Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation modernizes and strengthens our beloved Cinderella
Walt Disney Studios has replaced their old fashioned glass slippers with newer, shinier ones. Directed by Kenneth Branagh, the new live-action version of Cinderella was released in theatres this week with more than a few improvements.
This movie is a classic, and so the script follows the original storyline from 1950. Indeed, Branagh told The Talk earlier this week how important it was to be true to it: “Every generation seems to respond to it, so we wanted to give everybody what they sort of expected. So there is a pumpkin. It does transform into a carriage,” he said.
However, while it recreates the essence of the fairy tale, the story is modernized quite a bit. Cinderella’s character is stronger, relationships are more complex, and the love story itself is more believable.
Cinderella (Lily James)—nicknamed so by one of her stepsisters when she wakes up dirtied by cinders, having slept next to the fireplace to keep warm—loses both her parents and suffers the wrath of her step-family’s cruelty.
Nonetheless, she lives up to her mother’s wishes: to have courage and be kind. Cinderella remains strong, never complains, and endures her stepmother and stepsisters to take care of her parents’ beloved house and honour their memory.
Lady Tremaine (Cate Blanchett) is perhaps one of the most entertaining characters of the story. More dimension is brought to her character, replacing the inherently cruel stepmother with Blanchett’s fascinating performance. She embodies a manipulative woman consumed with jealousy, who envies Cinderella’s youth, beauty, and kindness.
As for the love story, there is no such thing as love at first sight in this movie—which is certainly one of the best improvements. Instead, Cinderella meets the prince (Richard Madden) before the royal ball, while he’s on a hunting trip in the forest.
They talk, clearly intrigued by one another—the prince doesn’t reveal his identity, but lets her believe he’s an apprentice—and they continue on their separate ways, hoping to see one another again.
When the soon-to-be king is urged to find a suitable wife, he agrees to throw a royal ball on the condition that every maiden—noble or commoner—is invited. Contrary to his father’s wishes, he wants to marry for love, not social advantage.
As for the costumes and décor, they are quite impressive and perfectly illustrate the magical fairytale. The collection of dresses is remarkable, from the stepsisters’ ridiculous, over-the-top outfits, to Cinderella’s dreamy blue ballgown.
The special effects are mostly used for magical spells but also animate the mice, who Cinderella speaks to. Fortunately, they don’t answer back like their predecessors, and their part in the story is properly downplayed. In the same manner, the songs are replaced by a beautiful score by Patrick Doyle.
For those who would like to revisit a tale of their childhood, or discover it for the first time, Cinderella is a magical story that will sweep the audience off its feet.