Much has been said about how there are two Snow White films coming out in 2012 but chances are, given their different approach and tone, none of that is even necessary. Suffice it to say that Tarsem Singh's take on the popular fairytale is an incredibly fun, visually stunning and entertaining one.
This March, “Mirror Mirror” comes out in theaters. In summer, audiences will be treated to another Snow White adventure, this time a gloomier, bloodier and darker one, with “Snow White and the Huntsman.”
Either because of the stars attached to them (on one hand: Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer and Lily Collins; on the other, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth and Kristen Stewart), or because they simply happen to draw for inspiration on the same fairytale, they have been considered “rivals” of some sort.
We'll try to have a look at “Mirror Mirror” on its own, completely ignoring said rivalry.
Fans of director Tarsem Singh will most definitely recognize elements of his daring, but ultimately financially disappointing passion project “The Fall” (2006) in “Mirror Mirror.”
Once upon a time, in a land where people were so happy they danced day and night without stopping, lived a King (Sean Bean).
His wife died in childbirth and, in the hope of having little Snow White (Collins) grow up with some female guidance in her life, he remarries the most beautiful woman in all the land – who also happens to be the Evil Queen (Roberts).
As in the fairytale, the King dies and Snow is left with her wicked step-mother, who tries her best to present her in the most negative light possible to her own people, whom she doesn't hesitate to drive into the ground just to satisfy her whims – and, in particular, her desire to remain the fairest woman in all the land.
At some point, while on a walk through the woods to get in touch with the reality of her people, Snow meets Prince Charming (Hammer).
Prince Alcott, as he is known, is handsome – of course! –, rather snobby, very well spoken and often times unintentionally funny.
No wonder both these women, Snow and the Queen, are fighting for his affections, with the latter really going all out there to get him to fall in love and marry him.
The Queen, you see, is broke, but she is also too vain to marry an old and ugly baron, so she's set her eyes on the charming Prince Alcott who, in his turn, is completely head over heels in love with Snow.
Without revealing too much of the plot, suffice it to say that the narrative doesn't play out as one might expect, but neither does it stray too much to warrant being labeled a spinoff of sorts.
While Collins (“Abduction”) might seem like an odd choice for such an iconic character, her being cast starts to make sense mere minutes into the film: there's a certain sweetness, quiet beauty and adorableness to her that one must surely find irresistible. At the same time, she's also valiant and inspiring when need be.
Most importantly though, Snow is a fighter and somewhat of a feminist, without any of the negative implications one might derive from the term, for one reason or another.
Collins is not the one who owns the film, though because, as expected, all credit goes to Julia Roberts and, to some extent, to Armie Hammer.
Julia Roberts might seem at first like a dog that's all bark and no bite, but there's a streak of unspeakable cruelty underneath her sarcasm, her bitter humor and terribly deceivingly, megawatt smile.
Luckily for moviegoers looking to make “Mirror Mirror” a family's night out, she never gets the chance to show just what she could do if she didn't restrain herself – or let her incapable sidekick do it for her.
Portrayed in all the promo materials as the goofy cast addition, Hammer pours himself into the part and delivers his performance with such gusto that it's almost hard to decide who does it better – himself or Roberts – whenever they're in the same scene.
There's also a lot to be said about Singh's vision of the fairytale: by the inclusion of clearly closed spaces (the entire action plays out in no more than three sets, the castle, the woods and a street in the town, all visibly shot in the studio) and panoramic, open spaces (shots of the castle from all sides, and of the mountains around them), he creates that distorted, abnormal but in a pleasant way feeling one gets in dreams – or, yes, in fairytales.
The same goes for chronology, which is an aberration from start to finish. Viewers will note that Snow trains with the Dwarves for what feels like months, but only some minutes have passed in the main narrative, long enough for the Prince to get from the castle to the woods.
Costumes are another element through which the director creates the impression viewers have stepped into a fairytale: they're colorful, they're elaborate and, most importantly of all, they're huge.
All of this, aided by silly jokes and lots of earnest feeling from the seven Dwarves, contributes to make “Mirror Mirror” one of the most entertaining and lovable films of the kind to come out in years.
Children will most definitely love it, but adults looking for true escapism should also give it a shot, especially since it has some double-entendre jabs that will get them all giggly.
“Mirror Mirror” runs for 106 minutes, and is rated Rated PG for some fantasy action and mild rude humor. It's now playing in countries in Eastern and Central Europe, will open in the US on March 30, the UK on April 6, and will end its run in the Netherlands on April 25, 2012.
The visual element is very strong in this film, from the way the characters are dressed to their surroundings. However, it's Julia Roberts and Armie Hammer who own “Mirror Mirror,” giving it their all to make it the funniest, most family-friendly and entertaining film of the kind in recent years.
Some aspects of the plot will seem underdeveloped or downright silly – but only if you go into “Mirror Mirror” somehow forgetting that it's based on a fairytale.
“Mirror Mirror” got off to a wrong start the moment moviegoers and critics started talking about it by comparing it to “Snow White and the Huntsman.” If you keep an open mind and allow yourself to be engulfed in the story, you will see that, indeed, as the tagline says, “The Snow White legend comes alive.”