"You shall not go to the ball."
This recent Disney trend of doing live action reboots of their animated classics could be frowned upon by many, especially with the recent news of a Tim Burton Dumbo remake, but of course one could argue that it is a damn side better than making terrible sequels such as Cinderella 2: Dreams come true, one of those rare films to score a critics consensus of just 0% on Rotten Tomatoes, so surely a remake can’t be worse than that can it?
You know this story, but assuming you don’t somehow, a young girl called Cinderella is abused and oppressed by her stepsisters and stepmother (Kate Blanchet) until she gets the chance of a lifetime from her fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter)
I can say immediately that though there are faults, the answer to my earlier question is in fact no. If you look at Rotten Tomatoes you can confirm that. Considering that I couldn’t understand why this film even had to exist, it’s pretty good. Last year we saw Maleificent criticised for being too flexible with the source material, so this adaptation appears to be sticking to it as closely as possible.
Make no mistake this is more or less the same Cinderella that you grew up with. Of course more recently that animated film appears to be devoid of most emotion that the company has started to include you would hope that this remake could include some depth to the story. Sadly it doesn’t have enough emotion beyond the superior acting of its cast to demonstrate any pushing of boundaries at all.
Kenneth Branagh is a director that knows visual magnificence in the smallest detail. Thor was impressive, as was the 1996 Hamlet adaptation. The same goes here with some brisk pace throughout in order to prevent the story that is extended by just short of 40 minutes from dragging. The style of Cinderella is refreshing but also serving as a small tribute to the original. The sense of humour also shows through absurdity rather than any specific moment, but it works well to create its own magical atmosphere.
As you might expect the shining star of this entire ensemble is Kate Blanchet. She’s given big entrances and gigantic scenes. She really does dominate every moment that she is on the screen and never allows the melodramatic nature of the story overcome her own acting ability. She treats the dialogue with the right amount of respect and severity in order to make it convincing, but not so much as to turn the idea of oppressing your step daughter and locking her in the attic as well as preventing her from socialising with anyone as depressing as it would be in reality.
Lily James as the titular character is impressive, but she never steals the scene on her own. More than once she just feels like a plot device being passed around between more important characters like her stepmother, fairy godmother and prince. Most of the time she demonstrates excellent charisma and attitude to make the character more three dimensional but against veteran actors she’s out of her depth slightly. As well as this Helena Bonham Carter seems to have spent too much time with Johnny Depp as his eccentricity appears to have rubbed off on her, the scenes where she is involved causes it to drift into melodrama, but then again she is the magical centre of the film so you could probably excuse that, not me of course because I demand realism from my Disney fairy tales damn it.
To Cinderella’s credit it does try to spice up the final act with a few twists that I won’t spoil, but they took a few risks and it mostly worked. Sometimes it doesn’t feel as if it played correctly to the rest of the story as the twist was slightly too sudden and unexpected. As if they had finished the script but then said ‘we need to make this longer, add this bit at the end’.
If you were disappointed by Alice in Wonderland (2010) and love the original animation then you will love this adaptation, probably.