Changes. Not everybody immediately likes changes. But when “making changes” is done right, changes can bring a fresh interpretation that some will find attractive. Of course, there will be always those married to the original source material and like the interpretation that has been accepted by the mainstream and the masses. Now, what about recent interpretations of classic fairy tales?
The recent fairy tale remakes produced by Disney and Amazon like Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, and Cinderella have been real-life adaptations of the classic cartoon versions that were made during a specific time. The story and costumes may look similar except, there is a gender swap here and a race swap there, and the inclusion of modern themes that don’t belong in the time period these stories take place. The problem with these changes is that the story adaptation needs to make sense. This is where writers are failing.
Current-day issues (2021 Amazon’s Cinderella) and modern dialogue (2022 Disney’s Pinocchio) are inserted into the stories where they don’t belong. Imagine using modern dialogue in a story that takes place in the 1800s in a foreign country with a clear distinction between the upper middle and lower class. The result is forgettable movies.
There are ways to make changes without butchering them into forgettable iterations. Just make them make sense! The 1997 Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella is a great example of how to do diversity right. It was produced by Walt Disney Television, BrownHouse Productions, and Storyline Entertainment. It is strange how things change when you deviate from creating good stories and not investing in your writers and performers.
Brandy as Cinderella and Witney Houston as the Fairy God Mother is still my favorite and just can’t be compared to Amazon’s version. The right way to do it is to have the story and performances lift up the film. Yes, they made a few changes but the focus was to create something special through hard work and not to spend energy on politics and propaganda.
Even though it was a straight-to-TV film it was very popular because the masses didn’t care that they were Black, White, or Asian, they liked the story and the songs. It was spectacular! Unfortunately, you can only find it on Disney+ these days and if you are lucky you can still find it on physical media on Amazon or eBay.
There have been iterations done of some of the fairy tales without the mainstream stamp of approval mainly because the changes were too drastic and they have a more serious and mature take on the stories. They are very different from the original Disney versions and definitely not for kids. They are fairy tales (mostly) for (young) adults.
I have a few favorite unconventional fairy tales. They were heavily criticized for those differences. Those particular critiques on being too dark would be dismissed today by True Blood, Spartacus, or Game of Thrones fans familiar with matured, savaged, and gory content. Let’s check them out!
SNOW WHITE: A TALE OF TERROR
“Snow White: A Tale of Terror” is a 1997 American gothic fantasy horror film based on the fairy tale of the same name directed by Michael Cohn for young adults (Rated-R). This movie takes place during the Crusades, which took place between 1096 and 1492, and depicts the attitudes of the wealthy and the peasant classes toward each other of that time.
This movie is based somewhat more authentically on the Grimm Brothers’ story of a young woman who is unliked by her stepmother. When young Lillian’s mother dies during childbirth, her father (Sam Neill) soon remarries Lady Claudia, played by Sigourney Weaver, who he thinks is a well-intentioned woman.
However, Claudia’s heart is ruled not by her husband, but by an evil mirror with the power to make Claudia the Queen over all living things, until they are dead. A failed attempt to murder young Lillian, played by Monica Keena, leaves her wandering lost in a deep dark forest where she comes across seven ruffian gold miners. What will happen to her now? Will she be able to adapt to living in the forest?
I liked it because it is a more realistic version of the story. When Snow White encounters the 7 miners, not dwarves, the creators are not shy to show the dangers of the forest and that not all men have good intentions. Snow White is not kissed by the Prince, and she fights back against the queen.
When she did fight back against the witch on her own, she had the support of her knight (I’m calling him “her knight” that will probably be by her side in that capacity). I also liked how they explained where the nickname “Snow White” came from, and the portrayal of the mad witch by Sigourney Weaver was very good.
The film can be watched on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and some other platforms like Google Play, and DirectTV depending on your jurisdiction. Or if you treasure physical media, you can get the DVD/Blu-ray on Amazon or other online stores.
HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS
“Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” is a 2013 American action horror film written and directed by Tommy Wirkola for mature audiences (R-Rated). It is a continuation of the German folklore fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel” set in medieval Germany, in which the titular siblings are now grown up, working as witch hunters for hire. The film is an original concept with excellent gore and action sequences, tongue-in-cheek performances of the siblings, and the film’s ability to not take itself too seriously.
Siblings Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are left alone in the woods by their father and captured by a dark witch in a candy house. The kids manage to trap the dark evil witch, kill her and escape. They fight back and grew up to be excellent witch hunters. They chose not to be victims but to fight back. I truly enjoyed watching the grown-up kids as professionals with hunters.
When 11 children go missing in a small village, the Mayor (Rainer Bock) summons Hansel and Gretel to rescue them, and they save red-haired Mina (Pihla Viitala) from the local sheriff who wants to burn her for being a witch. We learn that Hansel has a sugar sickness from eating the candy he ate when he was a child.
Soon they discover that the Blood Moon will approach in three days and that the powerful dark witch Muriel (Famke Janssen) is responsible for all the abductions; she intends to use the children with a secret ingredient in a broth that will protect the coven of witches against the fire. Meanwhile, Hansel and Gretel discover secrets about their parents and meet allies Ben (Thomas Mann) and Edward (Derek Mears) that will help them fight the witches. Will they manage to save the children?
The film was heavily criticized by mainstream critics, particularly for the violence and the story. They couldn’t stand it mostly comparing it to an unapologetic B-action film which most popular films such as Rambo, Commando, and Predator are. I don’t see the problem. It is one of those films I rewatch frequently. The film has some modern dialogue, but it doesn’t bother me much, I’m too entertained to care.
I think the overall message of the film, is to not be a victim, get up and fight back. I can see why the movie was not liked in Hollywood. The hunters have no mercy on the witches. Witches abduct the children and thoroughly enjoy tormenting them. Children are put in cages and used for a diabolic ritual of the dark arts.
In my opinion, the film is against child abuse/mistreatment and the use of dark magic, but the films also tell you to stand up to your abusers or to help when you see someone getting physically abused by people enjoying being the abusers with clearly no remorse. There is a particular scene where Gretel is brutally attacked and would have been gang raped if Edward did not react on time.
The film can be watched on Amazon Prime, Paramount +, and some other platforms like DirectTV depending on your jurisdiction. Or if you treasure physical media, you can get the DVD/Blu-ray on Amazon or other online stores.
LA BELLE ET LA BÊTE
“La Belle et la Bête” (“Beauty and the Beast”) is a 2014 French/German fantasy drama film based on the traditional fairy tale of the same name by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve, written by Christophe Gans and Sandra Vo-Anh, and directed by Gans keeping the spirit of the original story. I would add horror as another sub-genre as well because of the Beast’s attitude and some scenes in the movie. The film is made in French and dubbed into English, and rated PG-13.
It’s 1720. After his ships are shipwrecked, a devastated, bankrupt merchant and his six children are forced to move to the countryside. Among them is Belle, the youngest of his daughters, but also the most cheerful and charming. During an exhausting journey, the merchant discovers the enchanted castle of the Beast, a hideous creature, played by Vincent Cassel, the mere sight of it chills the bone to the marrow.
There, a fate worse than death awaits the poor father-of-six, who, after plucking a sweet-scented rose from the repulsive master’s verdant garden, must do the impossible: permit his compassionate daughter, Belle, played by Léa Seydoux, to take his place and pay for the sins of her parent. Now, an impenetrable mystery shrouds the haunted mansion, and, as repugnance gradually turns into affection, only true love could break the spell. However, could Belle ever love the castle’s ghastly lord, the Beast?
International reviews for the film were mostly negative mostly American. Although the visuals and production design were praised, storytelling was criticized. The beast resembles the Disney animated version, but I find the story to be completely different. It’s more serious and grounded. In my opinion, it’s way better than the Disney live-action. I liked how the story is partially narrated by Belle and I also like how they change the origins of the curse and how it played out.
The film can be watched on Apple TV, VUDU, Peacock and Amazon Prime, and some other platforms like Google Play, DirectTV depending on your jurisdiction. Or if you treasure physical media, you can get the DVD/Blu-ray on Amazon or other online stores.
I remember the first time watching these films. When watching movies sometimes you have those times where something happens that makes you remember the film you watch that day fondly. We rented “Snow White: A Tale of Terror” on VHS, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” I saw at the movies with friends, and “La Belle et la Bête” we watched on DVD. I always wondered how “Snow White: A Tale of Terror” and “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” have the same rating. Snow White is so tame in comparison but anyways. It is what it is.
Over the years these films gathered a fan following, but they are still unknown to many. These films were thanks to the mainstream critics promoted as unwatchable movies and therefore easily dismissed. Some people I know heard about them but based on what they heard in the mainstream they never cared to give them a chance.
By today’s standards, these films are much better than the current “fairy tale remake in live-action” fever that mostly is just producing forgettable stories and performances. The current inability of Disney and others like Amazon to recreate the magic of classic fairy tale IPs makes these films look good. Check them out!
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