Hey everyone! So starting this month I'll be doing something new. Serialised creative stories, a chapter a month (hopefully more once I switch to part time for my paying job). Once the story is then finished I'll be bringing them together into a novel. So be ready for the first Chapter of Bed of Thorns; a sci-fi re-telling of Sleeping Beauty. But speaking of fairy tales, lets look at Cinderella.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of the Disney Princess genre, there are very few films in that genre that I will skip, even the ones that are Disney knock offs rather than actual Disney. So I went into the new live action Cinderella with decently high expectations, I wasn't expecting anything ground breaking but I also wasn't expecting to leave disappointed.
Rather than just going through the movie we are actually going to do a compare and contrast, with the animated Disney Cinderella and the live action Ever After staring Drew Barrymore with the new Cinderella film. Which is a straight remake of the animated one and yet tries to ape the strides that Ever After took and falls woefully short.
Let's look at the environment first; Cinderella of all of them most looks like it takes place in a fairy tale world. It's bright colours and flawless costumes, it has a world that looks remarkably clean. The Animated movie in contrast is very contained, there aren't any scenes of the outside world from her house until she goes to the ball; and Ever After is a fair dirtier movie. Pledging itself to some degree of historical accuracy... some.
The environments: set up clearly the tone each one is going for, the animated movie which focuses more on how Cinderella is contained to help contrast how special it is when she goes to the ball; the live action which is more interested in setting up a world where magic is possible and characters that are archetypes rather than characters. Ever After however is far more focused on character and making the fairy tale more like a possible event than a parable.
Speaking of characters lets really look into the meat of the issues here, the characters.
The Prince: I'm a little torn if I like the Prince in Ever After or the live action Cinderella more; Ever After's prince was a tad more flawed. Vulnerable to pride and making the mistakes that come with it, so his relationship feels more deserved, the both have flaws they need to get over. The live action prince is torn between love and duty but we don't see much more of him beyond that; however Rob Stark (Richard Madden) does play a whole hearted charming prince who any Game of Thrones fan will be happy to see finally wind up happily ever after.
The animated price is the least developed prince of all the Disney princes; and that is saying something.
The Step-Mother: This is one of the closest races there is; each of the portrayals have their own strengths. The animated step-mother is straight up evil, it's an incredibly menacing performance there is no effort made to try and humanise her. The animated step-mother gets points for simply being the most memorably evil. Ever After and the live action both try to show the step-mother as being evil from hurt caused by their new husbands never giving them love and instead showing Cinderella as his only family. However nether really does anything with it and Cate Blanchett turns evil far too quickly for there to really be any chance of understanding. Anjelica Huston on the otherhand, has over a decade to turn Cinderella into a slave and displays occasional moments where it's suggesting her own pain is causing her to inflict this pain on Cinderella.
They try a similar thing with Cate Blanchett, however Blanchett is playing it as evilly as the animated movie and every attempt at humanising her comes off as shallow. There is a moment when things really could have been tied together; Blanchett's character says that she married to give a chance to advance her daughters and there is this implication that she resents Cinderella for being this idea women who could marry a prince while her daughters are too inadequate to get advantageous marriages. But no, they don't tie it in with this sub-text of how society places restrictions on women, she destroys any chance of having her character ever be redeemable by saying she is cruel to Cinderella as Cinderella is good an innocent... And that's it. That is her motivation. Blanchett really is far too good for this role.
The animated movie, like most Disney animated movies of the past, is not interested in humanising the step-mother. She is cruel and evil because some people are just cruel and evil. While this villain could have slipped by, they did such a fantastic job animating her; really the animated movie really is just incredibly powerful in it's small moments. Especially with Cinderella, however we'll get to more in a moment.
A poorly humanised villain is simply more frustrating than painting a villain with the broad brush of saying evil because evil. So even though I do love Anjelica Huston and Cate Blanchett it simply has to go to the animated step mother. Brilliantly drawn, classically cruel and controlled giving a fantastic subdued but constantly threatening performance, Eleanor Audley is the best evil step-mother.
The supporting cast: Wow, I spent a lot of time on the step-mother, let's speed through some of the supporting cast. The step sisters are usually just comic relief, although occasionally effort is made to humanise Anastasia/Jacqueline, although usually it is just done by making her more of a push over by her mother and step-sister. It doesn't excuse what she does, just makes the audience feel bad for her as well. We'll give this to Ever After for having the two sisters actually act differently and not being unbearably annoying.
The fairy god mother, it's surprising that this character is usually the least interesting character, they really are only there as living deus ex fairy. A plot device to get Cinderella to the ball. Da Vinichi from Ever After is our stand in fairy god mother and is the most developed... but that isn't saying much. Have to go with the animated one for some bibbidi-boboidi-boo action.
The animals; no one wins on this one. The animals are either way to prominent in the movies, just there to reference the animated movie or not there are all.
Cinderella: Now Cinderella often gets a lot of flack for being a problematic character; she's one of the most passive Disney Princess's. Tying with Sleeping Beauty as the most passive in fact. So a lot of modern interpretations seek to address that; they give her character and chances to prove himself. Ever After is perhaps the clearest example of this, making Cinderella well learned, and keen to escape the situation she's in but without any means to; she suffers through the movie but when she is given a chance to rescue herself she does. Animated Cinderella is a kind and caring person, still totally good hearted despite the abuse she has suffered.
The new Cinderella attempts to marry these two concepts and ends up being the weakest part of the movie and why the movie ends up failing as a whole. The motto of the live action movie is have courage and be kind. This motto is repeated endlessly and is why the prince falls in love with Cinderella before the ball and why she is able to talk to animals and why the fairy god mother shows up for her. Cinderella is never courageous however, she is a doormat. Cinderella is well learned in the new movie, she has skills and intelligence that would allow her to find a life outside of her step mothers control and became a servant when she was old enough to escape, and is shown to have friends who could assist her living outside of the house. In fact she does try to escape, but decides it is cowardly to run away from the abusive situation she is in.
It was cowardly for her to run, because she says no doubt many people have it worse than she does.
... ... ... oh movie... no.
Contrast this with the animated movie, again in this Cinderella never escapes, however we are given no evidence to suggest that she could. Cinderella has lived like this since she was a child, we don't know that she has ever been outside the house. She also doesn't take the abuse in the same way; again I have to praise the animators who managed to give a lot of quiet dignity. Cinderella carries her head high at all times, its a small little sign that she isn't broken; it isn't until her dress is ripped that she finally breaks down. The dress tearing scene is chaotic and emotional; I've heard some refer to it the closest Disney has ever gotten to depicting a rape scene. And it was, until Maleficent and the scene where she wakes to find her wings removed. In contrast the live action scene has a sleeve ripped, that's it. Just one small rip; the scenes just can't compare in emotional weight. Movies have a simple language, which is 'show don't tell'. The animated movie never needs someone to exclaim the moral as 'have courage and be kind', Cinderella shows it through her actions alone and is rewarded for it.
It is really just hollow in the live action Cinderella movie; Cinderella claims to be endlessly kind and the film ends with her forgiving her family for the abuse. Yep; she forgives her abusers. Not gains some understanding about their motives, or any appreciation for the difficulties the Step Mother might face as a single mother in this time period. Nope, forgiven without question... they still get banished from the kingdom along with the duke who dared to stop the King marrying a peasant girl to protect the Kingdom. So, justice is served?
The live action movie really doesn't bring anything new to the table, although some great character work is done with the Prince and the King, it just adds nothing to the 'canon' of Cinderella. It is inferior to the animated movie it tries to improve upon. Meanwhile I love the hell out of Ever After and the animated Cinderella film; both are different however and each do succeed in what they are attempting.
I'll be updating again on the 20th as I turn the other passive fairy tale princess Sleeping Beauty into a sci-fi heroine.
The Lego Movie want's you to be a kid again, and is the best version of Batman in a while. Spoilers.
These day's it seems like a month doesn't go by where I am not brought to a mouth foaming, red haze level of rage by the news that some old franchise is getting a big budget Hollywood remake, as the Nostalgia dollar seems a far safer bet than trying to float an original thought. However I wasn't brought to this frenzied state by the news of the Lego movie, partially because unlike the old T.V shows or mobile apps that will be coming out in the next few years, Lego doesn't have a story. It has an aesthetic, it is a canvas. As such there were plenty of stories that could be told, plus Lego had built up a lot of good will from me for it's continued success in making great games off of popular franchises.
When the first trailer came out, I became excited. When the first reviews hit the stands from America (due to Australia getting fucked over with release dates... again), I avoided spoilers but my expectations were set even higher. People loved this film.
So when I finally sat down in the theatre did it meet my expectations? Was the incredibly high bar set reached? Yes, pretty much it was. It's always more fun in reviews to disagree with popular opinion than to heap more praise or scorn on a properly already buried under it. However the Lego movie just holds up, it's creative, it's vibrant, it's fun. And oh how I have been missing fun in movies.
We enter spoiler territory now, so really, if you haven't seen it yet. Back out now and come back after the movie.
I said that Lego was a canvas, that it could be used to tell any story. And that's true, what at first appears to be a chosen destined narrative which we've seen a hundred time but subverted with anarchic humour turns out to be the story of Lego. It's the narrative of creating, of not always following instructions and just doing. It's the narrative of anyone who ever played and was told to stick to the rules.
The chosen one narrative we see is that Emmet, the most unremarkable man in the Lego world is in fact destined to defeat the evil Lord Business who has a plan to end the world with his special weapon, the Kragle. A group of Master Builders, those who can build beyond the instructions given, are there to help him. In particular the resident wild girl love interest but has a boyfriend character... aptly named Wyld Style.
This is worked both into the destined narrative and the twist. The whole story we've been watching is a child at play, and certainly hints are dropped throughout the movie, still the reveal was nice and the scenes in the real world worked well. A father has been collecting and building Lego sets, his son sneaks down and puts the Lego worlds together, mixing pieces and creating new works. That the father is taking the toys of youth and rigidly confining them to the 'correct' way of enjoying them is the heart of the movie, and the reason that Batman is so central.
The Lego movie is saying that perhaps...
A gritty, dark, reinterpretation...
Of something as joyous as a child's toy...
Isn't a good thing.
Batman is after all the character most readily portrayed as the gritty face of superheros, the dark brooding loaner, and the one who always seems an inch away from snapping and killing everyone. Despite the fact he has perhaps the largest network of immediate allies, friends, and what is essentially family in the Robins, Alfred, the Batgirls, the Bird's of Prey, and his international network of Batmen. To the point where his gritty-titus has crossed over and affected his best friend Superman...yes you read that right, not enemy, not ideological opposite... Friend... AHHHHDJHSILJD DC STOP IT!!
Sorry... Back to Lego
Another thing the film does is to completely subvert the 'chosen one' narrative, the prophecy... completely made up. Our resident, Morpheus/Dumbledore/Gandalf/Obi-Wan Kenobie (even though some of those are present in the movie) is Vitruvius... played of course.. by Morgan Freeman. In what is clearly a last ditch effort, he has made a prophecy, because it can be the push to cause those needed to believe in themselves, rather than guarantee any one person can do it. While it's fairly obvious this ties more into the idea that everyone has the spark of creativity in them, everyone at times plays. I'd like to believe that is a bit of a dig at how many movies have begun using 'Destiny' as a narrative crutch because it's easier to explain.
I MEAN COME ON... WHY DID YOU NEED TO MAKE HIM MORE LIKE JESUS??!!
Right... Sorry... The Lego Movie...
A thing I've heard a lot from people having seen this move, 'this was my childhood'. Mostly from those who Lego and a parent threatening to glue it was actually present, but it still touches what seems to be a fundamental aspect of childhood. That desire to break the rules and see what can be made in place.
That most kids, will just wing it..
It' s a Bat Pun.
In 2002 the Disney corporation released a re-imagining of the novel Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, the difference being that they set the story through space with steam-punk technology. When this came out Disney was is a bit of a downwards spiral, they had direct to video sequels coming out frequently and 3D animation of Pixar was on the rise, which is why I am so surprised that an original concept came out of Disney at this time. Steampunk is on the rise in popularity these days so even if it's a concept you haven't heard of you probably will have seen an example of it somewhere. Panic at the Disco's 'Mona Lisa Smile' video clip for instance features sets, costumes and props from some of the biggest names in steampunk, or you may have seen *shudder* Justin Beibers 'Santa Claus is coming to town'. Alternatively slight steampunk visuals were used in movies such as Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus or Robert DeNiro's skyship in Stardust.
I never saw Treasure Planet when it came out in cinemas, and didn't see it on video till very recently, and I was genuinely surprised at not only the risk the movie would have been for the comany but how well they did it. Certain aspect aren't as strong as other Disney movies, while the background music is good it's not to the level of other Disney Movies; however since this is not a musical it dosen't hurt. The main problem is the mixing of the 2D and 3D animation. Often the computer generated back drops, while designed beautifully just dosen't fit properly, this can be difficult for immersion. You're pulled out of it by this, although I doubt this is a problem for a younger audience the movie is targeted towards however. Finally a point that I had never considered was raised by Doug Walker (The Nostalgia Critic) in his brief review of the Treasure Planet. That being, that he simply wasn't able to get into the setting. I've been a fan of steampunk for the last 5 years or so and it's something I took to very easily so I hadn't really considered that other people would have difficulty in understanding this mix of Victorian and futuristic. For those who are confused a quick definition of steampunk as I understand it.
The word means the mixing of steam engine Victorian setting and punk rock of the 80's, it's developed a bit from that but essentially its a genre of alternate history. It takes the idea that steam engines became the main source of power rather than electricity so everything still has a very grundgy look to it, with copper and brass being the main construction tools and cogs and wheels being used so often it's pretty much to the point of decoration. The clothing is all reminiscent of the Victorian era, through corsets, top hats, blouses and bonnets.
While the genre is growing in popularity from conventions and costuming into movies, books and as mentioned video clips it still isn't common place and it a bit of a geek sub-culture.
So those are my problems with the film, what is it I like. First off the designs are pretty spectacular, I really would have liked to see more of them but they give a real sense of wonder to the movie. The 2D animation is top notch as always for Disney cinema releases. The real strength in this movie comes from something that Disney is not known for, and thats character and relationships. This movie feels like your watching real people and not fairy tales and thats incredibly rare for Disney. When Disney changes the original source material it's to make it more child friendly, to make it safer. In Treasure Planet they have the father of the hero Jim Hawkins leave when he is a child. Not die nobly, not pass away off screen but leave. This integral change made the story more focused on the relationships which are done perfectly. Jim is played off as an intelligent but rebellious misunderstood boy, and if I read that I would have rolled my eyes. There are few character descriptions more overused than that apart from wise, mystical mentor figure doomed to die. However they handle it well, you can see the Jim's acting out does come from an actual place of pain and he does allow people to change. He's not a rebel just to try and appear cool. Giving the character father issues does also play into the relationship he has with Captain Silver, you see how much they go to care for each other. You believe their interactions and the ending is more satisfying because of this and reminds me of the same kind bitter-sweet closure you get at the end of Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
Fighting against nostalgia, as this is one of the few Disney movies I didn't see as a child, I find it sitting in my top Disney movies of all time. Not a hundred percent sure where it exactly fits in a list but perhaps that's something I could look at for future posts. But regardless of that this is a movie that is really worth a watch. 8.5/10
In the spirit of being just a little behind the times I've spent the last few days getting through series one of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. I never watched the series as a child due to a life threatening allergy to anything remotely girly or pink and as such stayed away from this reboot of the franchise. But then something happened, a good friend of mine told me it was amazing. A male friend. A male 19 year old friend. This confused me enough to investigate the first couple of episodes. And my God, was I hooked.
A lot of criticism, deservedly so can be passed to the original. There was no conflict, any songs were terrible, there was no real characterisation. As mentioned I hated anything that was girly, and there wasn't much that was more girly then 'My Little Pony', so I never saw the original series. For a better idea of it, you may want to check out the nostalgia Chick's review. The Nostalgia Chick - My Little Pony
Friendship is Magic fixes a lot of these problems, not fully though. The conflict started off really promisingly in the first two episodes, there is a lot of build up to the release of Nightmare Moon, and our main character Twilight Sparkle is forced to find a way to defeat her. The ending is a little sweet but this is a kids show so I'm prepared to let that slide, but the villain is made good in the second episode and then no one else replaces her. There is an individual conflict in each episode that genuinely relates to some sort of Sunday school message about racism or being a good sport; but I really feel it's lacking for not having a real villain. The idea that girls don't dig conflict is one I don't get, I don't think that you will loose your audience of little princess just because there is a bit of magic flung at an enemy.
The songs... oh the songs. What can I say about the music. A friend of mine who refuses to let me show him the episodes can't get one of the songs I showed him out of his head to my immense amusement. A real effort has been made to make them enjoyable and catchy, a few fans have in fact remixed several of the songs into techno beats. Bellow is an example of one of the bests.
Aside from the theme song this is the first musical number we get, and my lord what a good way to link into the characterisation. This is where we see the main difference between the old and new. The characterisation is unmistakable and there is no possible way of confusing say Fluttershy for Rainbow dash or Pinky Pie. Pinky Pie is incidentally the character singing, and to quote my friend Adrian's favorite line from the show, 'Pinky Pie you so random'. I don't really know how to describe her, I think most of the images in the video clip speak for itself so I will not focus on the other characters.
Rainbow Dash is a fast tomboyish, and rather proud, but never seriously, sports fiend. Fluttershy is the opposite the animal lover and soft spoken shy one in the group... you may have noticed that the names reflect the personalities slightly, and by slightly I mean simply restating it in condensed form. From this we look at AppleJack, a country hard working girl with a strong accent. A friend of mine watched the episode on racism and made the point that the most racist pony seemed to be Applejack the 'redneck pony', whilst I did giggle at this I don't think it holds up too much weight. As for the plot to work they needed one of the ponies with a younger sibling, and the only one at that time with an established younger sibling was Applejack. Latter on however we would be introduced to the little sis of Rarity, a prim and proper designer. Finally we have our main character, the only one whose name doesn't seem to represent her character at all Twilight Sparkle. Our main character and a serious and studious book worm. There is even a large variety of side characters with personalities on which I won't go in to.
As the characterisation is so strong it should come as no surpise that I had viewed the writing as the real difference between this show and the original My Little Pony. There have been a number of writers who worked on the first season and all seem very talented, but the cohesion of the whole show had made me believe there was a single writer, so I instead checked out the wikepedia entry and found the driving force behind it appears to have been the animator Lauren Faust. Who had previously worked on Fosters Home for imaginary Friends and Powerpuff Girls. Both shows that have had popularity with demographics older than their intended audience as such it shouldn't be too much of a surprise that this has been more popular with 19-24 year old males than the 9-12 female demographic it was aimed at. With things such as references to Benny Hill. Yet, as with many things that develop unexpected success, it really lies in controversy.
Originally coming under fire for negative undertones of racism... because in the first episode the bad pony is black and the white one good (I really don't think this person watched more then five minutes of it) fourchan's creator saw the controversy and started to investigate. This led to the flooding of meme's of the ponies on fourchan which then continued to spread through the adult audiences. Proving yet again that if you hate something and find it offensive, the best thing you can do is to ignore it rather than publicly crucify it.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.