Disney continues their live-action series of adaptations with 2015’s Cinderella . Unlike 2014’s Maleficient, Cinderella is a pleasant surprise.
BIPPITY BOPPITY AWESOME
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for your entire life, you likely know the story behind Cinderella. In case you haven’t, here is a brief summary (with a few small twists): a young girl named “Ella” lives with her Mother & Father in a peaceful kingdom. Tragedy strikes early in the story, with Ella’s Mother succumbing to an unspecified disease, putting a wrench in your gut mere minutes into the film. Ella’s Father is a travelling Merchant. Due to his constant traveling, he finds love after love in a woman named “Lady Tremaine.” The two marry and Tremaine and her two daughters move in with Ella and her Father.
CINDERELLA, ELLA, ELLA, EH, EH
If you thought it was tough to watch Ella’s Mother pass away, you didn’t have to wait long to witness sadness again as Ella’s Father became ill while on the road and died. Ella is now stuck alone with Tremaine and her step sisters Drisella and Anastasia. Tremaine is not fond of Ella, having been jealous of Ella’s Mother. Ella essentially becomes the house’s maid, waiting on the others hand and foot. She is soon after given the nickname “Cinderella” when cleaning out the ashes in the fire place.
Ella eventually meets “Kit,” a charming young man who clearly is moved by her charm and presence. Unknown to her, Kit is the only son of the soon-to-be deceased King of the land. The two part ways after a brief conversation. Back at the palace, Kit is discussing the upcoming Kingdom Ball. The Ball will serve the purpose of finding a Queen for Kit when he becomes King. In an effort to find out who Ella is, Kit opens up invitations to the entire Kingdom.
Ella then meets her Fairy Godmother, who helps her with a makeover and wardrobe upgrade. Of course, we see the infamous glass slippers that grace Ella’s feet. The Fairy Godmother places a spell on Ella that ensures she won’t be recognized by people that already know her. Upon arriving at the Ball, Kit is completely infatuated with Ella and requests a dance.
The couple goes outside to get away from the crowd when Ella realizes that the magic she received will wear off at midnight and all that was changed will reverse. As she is running away, one of her slippers falls off. Kit collects the slipper.
After the King passes away, Kit decrees that every woman in the land must try on the glass slipper. This will ensure that he finds his “true love.” Kit finds Ella in the end, as the slipper only fits her foot perfectly. The two wed and run off to rule the Kingdom together.
The film’s overall visuals and computer-generated effects are an upgrade over previous recent Disney films. The Mice look about as genuine as they could and this was an important thing to nail due to the frequency of their appearances. They play a big role in the animated version and were required to in this version. Settings such as the forest where Ella meets Kit look alive and colorful. The reason I emphasize the presentation seen in Cinderella is due to the fact that I felt Maleficent’s was brutally lacking. So much was left to be desired, but Cinderella’s scenic appearance blended magnitudes better and was therefore not a distraction.
Ella’s house is just how I imagined it would be – elegant and very artistic architecturally. From the dining room to the attic, it’s clear that time and effort was put in to make every detail important. The Kingdom was particularly impressive, bringing to the forefront the absolute size and scale of the surrounding area of the main hall. The inside of the palace was equally impressive, showing the sparkle and shine one would expect such royalty to have.
The characters’ wardrobes were superb. Ella’s blue dress was stunning. Her glass slippers? Even better. The slippers were gorgeous and very realistic in appearance. Sitting in the theater, it seemed that if I was able to pick one of them up, they would indeed be very heavy. The gowns and clothing worn at the Ball showed a big variation in style and color, which was a pleasure for the visual senses.
One flaw that was evident occurred during the Fairy Godmother sequence. The animals that were turned into humans simply looked sloppy, particularly the Lizards. I understand the need for showmanship and performance, but this essentially made me aware I was watching a fairy tale and pulled me out of my immersion. To put it in a gamer’s terms, it was equivalent to playing a Playstation 2 game on a Playstation 4.
Whereas the cast for Maleficent was downright bad (minus Angelina Jolie, of course!), Cinderella featured a strong cast worthy of the story. Lily James stars as Cinderella. I felt Cinderella could have been better cast, but my complaints were few and far between for Lily’s performance. She doesn’t possess the natural beauty you would envision Cinderella having and her enthusiastic nature made her more Alice In Wonderland than Cinderella. She just wasn’t as likable as I needed her to be and she didn’t feel like a princess.
Game of Thrones’ Richard Madden plays Kit. He looks the part of a Prince and his mannerisms support that. In addition, he makes Cinderella more likable. The always superb and legendary Cate Blanchett took on the role of Lady Tremaine (aka The Evil Stepmother). Blanchett used intimidation as the “antagonist” and rivaled Jolie’s performance in Maleficent. Despite the natural instinct to want to love Blanchett’s character, you can’t help but want to despise her as the villain and that is what makes a truly quality performance apparent. Bringing a Disney cartoon villain to life is no easy task.
The major surprise of the film was Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother. I can’t recall a performance of her’s that was delightful or simply worth remembering. She absolutely nailed this role and made it her own. And hey, she certainly looks much more appealing as a blonde (clearly they have more fun). Her short time on screen held my gaze closer than at any other moment throughout the story.
The handful of other actors and actresses were not notable. Most of the performances were downright cheesy, including James’ at times. The first ten minutes of the movie had me turned off due to the nature of the characters’ interactions with each other. I remember thinking to myself “hey now, let’s roll it back!” Thankfully, this did not remain a constant theme throughout.
Cinderella was a film that I had very little expectations for. I am pleasantly surprised how much I have thought about the movie since I left the theater. This should give movie goers hope and optimism for the next batch of Disney reimaginations.
+ Film has its own identity while remaining faithful to source material.
+ Great performances from Carter and Blanchett.
+ Most scenes featured well polished visuals and settings.
– Over the top, cheesy performances from actors at times.
– Certain CGI elements were poorly constructed.
Check out Geekiverse’s review of Maleficent here.
Josiah LeRoy is Geekiverse’s Senior Editor. You can catch him on Twitter hopefully crying tears of joy for his Buffalo Sabres.
Photos from top to bottom used from: