Following the hammer-smashing Thor and last year’s Chris Pine starring Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, one of Britain’s best loved thespians, Sir Kenneth Branagh, continues his ascent into the world of directing big budget flicks with Disney’s live-action remake of Cinderella. Starring Dowton Abbey’s Lily James as the kind-hearted Ella, and Cate Blanchett as the notorious evil stepmother, the Northern Irish born director manages to intertwine the old with the new effectively in this spirited – and extremely stylish – modern day take on the classic fairytale.
Based on Charles Perrault’s 17th century story, Cinderella (as we know it) first hit cinema screens in Walt Disney’s Oscar-nominated 1950 animated hit. The story of the mistreated, glass-slipper-losing step-daughter who ends up winning the heart of the handsome prince has charmed countless generations of adults and children across the globe, and this latest version joins a growing list of live-action re-imaginings following the announcements of 2017’s Beauty and the Beast and a proposed new Dumbo movie.
Unlike the overrated Maleficent, this Disney reboot has more to it than the impressive sharpness of Angelina Jolie’s jawline. In James, the film has an impressive 21st century Disney heroine: bright, attractive, ultimately disadvantaged, yet possessing a strong backbone. There’s a level of innocence to her which any princess-in-waiting requires, yet there’s also a dose of feistiness hidden under all those mucky rags, which makes Branagh’s Cinderella more than just your typical damsel in distress. Our prince – preferring to go by his real name, Kitt – is no less charming, yet certainly more humanised, as Richard Madden brings a real likeability factor to a role that focuses less on looks and more on his actions.
Cate Blanchett’s eye-catching turn as the iconic stepmother is one of the film’s brightest points. Those piercing eyes cut through you like a knife, as she and her wonderfully terrible daughters, Drisella (Sophie McShera) and Anastasia (Holliday Grainger), are bitchy delights. Helena Bonham Carter’s short-lived appearance as the Fairy Godmother felt as if it had come straight out of the Tim Burton handbook for CGI as creepy looking half lizard-half humans and mice-turned-horses take centre stage when Cinderella is whisked off to the ball in her pumpkin shaped carriage.
There’s only so much you can do when tasked with giving such an iconic story a modern reboot, yet Branagh’s beautifully constructed timeless world – lightly peppered with just the right dose of Disney magic – has allowed for a lovely looking – if not slightly slow-starting – British flavoured family flick which has successfully captured the original’s spirit, added together with a light touch of new age flavour.