Disney’s live action remake of its own 1950 animated fairytale is opulent and colourful, as you’d expect with Kenneth Branagh at the helm, but given this is the neverwhere story you remember, just as it was, it begs the question – why does this version exist? You may find the dearth of liberties taken with the timeless animation perversely refreshing, after all who isn’t a little tired of Malificent-style revisionism, though it might have worked well here, but it’s hard to see this new Cinders as anything more than a brand-based cash grab when its sole function is to succeed (and perhaps replace) a movie that’s ageless, with a less magical live action copy.
Animation is perfect for fairy tales because the artifice and otherworldly aura that’s invested in a hand drawn (though now pixelated) world is congruous with the heightened reality in which the story takes place. Branagh’s version is vivid and augmented by computer generated palaces and lush costumes, but its grounding in the physical world diminishes it somewhat. Computer animated mice with human brains that speak squeak aren’t fully fledged characters like their hand drawn counterparts. In the animated Disney world of old, jaunty musical numbers added the sense of enchantment, but in the present that’s considered twee; the old standards relegated to post modern asides and end credits; an oddity in a story this unashamedly sentimental and sweet natured.
The result’s a movie that’s both unnecessary and ontologically inferior to its commercially spent predecessor. Yet by refusing to modernise it, fearful of tarnishing the brand, Disney have made a film that’s politically problematic in a more enlightened age. What are feminists to make of the new Cinders? She’s still refreshingly antimaterialist and as allegedly indifferent to social climbing as she ever was, yet she’s still in the Princess fantasy game. Her ignorance of the Prince’s status is immaterial because those all important little girls, projecting their hopes and dreams onto the demure belle of the ball, are fully aware of the same, and are left with the old denouncement, much anticipated, in which a rich man liberates their proxy from servitude and spinsterism.
“Be kind and have courage” is the message battered round the young audience’s head for 2 hours, and a fine one it is too, but Branagh and co. have some gall as they lacked the balls to rethink the story’s hoary old gendered assumptions. Getting rid of Cinder’s arse-lifting glass heels would have been a good start.