DIRECTED BY: Tarsem Singh
WRITTEN BY: Jason Keller, Melisa Wallack
STARRING: Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane
RUNNING TIME: 106 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
As told by Queen Clementianna, Snow White’s mother died after giving birth to her and her father, the King, then raised Snow White so that she could rule the kingdom one day, but then disappeared, leaving her his favourite dagger. Snow White is now 18 years old and hated by the Queen, who rules the kingdom with an iron hand. Meanwhile Prince Alcott of Valencia is out seeking adventure and with his servant ventures into a wood where they are robbed and strung up by dwarf bandits. Into the woods comes Snow White, who is discovering the truth about her beleaguered people, and when she finds the Prince she frees him. They are immediately drawn to each other. Somebody else has designs on Alcott though and that person is Clementianna, who will stop at nothing to get him………….
Considering that the last film adaptation of a fairy tale that inspired a classic Disney animated feature was the horrible Beastly, and that Tarsem Singh’s latest movie was the tedious Immortals, I wasn’t looking forward much to Mirror Mirror, especially when another screen version of the Snow White tale which looks a lot better is coming along shortly. Actually Mirror Mirror isn’t too bad, it’s reasonable, breezy entertainment which should keep the kids, especially if they are female, occupied and not bore the adults too much, and visually it is sometimes a feast for the eyes. If you know that it’s not going to take the story very seriously there is certainly some fun to be had. At the end though, you may be like me, saying to yourself: “that was….um….okay”. It’s one of those films where most of the effort seems to have gone on the production design and the costumes, which for some may be enough, but its constant lack of faith in the story it is supposed to be telling irritated me considerably.
It begins with the evil Clementianna narrating the beginning of the story, which is interestingly visualised in the first minute or so with rather odd animated doll figures, but scriptwriters Jason Keller and Melisa Wallack already feel the need to drop in odd, almost condescending touches, such as having Clementianna say that in those days nobody had jobs and just sung and danced all day. As we get more and more into the tale, it becomes apparent that this is only very loosely based on Snow White and even seems to mix in elements of other stories [and not all of them fairytales], such as a Cinderella-type ball and a romantic forest meeting between hero and heroine as in Disney’s film of Sleeping Beauty. For a while, it even seems like we are watching a strange version of Robin Hood as the dwarves train Snow to become a robber like them so they can give from the rich to the poor. Then again, come to think of it, a later encounter between the Prince and Snow White seems to pinch from the Antonio Banderas version of Zorro.
Some of the ideas added to the story do work well. The dwarves have an ingenious way of making people think they are tall. Clementianna’s reflection which never ages is a neat variation on The Portrait Of Dorian Gray. A section where Clementianna bewitches Alcott and turns him into a human dog is very funny in a stupid way, and a scene where she uses puppets, replete with strings, to attack, slightly scary. Many other things don’t come off though, chief among them for me being the hero being a dunce and the predictable transformation of the heroine into a tough, fighting woman who is even able to best the hero in a fight. I have said before how I am tiring of this ridiculous politically correctifying [yes, I know it’s not a proper word] of every story, so will not moan about it anymore. In any case, probably more annoying is its changing of so many of the key events in the original story; I don’t expect every adaptation of something to be exact, but when it is Snow White who has to awaken the Prince with ‘love’s first kiss’ and the poisoned apple is presented but never actually eaten, you just wonder what’s the point?
I doubt anyone would complain about the design though, which is stunning throughout. Many interiors carry on Tarsem Singh’s interest in gold from Immortals and are gorgeous to behold. Clementianna’s chamber seems to be a normal room on one side and on a kind of balcony the other, yet we never see where one meets the other. Her surroundings look like extensions of her gowns. Snow-covered sets really look like sets and this really pays off, creating a lovely fantastical environment. The costumes by Eiko Ishioka, who recently died, are simply outstanding, making her work on this movie probably her greatest achievement [and that includes Bram Stoker’s Dracula]. When people are gathered for the impeding wedding of Clementianna, we are given an eye-popping, almost psychedelic collection of gaudy designs and bright colours which is absolutely dazzling. Some viewers may also be pleased that Mirror Mirror has rather more action than the trailer, which emphasised the comedy, makes out, and that some of the comedy is quite good. The interplay between the dwarves is terrific, and Nathan Lane has some great scenes as Clementianna’s put-upon right hand man, but too many of the funny lines exist on their own rather than as part of some funny dialogue.
Neither Lily Collins nor Armie Hammer convince in their roles, but I think this is in part due to them being so badly written. As for Julia Roberts, she is fun as a conniving, cruel villainess, but dominates the film too much. Still, it is a surprisingly strong performance by an actress, who adds a bitter sarcasm to virtually every line, I have never really rated. Alan Menken, usually writing music for Disney films, provides a nice old-fashioned symphonic score with some strong themes, though it sometimes suggests a better film than the one we have got. Which is okay, all in all, and great just to look at. It will do until the version with ‘Huntsman’ in the title comes along, anyway.