Sunday, March 15, 2015

Magic of Cinderella Still Strong Thanks to Branagh And Excellent Cast

Classic cartoon, with a brand new view
With Blanchett and Branagh too
Put them together and what have you got?
130 million, plus 2 (worldwide, that is)

When Kenneth Branagh announced he was going to make Cinderella into a live-action movie, people knew he had a hard act to follow. The animated version from 1950 is considered a classic and (as the latest Princess Rap Battle mentioned) helped Walt Disney's studio finances. For months, the only details we got was Cate Blanchett has a cat on a leash, and the famous glass slipper.

Despite what some critics like Time and Vox say, Branagh has made a great new version of the well-known story who goes from scullery maid to belle of the ball. Sorry, guys, but we can't change the story.
Maybe after Frozen got so popular after the princess winds up saving herself and her sister, it made all the other traditional fairy tales a bunch of stale cliches, especially a woman needing a man to save her.

Well, it may be traditional, but this new version adds some more details to make it more well-rounded. It actually has back-stories. We see Cinderella when her parents were both alive. We get a little more insight about why the Evil Stepmother, Lady Tremaine, is so sour, and thinks marrying off one of her daughters will raise her standard. Some may argue that it proves Stepmom and Cinderella are both stuck in the "getting a man will save me" cliche.
However, it's just not them. Even though the Prince is having the ball to choose a bride, there's some intrigue thanks to the Grand Duke (Stellan Skarsgard), since he's already chosen a bride to help the kingdom politically. That's an unusual detail to add to the story, the exceptions being The Slipper and the Rose and Ever After (and arguably A Cinderella Story and the ABC Family follow-up).
Besides, so what if Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) is Cinderella's mom, who tells her with her dying breath to be brave and kind? She might be right, Peggy's orders.

Lily James is a vision as Cinderella, who uses her mom's advice through her life, even in the face of how Stepmom and the step-sisters Anastasia (Holliday Grainger) and Drizella (Sophie McShera, Downton Abbey) treat her. However, she isn't that much of a pushover, especially in the final act.  Blanchett is really mean as Tremaine, but again, this version adds some details to her to make her more real. She gets very jealous not only towards Cinderella but the memory of her mom that she and her dad have. The scene where the stepmom and her daughters rip Cinderella dress, just like in the original, has more meaning here.

So how about the Fairy Godmother? Helena Bonham Carter looks like a tall Kristen Chenoweth, but she is still quite a hoot. Even though she doesn't sing "Bibiddi-Bobiddi-Boo", she certainly uses it. The best part is when she tries to turn a pumpkin into a coach, Oh, and she also plays two other roles in the movie, including one at the start.

Richard Madden is also great as the Prince, who's called Kit here. He uses that alias when he first meets Cinderella in the forest, as he's hunting a stag, This gives the sense that maybe this is destiny. So, when they meet at the ball, it's not exactly love at first sight, but second sight may be convincing. It's also great to see Derek Jacobi as the King, who wants the best for his kingdom and son.

While some may say this year's Cinderella may not be revisionist enough, they will rave about the costumes designed by Sandy Powell, especially her dress.
Also, Branagh knows how to set up scenes. As the Grand Duke is worried about Cinderella ruining his plans, guess who's off to the right listening to everything? He also chooses the right time to show Cinderella break down, losing her faith in what her mom said to her. Then there's the ending, when Cinderella does the worst thing possible to her stepmother. At least, according to the stepmom.

So this new version of Cinderella may seem to be too traditional for our times. Branagh wanted to make a live-action version of the 1950 movie. He succeeded by recreating the old look, and adding details to make it a classic on its own. No wonder some people would like to see him direct another Marvel film. Doctor Strange, anyone?
It also gives the crew who will make the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast something to shoot for in two years. At least having Emma Watson as Belle is a good start. She was almost Cinderella.

Before the movie, we got a taste of what Frozen 2 will be like with Frozen Fever. It's an extended mini-musical with Queen Elsa planning her sister Anna's birthday. Problem is, Elsa has a fever, and there's an interesting side effect that could lead to a boost in sales at Disney stores. You'll see what I mean.
The main sing, "Making Today A Perfect Day" may not sweep the country like "Let It Go", but it's still a nice tune. There's also two connections with the original story, too.

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