book movie 'Thor'. Blanchett and Bonham Carter are guaranteed value on the feistiness front, but shouldnít we be entitled to expect a little more firepower from the filmís heroine in the 21st century?
Perhaps the problem here is the distinctly old-fashioned subject matter. There is a reason 'Cinderella' is one of those stories routinely trotted out for pantomime performances: the simple storyline lends itself to entertaining very young children. It follows that we should expect little more from the big screen version, but then Disney itself has raised the bar when it comes to this type of thing.
Spectacular worldwide box-office smash 'Frozen' may have mined gold from a similarly-pitched, magically-themed tale of medieval princesses, but it did so by radically jettisoning outdated attitudes towards romance and defined gender roles in favour of barmy snowman sidekicks and kick-ass girl-power show tunes. Maybe Branagh is planning a third act in which Cinders decides against marriage to Richard Maddenís handsome prince after petitioning Bonham Carter to magic her up a source of independent wealth (rather than a pointless carriage thatís only going to turn into a pumpkin at midnight anyway). But going by the blissed-out look in Jamesís eyes, I rather doubt it.