I went into this movie with the following thoughts:
- Tarsem Singh's The Fall is one of my favorite movies of all time.
- The movie hasn't gotten rave reviews, as far as I've seen.
- I've been studying fairy tales and their cinematic adaptation all year (topic of my thesis) and have seen some amazing and some not so amazing ways that fairy tales can be presented on the big screen.
- I love going to the movies, especially ones that are easy on the eyes and the mind.
So I took all that into consideration and then set it gently aside and settled down to enjoy the movie - and I did. I do have reservations, but let it be said first and foremost that I had fun during this movie. And I believe that is exactly what it set out to offer - a fun time and a lavish spectacle.
One thing entirely in the film's favor is that it was just full of beautiful people in beautiful costumes. If there's one thing Singh does well, it's visual splendor, and that was in abundance.
In no way, however, did he reach the heights he reached in visual splendor in The Fall. One problem is that there was nothing to contrast with the huge, amazing, perfect court dress. Yes, there were a few scenes of poor villagers, and of course many scenes with a marked lack of any dress at all, but even then the people were perfectly poor or perfectly naked. Watching this movie was a little like eating a meal entirely made up of deserts.
The stunning images also lacked the nuance and layers of narrative meaning that Singh wove into every image of The Fall. There was some fun symbolism, of course, in the ball scene, with the animal-themed costumes, but it was at a very basic level.
Finally, Singh really could have wallowed in the visuals more, I think. I wanted sweeping shots that allowed me to soak up the majesty of the castle and lingering close-ups that showed off the detail of the costumes, which was drool-worthy in the glimpses we did get.
But let's get back to the nakedness.
I was very pleased to find a movie showing off more male skin than female, especially that of the lovely Mr. Armie Hammer. I guess I could get into the politics of punishing female lust, represented in the relationship between the Queen and the Prince, but I don't feel like it. I do feel like giving Singh some credit for letting Snow White take over the kissing-to-break-a-curse responsibilities, having her save herself in the final battle (with a little help from her friends), and fitting in that glorious meta moment between her and the Prince about focus groups.
I wasn't a huge fan of Lily Collins as Snow White - she lacked a certain texture, I guess - but she was certainly all right. Much more interesting and more enjoyable was...are you ready for this?...Julia Roberts. This coming from one of the biggest haters of Julia Roberts. Not that I hate her personally, I just can't stand watching her on screen. I can't love her the way you're supposed to love a heroine. But the thing is, here I wasn't asked to love her, or even like her that much. Maybe this is just my particular weakness for evil characters, but I actually liked her in this movie a lot.
So much sass and character - way more than Snow White. And she just seemed to be having such fun. I almost wish the movie had gone through with its initial promise and made this the evil queen's story.
What else? Oh, the dwarves - I was leery at first, because there's just such a danger of falling into cheap jokes and such, but I think they pulled through pretty well. And the story itself, well, they went pretty traditional, changed it up with some good sword-fighting (although Snow really should have gotten a chance to spank the Prince back), and added in that lovely bit with the beast and Sean Bean (he lives! after Boromir and Ned Stark, he rises again! and just in time for Easter). Of course they could have stretched this way farther, but I don't believe that's what they set out to do.
Finally, here's just a few more pictures of some things I found excellent.
A flawless imitation of a puppy (and homage to The 10th Kingdom, I hope).
The golden guards: "Pinky swear?"
And finally, THAT COAT. Did you see him swish it around while he was sword-fighting? And the extra long row of buckles? And the standing collar? Just stunning.