One of the classic questions in the fairy tale reboot business is how to stretch a fairly simple tale out to a full hour and a half of screen time. The answer? Turn your protagonist into an arse-kicking, rebellion-leading freedom fighter, of course!
Mirror, Mirror is the latest reworking of the Snow White (Lilly Collins) story, the beautiful princess who slept through all the hacky slashy bits. The film starts with the traditional back story shown in a beautiful animated sequence, narrated by the Queen (Julia Roberts), who declares this to be her story, not Snow White’s. The Queen is a great narrator, lending humour to the classic fairy tale beginning. Since the disappearance of Snow’s father the king, the Queen has allowed her kingdom to fall into ruin, spending all of the kingdom’s money to sustain her vanity and greed. Now, she plans to marry the young and rich Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) to solve her country’s debt crisis.
Although we do see much more of the Queen in this adaptation than we have in previous incarnations, this is very much a coming-of-age story for Snow White. At the beginning of the film she is quite similar to prior iterations: all sweetness, light and a lack of self-confidence. But after she escapes into the forest and meets the seven dwarves, a team of bandits who rob from the Queen, she starts to believe in herself and take charge of her own life. With the help of a training montage she becomes a skilled sword fighter and general all-round arse-kicker, but it is the confidence these skills and her new friends give her that shine through as the most interesting aspects of her story. It is this ability to believe in herself and her power that leads her to fight back against the wicked Queen, rather than taking a passive role in her own story.
One of my favourite aspects of this film is the look of it. Both the sets and the costumes are absolutely beautiful, and the Queen’s outfits especially are incredible works of art. There are a lot of bright colours and high contrasts, helping give the film the feel of a fairy tale: a world of black-and-white morality and good versus evil. The starting animation wowed me with its beauty, and unusually the live-action and supporting CGI were able to deliver the standard. The Beast that terrorises the forest is one of my favourite movie monsters of all time, being just as creatively designed as the rest of the film.
One criticism I have is that given that the film is supposed to be the Queen’s story, we never learn what her motivations are. We know that she’s greedy and vain, but we aren’t given a reason why. This wicked queen, just like all of those that came before her, is Evil because she is Evil. I would have liked to have gained more insight into her character, and to learn something of her past before she married the King. Who was she before she became a queen? Did a painful past push her to her current obsession? More simply, what is her name? Although there are other female characters in the film, Snow is the only one who gets a name, lending a dubious quality to the otherwise quite feminist feel of the movie.
Whilst Mirror, Mirror does display some flaws, it is overall both a very fun and a very good-looking movie, with a great cast (both main and supporting), which I would definitely recommend. 7/10 feminist points!
By Kira Scaife
Kira Scaife is an ANU linguistics student with a love of popular culture and all the strange and wonderful things that come out of it. She is also very fond of the strange and wonderful people of the ANU Women’s Collective, a group she is proud to call herself a member of. One day she hopes to solve crime with language, possibly in a swishy cape.