Reinventing a Disney classic

The ugly stepsisters, the giant pumpkin carriage, the beautiful glass slipper. Everyone knows the story, so why bother remaking another Cinderella? Surprisingly, this remake of the 1950 animated classic is the only exception. It successfully maintains the spirit of the original fairy tale, is visually stunning and provides a good message on being a courageous and kind person. I’ve seen many Cinderella’s, and this live-action “Cinderella” is definitely the most well-told and magical of them all.

After the unexpected deaths of Ella’s (Lily James) parents (Ben Chaplin, Hayley Atwell), she is now living under her cruel stepmother (Cate Blanchett) and stepsisters’ (Sophie McShera, Holliday Grainger) shadows. Eager to support her father, Ella tries her best to welcome the cruel new family into her home. As they continue to downgrade her into nothing but a servant, she is renamed Cinderella and begins to lose hope in her new life. Despite her initial thoughts and her jealous step family’s harsh demands, Cinderella does not let anyone crush her spirit and strives to honor her mother’s dying words: “to have courage and be kind.” Being one to persevere through, her misfortunes are turned around after meeting an elegant prince (Richard Madden).

This remake is brought to life by its talented cast. James portrays Cinderella’s character spot on, with her gushing kindness and innocent charm. To complement Cinderella’s angelic demeanor, Blanchett’s heartless soul compliments her viciously widened catlike eyes perfectly. And to save the day, Madden makes for a dashing hero with his sea blue eyes and perfect teeth. Even the fairy godmother, Helena Bonham Carter, adds some playful and lively elements to the film, with her bubbly personality and ability to change ordinary objects into Cinderella’s dream ball necessities with just a touch of magic. All in all, the actors gave very watchable performances that I enjoyed.

Everything about the movie is visually appealing — from the the sets to the costumes to the sceneries — the cinematography is amazing. What stood out to me was Cinderella’s incredible transformation scene. With just the wave of fairy godmother’s wand, Cinderella’s old pink rags transformed into a gorgeous, perfectly fitted blue gown, mice morphed into horses, lizards changed into men and a pumpkin evolved into a beautiful golden carriage. With this flawlessly crafted scene alone, the costume and production design is something I would describe as magical.

Director Kenneth Branagh does a fantastic job of weaving in few detailed twists into the familiar tale. I love how more time is spent on the backstory of Cinderella’s family, revealing that they had lived a happy life until her mother’s death took place when she was a little girl as opposed to the animation where she was never introduced at all. In addition, many small adjustments were made that added to the storyline, one of which included fairy godmother’s extra magic during Cinderella’s transformation that ensured the stepfamily wouldn’t recognize her at the ball. Though, my favorite part of the movie had to be when several Disney princesses, including Tiana, Belle and Mulan made an appearance in the background during the ball scene.

Though it may seem like this film is aimed towards little kids, “Cinderella” eliminates most of its childish elements, like the numerous musical numbers and her excessive dialogue with the mice, and focuses on its constant themes of bravery, kindness and acceptance instead. The audience will feel for Cinderella’s kindhearted essence and get a chance to explore her misfortune under her stepmother’s cold ways. Though the messages of a strong-willed Cinderella are consistent throughout the movie, she does not do much to get herself out of her predicament and ends up being saved by the fairy godmother’s magic and the prince, which somewhat negates those themes.

“Cinderella” is an excellent rendition of the original Disney animation. From the very start, this adaptation was absolutely enchanting and provided just enough roots from the classic, but added in some differences to keep you guessing. The combination of the superb visual aesthetics, the brilliant performances of the actors and the meaningful universal themes truly make this film a magical one.

By Olivia Chiang, Staff writer

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