Thursday, 12 March 2015

Thursday Movie Picks Meme: Live-Action Fairy Tale Adaptations

This week, the theme for Wanderer's Thursday Movie Picks Meme is live action fairy tales. These days, when we hear the word "fairy tales", a lot of people tend to associate it with the Disney animated canon, with films ranging from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves to Frozen. These are often seen as children's stories and family films, which is somewhat ironic considering a lot of fairy tales had some very dark origins. The original version of The Little Mermaid ended with the mermaid's death. In Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the prince was a necrophiliac who literally tried to carry Snow White's body to his castle (Snow White wakes up because the apple was only caught in her throat, and it's dislodged during the trip, which admittedly raises the question of how she hasn't already chocked to death).

In any case, there have been other adaptations of fairy tales outside of those made famous by Disney, some of them live action. For this exercise, I am required to pick three such films.Okay, technically they can be Disney but I can't do any of their animated films (not that it matters much, since Disney seems to have moved on from making 3D versions of 2D animated films to live action remakes of their old films, as seems to be the case for Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast).

This is a bit of a challenge for me, as I've never been the biggest fan of fairy tales (it comes with having a preference for realism), I have a tendency to spot flaws in the narrative. For instance, how exactly does the whole glass slipper thing in Cinderella work? They clearly established that the clothes disappear after midnight, so why doesn't the slipper? Also, are there really no other women in the kingdom who happen to have similar sized feet to Cinderella? Okay, you could argue that perhaps the slipper is "magic" and perhaps can change sizes when put on the wrong foot but that isn't usually established in most versions and the Prince doesn't know that, so why exactly did he think this test would work? Also, if this Fairy Godmother is so concerned for Cinderella's well-being, why is it only now, after something around 15-20 years of endless torture that she actually tries to do something about it? Why didn't she come sooner and perhaps try to get Cinderella away from her abusive stepmother? They never establish any limits to her magic, so why is she only able to provide Cinderella with clothes that vanish after midnight? Why not just give her clothes she can use to disguise herself and then the means to start a new life (they can't be sure that the Prince is going to want to marry her)? In any case, here are three that I have found to write about.

The Princess Bride (1987)

Could someone tell me how exactly this movie hasn't managed to make an appearance on my blog yet. Technically, this isn't exactly a "classic" fairy tale, strictly speaking. If anything, it's more a parody of fairy tale conventions, but it's a pretty darn good one. This one has a lot of the typical fairy tale themes, most prominently the idea that true love conquers all, but it has lots of other things. We have revenge, torture, miracles, and plenty of sword fights. That's not even getting into the long list of amusing characters the film has to offer, even those who aren't in it very long (i.e. Wallace Shawn as Vizzini) and classic quotes like the famous "Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die." It's a simple story, but a fun experience to be sure.

Ella Enchanted (2004)

Here's one I'll bet you never expected to see me discuss at length, but I actually watched this one a lot when I was younger, and amusingly it also has Cary Elwes (who you might remember as the Man in Black from The Princess Bride)... this time playing the villain. On the surface, it's basically a retelling of Cinderella presented in a very... roundabout sort of way. Underneath all that, it's an elaborate allegory for racism and segregation (the bad guy has laws restricting the opportunities available for archetypal fantasy creatures, and in the few areas each of them are permitted they're essentially slave labor). Of course, the one step up from Cinderella (from which the movie, and by extension the book it was based on clearly draw inspiration) is that they actually make Ella a strong character who has to think for herself and stand up for what she sees to be right. The prince actually has to earn her respect and she is ultimately the one who saves the day in the end.

The Brothers Grimm (2005)

Okay, technically, this isn't so much a direct adaptation as it is a massive crossover between several different fairy tales framed loosely around the lives of the two men known for some of the most iconic stories in the genre. Terry Gilliam certainly has a bizarre interpretation of these texts, and a few darker twists on some of them (Rapunzel is revealed to have locked herself in the tower to escape a plague, and ends up being something of a femme fatale). It's a bit like Into the Woods, only more of an action movie, but still pretty exciting. 


  1. I love that you chose The Brothers Grimm. It's been awhile since I've seen it, but I remember liking it. I should give it a watch again. Great picks!

  2. ERMAGERD! The Princess Bride is, shamelessly, one of my favorite movies. It's one of those films that I love that I could introduce to my girls and have them fall in love with it.

  3. I'm embarrassed to say I've never seen The Princess Bride. If I can't get to it any sooner, it's definitely going on my Blind Spot list next year. Ella Enchanted is cute. My daughters loved it when they were younger. I didn't care much The Brothers Grimm. Not that it was bad, just forgettable. Nice work.

  4. I love all these films you mentioned. believe it or not but the original Cinderella was known as Cinderslut and in German Aschenputtel. The original version, depending which part of Europe you take it, has Cinderella planting a tree at her mom's grave. When she prays to her mom a dress appears from the tree. There is no glass slipper but a basic delicate one although she does have small feet. I saw a film, I mention on Drew's post, called Cinderella and the 3 wishes. She is actually a strong woman who can out shoot the prince. An owl helps her and from a walnut comes the dress so she can go to the ball. Actually the ball is over 3 nights so she has 3 dresses. This last film I used to watch often when I was a kid and I found out it is Czech/German and is still shown over there. I am one who loves fairy tales:)

  5. The Princess Bride! That choice couldn't be more perfect.

  6. The Princess Bride is a lovely movie, and it is quite memorable! I've seen bits and pieces of The Brothers Grimm, I should really try to finish that one.