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In Defense of…Mirror, Mirror

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:

IMDB: 5.6 out of 10
Rotten Tomatoes: 49%
Metacritic: 46 (out of 100)

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

In Defense of…Mirror, Mirror

NBC’s Emerald City – A New Oz

There’s never too long before a Wizard of Oz adaptation comes to fruition. Scheduled for an April 2016 release, NBC has begun production on Emerald City, a ten episode mini series. While very little details are known regarding the synopsis, it has been confirmed that the Wizard (recently cast Daredevil villain Vincent D’Onfrio) will rule Oz with an iron (emerald?) fist, outlawing all magic of any kind. Dorothy, played by the up and coming television actress Adria Arjona, will be much older than the book depicted child, which leads audiences to assume she will take a more active hero role in the story. Tarsem Singh (known for directing spectacles such as Mirror, Mirror) is set to direct all ten episodes.

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For those of you that don’t already know, I’m an avid Wizard of Oz fan. It’s been my favorite movie since childhood. You know those hanging monkey toys that were popular for awhile? Yeah, I totally made wings for them. I digress.

I’m going into this being cautiously optimistic. It’s difficult for me to always be excited about new Oz when I’ve been burned by Oz before. The adaptations don’t always capture the magic and danger that Oz brings. They want to make them sexy, futuristic, bloody, cyborg, steampunk, drug addled, etc. When those adaptations are released, they are marketed as an Oz we’ve never seen before, when that’s never what an Oz fan has wanted.

Personally, I love when they tell new stories. Expansions on such a beautiful fantasy world bring new life into the fold, and while they’re not always innovative stories, they at least have my respect. So while I’m not looking forward to an Oz story I’ve already seen a million times, I’m intrigued by the Wizard as a villain (or at least a bully) angle, since that is how I’ve always seem him. I also have a lot of faith in Singh as a director. He’s often panned as one of the worst in the business, but, truthfully, I enjoy the sense of whimsy he brings to all of his work. If there’s one thing Oz should always be, it’s whimsical.The%20Wizard%20of%20Oz

Do you want some Oz recommendations to prepare for the new show? Here’s a small list of my favorite Oz adaptations:

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West

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Arguably the most successful and famous continuation of the Oz legacy is the 1995 novel written by Gregory Maguire. A tale of Elphaba, the notorious Wicked Witch, this story predates the time of Dorothy and gives Oz a more realistic look as a country while focusing on a character that helped create the villain trope that we know today. The introduction of politics and religion into a world filled with magic was so exceptional it spawned 3 sequels and a hit show on Broadway that is seeing its 13th year in production. Read the book, see the play, watch the movie again, hate Glinda.

Marvel’s Wizard of Oz comic books

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These are what I consider to be the most faithful adaptations of the books.  They are almost word for word taken from Baum’s first six canonical stories.  Begun during Marvel’s period od adapting classic novels in the late 2000’s, write Eric Shanower and artist Skottie Young’s take on the stories were so well received that the Oz comics were the only ones to continue while all the other classics had been canceled.  They truly capture some of the most difficult aspects of Oz (like how to make it frightening as well as magical) without losing its appeal to children or adults.

I know there are a ton more adaptations out there, and most of them I have seen.  They all have a lot of great qualities to them, but these two are the only ones I feel really continue the legacy of what Oz is and what it means. What are your favorite Oz adaptations?  Are you looking forward to the new series? Do you want to hear the reasons why I dislike so many other Oz…things?

NBC’s Emerald City – A New Oz