Ever notice how many times Hollywood seems to put out pairs of movies?
Remember how when Armageddon was making Michael Bay a household name, Paramount Pictures and was releasing Deep Impact, an asteroid film that focused more on the drama than the action. Or how about when Finding Nemo came out and we found the crap fest Shark’s Tale muddying the waters? There’s also the 2006 duo: The llusionist and The Prestige. Sure they’re different in lots of ways, but they’re obviously both period pieces about magicians. And don’t forget that they both featured big draws: Jennifer Biel and Scarlett Johanssen respectively. It’s all very suspicious
This year, we’ve got the big studios attaching themselves to the idea that the movie-going public needs a pair of Snow White movies. Later this year we’ll see the Kristen Stewart (why, Hollywood? Why?) vehicle, Snow White and the Huntsman, but director Tarsem Singh’s offering is already out of the gate here in the Philippines: Mirror Mirror has been in theaters a week now.
To be honest, this film wasn’t really on my radar until a month ago when I found out that Tarsem was directing. He is the guy behind The Cell (can that really have been 12 years ago?) and last year’s The Immortals. He’s one of those guys who turn out movies that are a joy to look at. Mirror Mirror doesn’t change that perception. Every single scene in this movie is just filled with gorgeous set and costume work, right down to the doorknobs.
Costume designer, Eiko Ishioka, who has worked with Tarsem since The Cell, is a wonder. She’s made some awesome looking duds for the actors in this movie, and everyone of them screams for attention, while still fitting into the scenery. I felt like going through the thing in freeze frame, just to look at all the detail that was present. Sadly, Mirror Mirror is her last film: Ishioka died in January.
Tom Foden, the Production Designer, has also worked with Tarsem since 2000. Looking at the sets makes me hope that the eventual DVD of this movie has more meat on it than the one I bought of The Immortals. I’d like to be a fly on the wall during the meetings that Tarsem, Foden and Ishioka must have had to iron out all the scenes in Mirror Mirror. I’d love to see how they came up with Lily Collins’ blue and orange dress during the last scene (my girlfriend hated that thing, but I kind of loved it), or the unique look of the seven dwarves: a kind of steampunk-ish, fairytale aesthetic.
Though the look of the fable has changed slightly, the spirit of the original folk tale collected by the Brothers Grimm back in 1812 is mostly intact. Mirror Mirror is not as sweet a children’s tale as the Disney version, and it’s not as dark as the original text. Tarsem and his writers have made a more light-hearted, anachronistic comedy, with some action-adventure swash and buckle thrown in. Even when this film’s Huntsman (Nathan Lane) brings his Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow White’s heart as proof that he’s killed her, the scene is played for laughs rather than for horror.
One of the great things about the movie is that it feels as if the cast is having fun making it, and that verve adds a lot to the enjoyment of the audience. There is a scene where Price Charming (Armie Hammer) is dancing with Snow at the party. Though the dialogue isn't all that flash, you can see Hammer and Collins’ smiles and the fun they’re having getting to play around in this gorgeous set in these insanely detailed costumes.
Roberts especially seems to be enchanted by her dresses, radiating evil queen with every gesture, while still seeming to have that effortless charm she’s always displayed. She might be a manipulating hag, but you can’t help but love her in the role. While Collins isn’t as strong a presence as Roberts, she is a great choice for the part of Snow: vulnerable and soft spoken, but determined.
I liked Mirror Mirror a hell of a lot better than The Lorax. If I had a daughter, I would have no qualms about having a DVD copy of this in our library for her to watch over and over. Snow doesn't seem like a weak, Hollywood woman. Unlike a Disney's princess who is waiting around singing Someday My Prince Will Come, Snow isn't afraid to get her hands dirty and take back what the Queen has stolen. It makes for a pretty good bedtime story for any little girls in your life.
Ultimately, I think that’s why I liked it. I believe that if I was a kid again and still reading those dark fantasy books that you only found on the top shelves of your local library, this would have ranked right up there with my favorite films: movies like Legend, and Labyrinth and The Secret of NIMH.
And it doesn’t hurt that Lily Collins looks like a young Audrey Hepburn either.