The latest in a line of many I’ll be defending is Mirror, Mirror. The 2012 film by Tarsem Singh starred Lily Collins as Snow White, Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, and Armie Hammer as Prince Alcott. It received one Oscar nomination for Best Achievement in Costume Design. The budget was an estimated $85 million, but only grossed $65 million as of August 2012, and made only $18 million opening weekend, making the film an overall financial flop. It received the following ratings from critics:
Why Did Mirror Mirror Fail?
There are a few reasons why the film didn’t succeed. The first is the director, Tarsem Singh. I don’t put the blame on him. He didn’t destroy the movie. It’s rather his reputation, or lack thereof, that did it. He went overly ambitious with the film and when you don’t have the reputation to back it up, the flair can come off as trying too hard. He had a vision that, at a different time, different place, different medium, would have worked.
The second reason is the thematic choices of the film. It’s a whimsical fairy tale. In fact, the film is the epitome of whimsical. When you think of whimsy, you should think of this movie. Now, that theme is incredible and difficult to do right (which it did), but it’s no longer the flavor of choice by audiences when it comes to film. People want dark and dangerous. They really don’t want sweet and bright anymore (there are a few exceptions, more on that later). That is why the film Snow White and the Huntsman did so much better. Queen that sucks souls? Drunken Huntsman? Warrior Snow? Sign the rest of the country up.
It’s also very difficult for anyone to wedge their place in the world of fairy tale cinema since Disney practically owns it. It’s most likely that any fairy tale based film that is not done by Disney will fail as long as Disney continues to remake their animated films into live action. Their movies are magical and bright and fulfill the all the fantastical elements that a movie audience can take each year. Why would we want anything else?
Where Mirror Mirror Succeeded
The number one thing this movie is recognized for is its costume design. Bringing a new take on the visual perspective of the fairy tale, Mirror Mirror perfectly reflected the director’s overall desired image. The gorgeous blue dress that Snow White wears at the end is absolutely to die for. And Julia Roberts is stunning in everything, as usual.
The humor in the movie was also a highlight for me. With every other film being dark and gritty, the lightheartedness of the film was refreshing. Better yet, it seemed to come naturally from the actors. You just knew they had fun filming this. My favorite had to have been when the Evil Queen gave Prince Alcott a love potion, but it was puppy love. For the next 20 minutes, Armie Hammer has to play a “dog” and it’s 100% hilarious without being over the top.
Speaking of the actors, they were absolutely fantastic. Each brought something fun to their respective characters. But the dwarves…the dwarves were phenomenal. In a bold decision, Singh cast actual dwarves in the roles and not only gave them different personalities (I know that sounds like an easy thing to do, but you’d be surprised), but each were treated as main characters and given a chance to develop on their own.
The story itself was impressive as a whole. The Snow White tale has been interpreted and reinterpreted for hundreds of years now, and I always appreciate something new. The story doesn’t play out the way you think it will, so surprises are always right around the corner. It manages to be familiar without being predictable.
Why You Should Give Mirror Mirror a Second Chance
For me, this was a very enjoyable film and one of my favorite Snow White stories based on the whimsical nature, visual spectacle, and outstanding casting choices. With so many fairy tale adaptations out there, this film stood out from the pack. If you want the dark and gritty fairy tale, then this may not be for you. But if you want a good laugh and witness some sweet moments, you’ll love this one too.