The fairytale adaptation is box office bread and butter, the copyright is free, everyone knows the story and add a touch of reinvention and you’ve got a sure fire hit. ‘Shrek anyone?’ But as the newest crop of fairy tales show, getting it right takes a little more skill that one might originally think.
Firstly lets start with the best and brightest, ‘Once Upon A Time’. Premiering in September of 2011, ‘Once Upon A Time’ was one of 2012 ratings season’s big draws. From the creators of Lost Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz, ‘Once Upon A Time’ tells of a terrible curse that takes away the happy endings and traps all our fairytale heroes the town of Storybrook, a magical cage from which they can never leave. But before the spell was cast by the evil Queen, Snow White and Prince Charming sent their only daughter Emma across the worlds in a magical wardrobe, believing in the prediction that on her 28th year she would return to Storybrook and break the curse.
I have to admit, I didn’t get into ‘Once Upon A Time’ at first. I watched the first 2 episodes, essentially the pilot and concept and back-story was so complicated and the characters so simply drawn that I gave up. The biggest problem with this show is that it’s so high-concept it takes too much time explaining everything beginning and fun of the fairy tales takes a couple of episodes to materialize.
But after a good friend recommended I stick with the show I decided to give it another go and boy was I pleased I did. Once the massive back story of the pilot was over, ‘Once Upon A Time’ was free to indulge in the details and it was in that, that it shined. Tackling and reinventing a different fairytale every week, Once Upon A Time weaves a beautiful web interlinking characters and stories seamlessly within the tales of Snow White, Red Hiding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, Pinocchio and Beauty and the Beast, just to name a few.
The reinventions are fresh and new and no mythical story is off limits, fantastically the show doesn’t just stick to the classics weaving more modern stories like ‘Alice In Wonderland’ and ‘The Lion, The Witch and Wardrobe’, in as well. The storytelling possibilities are endless. Essentially ‘Once Upon A Time’ does for fairy tales what ‘Glee’ does for pop music.
‘Once Upon A Time’ characters are complex and flawed in their imagining and really allow us to see how our favorite fairytale characters might fair in the modern world. Snow White is pure and good but can be tempted by love, Rumpelstiltskin evil and conniving but still has a heart. And what is really special about ‘Once Upon A Time’ is it’s ability to allow each character to participate and interact with every fairytale not just their own. Its like the ‘The Avengers’ only better written.
While difficult to process at first ‘Once Upon A Time’, is what every fairytale adaptation should be, fresh, deep and magical. It is my new bench mark by which all other adaptations should be measured.
So with that in mind lets move on to the movie of the moment ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’. First off a little tidbit, apparently Tom Hardy was originally asked to star as the Huntsman but turned it down. So sad, maybe if he was cast the sexual tension that was so desperately needed in this film, would of occurred, I mean, I would of been mesmerized at the very least, god Tom Hardy is hot.
‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ is a visually beautiful film. The brilliant color of the good magic measured against the bleak darkness of the black magic is truly stunning. The scenes in the fairy lands personify this and really do make the film almost worth seeing despite it’s other faults.
Unfortunately what this film really suffers from is an average script combined with really bad acting. Charlize Theron’s evil queen is ridiculously over the top and in no way humorous and Kirsten Stewart’s annoying breathlessness ruins yet another film. All that girl seem to know how to do is struggle for air. Also I don’t believe her as a leader, the weakness with which she plays the character, makes it hard to fathom and all I can picture is Bella from Twilight. Awkwardly delivered her battle cry speech made me tired, particularly as she seems to be hiccuping all the way through it. So with the female leads letting this film down does the fabulously yummy Chris Hemsworth save it?
Well ladies all I can say is, he tried. His character was perhaps the most well rounded and best acted but his lack of passion for Stewart made his character seem a little one dimensional. Not that I blame him, yuck. The kiss that wakes up the princess seems a little forced and one can’t help but wonder why he bothered, he didn’t seem that into her, and to kiss a dead girl you really have to be in it.
And this is what really ruined this film for me, the lack of romance. A dark reinvention is great but romance is what the original is all about, if you get rid of that you lose the heart of the story. I left this film feeling depressed, disappointed and missing ‘Once Upon A Time’, I want my Prince Charming back.
Now the final adaptation and the least successful at least in the opinion of the critics is 2011’s ‘Beastly’. Strangely enough the film did make a profit raking in 28 million for 17 million dollar budget. ‘Beastly’ is of course a retelling of ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Kyle played by Alex Pettyfer is the most popular guy in school with a hot body and great hair (I’ve seen better). He believes thanks in large part to his rich anchorman father that looks are what matter in life and he deserves the best thanks to his Adonis physique (again I’ve seen better).
But unfortunately Kyle makes the mistake of pissing off the school goth and possible witch Kendra, played by the hardly ugly Mary Kate Olsen. In return for his public humiliation Kendra casts a spell on Kyle to make him the very thing he hates ‘Ugly’ and if within a year he can’t find someone to love him he will stay that way forever. In walks Lindy played by Vanessa Hudgens a good girl from the wrong side of the tracks and Kyle falls in love but how could she ever love him back, he’s just too damn ugly. The problem with this adaptation is it’s a shallow one, in fact I think Disney’s Beauty and the Beast had more depth and I know the cartoon beast was hotter. They could have done so much more with ‘ugly’ in a modern context but instead they chose to stick with the extremely obvious.
While Kyle tries to get Lindy to love him, one can’t help but feel that pursuing a women for your own ends is a little self serving and the goal of being pretty again is pretty lame. If he had ultimately decided to sacrifice his chance to be beautiful again in order to help her, then he perhaps would have been more heroic. Also in this day and age keeping a women prisoner, even if she doesn’t know it just doesn’t sit right. Ultimately the story of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ needs a massive re-imagining to work for a modern and largely feminist audience and this remake was simply too close to the original.
So there you have it, not as easy as it seems. In fact I would argue that adapting a fairytale for the modern audience is one of the toughest adaptations you can do, after all we all know the story of Snow White just as well if not better than we know ‘Harry Potter’ and we all want it done right. So bring on season 2 of ‘Once Upon A Time’.