Disney's recent live-action regime has started off well - with the likes of Alice in Wonderland, Oz the Great and Powerful and last year's Maleficent. Well, it's only getting upwards and onwards with Kenneth Branagh's live-action Cinderella; a magical new envisioning of the classic tale.
You all are familiar with the story, I presume. However, if not, I'll bring you up to speed. Basically, Cinderella tells the story of Ella, who's mother tragically dies, meaning that her father remarries and she has to adjust to a new step-mother and a couple of step-sisters. But, when Ella's father also unexpectedly passes away, the young girl finds herself forced into a life of slave labour, by her jealous, new family. Despite all the severe cruelty thrown upon her, Ella (or Cinderella as her sisters wickedly nickname her) still manages to have a pure, open, loving heart and never loses hope - following what her mother always told her, "have courage and be kind."
Now, if there's one thing I don't stray away from, it's Disney. Whether it's an animation or live-action, I'm a big fan of the studio. Their films are at the heart of my childhood and I can bet that the same applies for the majority of you guys too. Even now, I still enjoy watching them. Was I overly excited for Cinderella, though. Not slightly. Is it mindbogglingly amazing? Not exactly. However, that's not to say it's bad because it's really not. It's a competent and actually pretty entertaining flick.
For the most part, the acting in this is pretty damn good. In fact, it's probably the best thing about the film. We have such a stellar ensemble heading up the film's cast - consisting of Hayley Atwell, Cate Blanchett plus so many more - and every single person dazzles on-screen and gives a very fine performance. Blanchett makes a rather evil and intriguing antagonist, the cruel and infamous Stepmother. There's an eeriness about her presence and you really do find her character truly despicable and awful; all to the commendation of Cate's marvelous performance. Helen Bonham Carter is also in this, as the Fairy Godmother. However, she's almost like Johnny Depp's Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, weird but not so wonderful. There's just too much goofiness to her mannerisms. Combined with her absurd accent and even more absurd costume, it's a bit off-putting and just strange.
Then we come to our two leads, Lily James' titular Princess and Richard Madden's just as delightful Prince Charming. The two are simply fabulous to watch. Madden is a true gentleman and you can sense that. His looks, his characteristics all make for a fitting Prince and you easily believe everything about this guy. As for Ms. James, the actress could be considered somewhat of a revelation as Ella. She is phenomenal. Everything about her is so majestic and grandiose. You do not, for a second, find it hard to believe that she's a Princess. There's a nuanced beauty and profanity to her performance and she, certainly, looks the part too: gorgeous. It's easy to see James as the face of such an iconic gem, for girls to look up to and take inspiration from. She really plays the part and we believe it, falling in love with her kindness, her heart and her beauty.
If there's one pitfall of Cinderella, it's the fact that there is not at all anything new about this story. I can appreciate a reboot or an adaption but it never works if there's nothing unique about it. The 1950's animation was brilliant and had a poignant, powerful message of how girls should just be themselves and don't need money or riches to be happy. Whilst the message is still very much conveyed through this newer take, there's no originality to the proceedings. Disney took the safe option of not making any changes to the original story to avoid dismay but, unfortunately, that's the film's biggest downfall. The magic and affable heart is still retained but it feels like déjà-vu at times. However, for kids now, this is sure to be an instant classic and works just as well as the classic animation did for us, for them and James is a superb new image of Cinderella. Having grown up with the classic tale though, it can be refreshing and entertaining to see it back up there on the big-screen because it's a true delight and makes for an engaging, lukewarm family film.
Despite being devoid of any ingenuity, there's a sense of beguiling charm and wonder to Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella that you just can't help but enjoy. It's a competent picture that is sure to enchant and entertain, for what it's worth.
About the Author
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.