The last two movies I have seen were both fairy tales. It is good to know that Hollywood will still make movies that are fairy tales. They were both what I would call okay. I rate Snow White a solid B, and Brave as a C+.
Both movies were fairy tales about a princess. Both movies were swords and sorcery, though actual swords didn’t feature much in either one of them. Both princesses were courageous and beautiful and firmly in the British tradition. I hope it’s not too much of a spoiler if I say both movies carry through to a happy ending, but then I told you they were fairy tales.
Brave is a tale of loving conflict between a daughter coming of age and her prim and proper but oh-so-competent mother. Mother Elinor wants Merida to grow up, accept responsibility, and behave like an adult. Merida wants to be a free person and a legendary hero(ine).
Pixar always does great animation, and that’s true for Disney also. Everything is technically well done. But I have to say that I kind of hated the fact that the women are all Disney princess beautiful and the men are all outrageously silly-looking and ugly. If I were Scottish, I’d be offended by this movie. The setting is clearly Scotland some time back before the time of William Wallace and Braveheart. And it’s a comedy with dark undertones of an ancient curse that must be laid to rest. Let me not go into the plot. I’m just going to quote critic Andrew O’heihir who sums it up thusly: it’s an entertainment whose good intentions can’t conceal the fact that its story is thin and loopy, its characters (especially Elinor) woefully undercooked and its happy ending slapdash even by Disney standards. I completely agree with him. The move was okay. It made me laugh here and there, but I wanted more of a hero story, and I got a little moral fable on what happens when headstrong children disobey their loving parents. All packed in with a message that says men are generally silly and self-important, but good-hearted women love them anyway. As a man, that’s not a message I’m going to subscribe to. Well, the movie wasn’t made for me, obviously–it’s more for pre-teen girls and their frazzled mothers.
Snow White was better. Screenwriters Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock took the Grimm fairytale and turned it into swords and sorcery. They made it grim. There are no laughs in Snow White, but plenty of death and destruction. Our Snow White is a true heroine who spends her teen years in prison, fights her way out of a cell, escapes through a sewer, braves an enchanted forest, escapes all pursuit, and leads the rebels on a mad attack to retake her kingdom from the Witch Queen who killed her father and stole the throne.
I actually went to see the movie because I was told (more than once) that it has a great troll scene in it. As a kind of champion for fantasy trolls here in America, I had to see this great troll. It is indeed awesome. The whole scene with the troll is just a short action sequence designed to show off how dangerous the land is, and how brave the protagonists are. Here’s the scene that lured me into the movie–thanks to youtube.com.
I only have one problem with this fight. The troll actually hit our heroic huntsman twice–hit him hard enough to send him flying 20 feet through the air. Either one of those blows would have killed him, caved in his chest, broken his neck, separated head from shoulders. He’s knocked out for 5 seconds, gets up, walks away without even a wince or a drop of blood. Now it is the same actor who played the mighty Thor in the Marvel movie, and he must still be Thor, because only a god could survive such a beating. Just look at what one trollish blow did to that tree stump. Nope. Lost me right there. Huntsman should be dead. They worked so hard to make this a realistic fairy tale. Why not show the huntsman dodging every blow, or being merely grazed instead of taking a full backhand swing?
To give Snow White her due, the movie production was excellent. The sets and the special effects were amazing. There is a sense of magic and wonder permeating this film that Brave never captured or even approached. The writers know their folklore. I especially liked the unique version of the fairies. Watch closely–they appear for just a second in this Magic Forest clip. You also get to see the Dwarves, as villainous a bunch of outlaws as you never want to run into.
I enjoyed the Snow White movie, even though there was virtually no humor in it. The troll was an original and powerful conception, and it was unconquered. The evil queen’s magic was clearly sympathetic in principal. Hollywood added an original gimmick–creatures made of chips of obsidian–many parts magically uniting to form a whole. There is no precedent for that in actual magical tradition–it’s pure Hollywood “look what we can do with computer effects” bullshit. Very slick effects, but hokier than the natural wonders achieved with the creatures. I could accept a golem army, or a demon army, but not one made of chips of black glass. Save that stuff for your nanotech sci-fi thrillers where it might make more sense.
I liked John Carter better. Still, I’d be willing to watch Snow White again. I really wouldn’t do that for Brave.
If you like Hollywood fairytales on film, or even if you don’t, leave a comment.