Movie Review: Mirror Mirror- A Visually Intriguing Fairytale Adventure That Has No Tension, No Relevance, and No Substance
It must have been an odd conversation when atmospheric director Tarsem Singh was asked to do an arguably childish centered adaptation of the classic Snow White tale considering his filmography deals with serial killers (The Cell), manipulating children (The Fall), and the violent repercussions of defying the gods (Immortals). He certainly is an innovative filmmaker when it comes to the visuals of his films and his latest, Mirror Mirror, is no different. The bright colors, the unique costumes, and the strangely alluring set designs fill this Snow White adaptation and distract you only momentarily from the lack of substantial plot and the overtly childish presentation. Now a film that is an adaptation of a children’s tale should arguably be relatively innocent, but the truth is that this adaptation even lacks some of the darker elements of even the rather tame animated version from Disney. This incredibly light tone is obviously meant for the children they are hoping to attract for audience viewership and in doing so leaves nothing for the other members of a family looking for entertainment beyond cliché slapstick scenarios or fairytale morals.
Mirror Mirror is a version of Snow White that is slightly different in plot than traditional interpretations. It opens up with an interesting, though unnecessary, animated exposition told from the perspective of the evil Queen (Julia Roberts) who claims this is her story and not the brat Snow White’s (Lily Collins, or Phil Collins daughter). It is told to us that Snow White was given everything by her father until he disappeared after marrying the narrator evil Queen. What makes the Queen evil beyond her vanity? Well she doesn’t necessarily care about anyone else, even the starving village people who are overtaxed to supply the Queen with her lavish parties. But there really isn’t a threat throughout the movie because it takes a too lighthearted approach to all the darker elements due to the fact that this is aimed at children. Even children films used to not shy away from portraying evil as it rightly was if you can remember Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty and Scar from The Lion King. Even Yzma from The Emperor’s New Groove had more bite. Lighthearted presentation has its place and there are moments where the charm of Tarsem’s adaptation is enjoyable but those are incredibly rare as the lack of audience grip results in boredom.
The fantasy genre is unique because their fantastical worlds requires them to have grounding in reality, either in theme or character, so that we will understand the actions within the film. This is where a moral to the story comes in handy so that audiences connect with the troubles and solutions on the screen. While suffering, hard-working people getting their money usurped from them via unjustified high taxation is a reason to get behind their plight it isn’t really the core problem in the story for the main character, Snow. She is a caring and innocent girl who cares more about others than her royal self but her inevitable decision to actually fight back against the evil Queen is a result of her love, The Prince (Armie Hammer), being taken away from her. Love is a noble cause but it just comes off selfish in this fairytale adaptation where personal morals should overcome personal desire. Unfortunately the rather bland plot becomes more evident as the majority of the characters become less and less interesting or unique. Luckily the cast has some stand outs in personality to give the rather forgettable film some worthiness of the time spent in the theater.
Considering the film centers around Snow White there really needs to be a dynamic actress in the role to catch our attention and keep it. Lily Collins aesthetically fits the role quite well and though the script is too thin to give her room for creative interpretation she has enough class, beauty, and grace to keep the film moving. Her acting experience in the mainstream is quite limited (The Blind Side) so it is refreshing to see someone less known given the opportunity to embody a well-known fairytale persona, instead of the extremely boring Kristen Stewart who we have the unfortunate opportunity to see as Snow White later on this year. It isn’t necessarily Julia Roberts’s fault that she is over the top because the tone of the film requires her to be just that. However, Roberts’s presence becomes more of an annoyance than a threat she needs to be in order to make the film work. There are countless other actresses of her age and caliber (by that I mean minimal) that could have made the role work far better. Armie Hammer can either add nothing to a film (The Social Network) or make it worse (J. Edgar) and luckily for him he adds nothing to Mirror Mirror. All of the dwarves give the film a likable tone and thanks to all these underappreciated small actors they make it a relatively enjoyable experience in those rare scattered moments. Considering how good they all were, is it time we started hiring little people for regular roles no matter their height? (Although Ricky Gervais’s new show “Life’s Too Short” did comment on this in hilarious fashion).
The resurrection of the fairytale is happening as we see more movies themed on these old tales and even television shows, such as “Once Upon a Time” and “Grimm” to name the newest few. Entrusting our favorite fantasy childhood stories to Hollywood is a drastic mistake that, unfortunately, can’t be avoided and we might be horrified at their creations. Mirror Mirror isn’t a horrifying Frankenstein creation but it isn’t a worthwhile or memorable adventure either. Tarsem’s unique visual eye gives the film some credence but the overly lighthearted script has no relevance, no substance, and ultimately no point. Those who reluctantly pay money to see this movie might enjoy some moments where the Dwarves and Lily Collins shine with their fun personalities, but as the end approaches you’ll realize there was no tension or danger that actually exists in all of these beloved fairytales. Just wait though because this is the beginning to witnessing all of your favorite childhood stories be butchered by the uncreative drones that fill up the ranks in Hollywood. Hopefully it will be a quick fad that will die as soon as Hollywood finds the next market to rape and exploit.