5 April 2012


Tarsem Singh's most recent film, Immortals, was another downward lurch in the trend of exclusively male action flicks based in Greek mythology. In the week that Wrath of the Titans finds Sam Worthington working through his daddy issues by bellowing at monsters in a broad Australian accent, Tarsem's latest film, Mirror Mirror could not be more different.

As the first of two new Snow White movies coming to cinemas this year, this spin on the Grimm fairy tale at first appears to be a Wicked-style subversion that takes place from the perspective of the Queen, who keeps her stepdaughter under lock and key so that her tyrannical and wasteful rule goes unchallenged by her downtrodden subjects. The film soon branches out, however, when Snow White is exiled to the woods. She teams up with seven diminutive thieves in order to take back her kingdom and rescue the nice-but-dim Prince Alcott.

From the get-go, this film was afflicted with a pretty awful trailer. Most of the stuff that annoyed you about the trailer actually doesn't appear in the film. The Scarface reference? Non-existent. The same can be said for "Snow White? Snow way!" On the other hand, if you were turned off by the fact that this looks like quite a campy, comedic spin on the tale, then perhaps you're best off waiting to watch Kristen Stewart go in precisely the direction she should avoid, this close to being free of Twilight, and seeing this summer's Snow White and the Huntsman. That film looks fabulously joyless, doesn't it?

This is quite a campy, comedic spin on the tale, but not in the way of a Red Riding Hood. As can be expected for a director as visually fixated as Tarsem, the film that he's made is a pantomime that has the production value of a Narnia movie. Unfortunately, this is the last film to feature the work of the late Eiko Ishioka, who designed the costumes in all of Tarsem's films to date and generally managed to make artful, memorable designs even with nothing bu dreck like Immortals for inspiration. Ishioka's work is just as distinctive as ever, and lends a lot to the playful aesthetic of the film.

The script, one of whose writers was credited with Machine Gun Preacher, of all things, is pretty airy, managing to be reminiscent of genre classics like The Princess Bride and Enchanted at times, without outright lifting anything from either film. Some of the comedy scenes do sort of trail off without a punchline, but that could be down to editing, rather than poor writing. Either way, the material is better than it looks, and it kept me smiling in much the same way as watching a pantomime would- with expectations lowered, it endeared itself to me nicely.

Still, this shows us what it would look like if Julia Roberts ever deigned to do panto, and the result isn't always enjoyable. As over the top as her villainous Queen may be, she still seems somewhat limited, and her comedic range isn't up to much. By contrast, Lily Collins is much more likeable here than she was in Abduction, playing Snow White as a straight-woman and a properly sympathetic heroine. Armie Hammer also shows some admirable comic chops as the blustering and egotistical prince, and Nathan Lane is always fun to watch.

Having previously viewed Tarsem's "arthouse Michael Bay" cred as something closer to "the Christopher Nolan of crap", I'm more surprised than anyone that he shows such an affinity for a family-oriented comedy like Mirror Mirror. Aside from the surprisingly funny script, the visuals are typically gorgeous, and both the action sequences and CG-creations are more technically accomplished than in the deadening action-palooza of Wrath of the Titans. I mentioned The Princess Bride and Enchanted, and although it doesn't manage to be as brilliant as either of those films, I found it endearing and cute and colourful enough to make me dread Snow White and the Huntsman all the more.

Mirror Mirror is now showing in cinemas nationwide.
If you've seen Mirror Mirror, why not share your comments below? While I suspect that I'm not supposed to have enjoyed this one, I don't apologise for it. Nor for thinking that SW&TH looks like total bunkum.

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

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