© Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Germany GmbH

U.S.A. 2015

Opening 12 Mar 2015

Directed by: Kenneth Branagh
Writing credits: Chris Weitz
Principal actors: Lily James, Hayley Atwell, Cate Blanchett, Helena Bonham Carter, Richard Madden

The classic princess tale of Cinderella makes a lukewarm return in an uninspired, but visually stunning, live-action adaptation of the Disney animated classic. While it is at times charming, the whole picture feels held back by its animated predecessor. Cinderella remains the naïve and beautiful young girl unfairly taken advantage of by her wicked stepmother and stepsisters, which seems rather two-dimensional to modern sensibilities. All attempts to add more depth to the script, such as giving a little more emotional complexity to the wicked stepmother, unfortunately fall flat. This is undoubtedly due to the unwillingness of the script to deviate too much from the storyline of the original animated film. Perhaps the best examples of the resistance to story changes are the sentient animals, so charming in the original animation, but rather ridiculous in a live-action setting. Also, the idea that the prince needs to have the slipper placed on the foot of every woman in the kingdom feels patently absurd. Does he truly not remember that he was with a beautiful, skinny, blonde woman for much of the party? This is never properly addressed and just acts as a reminder of how sloppily the script was adapted.

Despite all of that, the great redeeming aspect of the film is its production design. The story may be silly, the actors may be playing cardboard cutouts, and Cinderella may annoyingly repeat “Have courage and be kind” so many times that one wishes she could be gagged, but the beauty of the whole film almost makes it all worth it. Production designer Dante Ferretti, set decorators Casey Banwell and Francesca Lo Schiavo, and costume designer Sandy Powell really brought magic to the screen. In particular, the way that the sets and the costumes match in their coloring and patterns is a visual treat. Every aspect of the set right down to the wallpaper is carefully designed for maximum effect. Sandy Powell’s costumes are an absolute dream, above all those worn by the stunning Cate Blanchett. The power of these visuals is the true strength of Cinderella and make up for its other weaknesses making it a worthwhile film to watch.

Despite its flaws, Cinderella has enough redeeming qualities to make it a success and a worthwhile watch for the whole family. Its beauty and charm make it a worthwhile successor to the animated film, if not a particularly original or modern one. (Rose Finlay)

Second Opinion

Director Kenneth Branagh and Walt Disney Pictures attempted a new makeover of this 1950’s classical animation tale of Cinderella by using a secret weapon: Sandy Powell, the three time British Oscar winner for her costume designs. She is known for films such as The Aviator, Shakespeare in Love and The Wolf of Wall Street. At the press conference in Berlin, Powell said that “it is a costume designer’s dream come true and the biggest challenge is to live up to the expectation of every six-year-old girl’s dream.” And that is exactly what she had set out to achieve by building costumes that could possibly qualify for a set design sculpture rather than a costume piece.

Lily James, who played Cinderella, explained, “the dress was so magical but it was quite painful. It was very tight. We each had to have our own separate tents because the dresses were so big.” Helen Bonham Carter, who played the fairy godmother, indicated that they had about four feet between them because of the width of the dresses and said that Sandy is a genius but comfort was not a priority. “We were eight feet wide so we couldn’t actually get close to each other.” She explained further that due to it being a night shot, they were quite cold. She made us all laugh when she described her feelings about this dress. “My dress was extraordinarily creative; I have never worn anything like it and don’t hope to wear anything like it again. I was a walking lamp. I had 4000LED lights inside it. I had a fifteen-pound battery packed in my bum and had a lovely young man from Belgium who worked for Phillips who would come up and turn me on.” The wicked Stepmother (Cate Blanchett) wore symbolic clothes such as the color green which symbolized her jealousy and, joined together with her wicked attitude, made a very strong statement. Blanchett that she enjoyed playing the wicked parts since she didn’t need to worry about being liked. So it looks like Sandy Powell is going for her fourth Oscar. The sets were equally amazing. Branagh explained that they used 2500 candles in the chandeliers which were wicks set in in oil that had to be changed every twenty minutes to give that magical ballroom its glow. It just gives you an idea of how labor intensive this film really was and how important the timing was to be successful.

However Branagh implied that they were trying to give a more contemporary view of this classic by shedding some of the traditional ideas such as the prince doesn’t come in and save the day but that they would be ruling as equals, the poor citizen with the royal family. It continued on with the annoying 1950’s idea that the woman’s role is still to have “courage and be kind” which was repeatedly stated. It made me think they were trying to imbed it into my brain subconsciously while the Prince Charming character still remains flat even to the end. More than half the film was a narration, and I kept waiting for the film to get started, which happened the minute the fairy godmother arrived. The pumpkin transformation into the coach was definitely a scene that saves this movie. And I definitely want a pair of those glass slippers since they deemed them to have a comfort fit. This movie will fit the shoe of every little girl’s dream but the slipper has some cracks for those adults giving it some serious thoughts. (Shelly Schoeneshoefer)

Third Opinion

The Walt Disney Studios brings to life a feature motion picture of the classic fairy tale Cinderella. The Disney Classics film vault opens up to reveal timeless images of the studio’s 1950 animated masterpiece. Their unique images give birth to a version of Cinderella for a new generation. To magically enchant the human soul the new film showcases fully-realized characters, elaborate costuming and visually-spectacular cinematography. The spirit of the studios’ founding father, Walt Disney, truly lives on.

Disney’s animated film version of the classic fairy tale is honored by the American Film Institute’s list of the "Ten Greatest Animated Films of all Time." It is by far one of the Disney Studios most beloved works of art.

The fairy tale came to life with Disney’s release of their 1950 animated version, but the story dates back to the first century. The story of Cinderella is now found in over 900 different cultures. The Disney Studio explains, “The earliest known version of the story is known as the Egyptian tale from the Greek historian Strabo.” Adding, “In 1697, Frenchman Charles Perrault’s interpretation was published under the name Cendrillon or The History of the Little Glass Slipper. He introduced the fairy godmother, pumpkin carriage and glass slipper. In 1812, the German Brothers’ Grimm interpretation known as Aschenputtel, replaces the fairy godmother with a bird.” Throughout time some parts of the story have been altered. Perrault’s version is most similar to Disney’s animated Cinderella. The thread of Cinderella’s message remains intact: goodness triumphs over wickedness. (Karen Pecota)

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