The Hollywood system has changed in the last decade or so. Truly original source material is few and far between. Mirror, Mirror is actually the first of two Snow White films to be released this summer, the second being the much darker Snow White and the Seven Huntsmen. And while that movie seems to keep true to the original story of Snow White, Mirror, Mirror is a much different beast.
Let’s get this out of the way first, the cast and the costumes are amazing. Director Tarsem Singh has been making movies long enough to have a style all his own. Best known for his work on The Cell and The Immortals his style is somewhere between Tim Burton and Julie Taymor. Through his lens, the viewer is transported to a magical kingdom where anything can happen. Singh manages to include almost every culture into his kingdom, making the world a strange fusion of styles from almost every period.
The cast is spot on as well. Lilly Collins’ Snow White has just the right amount of innocence and charm to pull off the legendary figure. Julia Roberts plays against type as the evil queen and plays it so over-the-top she practically steals the movie. The only one truly out of place is the character of Prince Charming, as played by relative newcomer Armie Hammer. Hammer, who showed a great amount of depth in The Social Network, is shot as if he’s not acting at all throughout the entire film.
The level of casualness he brings to his character makes the movie so lighthearted that it derails the plot completely. You never truly feel anyone is in any kind of danger. And if no one is in danger, there’s really no point to watching.
What it comes down to is a faulty script. Of the three writers credited to the story, only one of them has any real film experience. The style and tone continually change to the point where the viewer isn’t sure whether they are watching a comedy, a dark retelling, or a parody. This movie’s tongue is so far up its cheek it practically comes out the other side. If it had simply admitted to the audience that was its goal it would have been a much more enjoyable film. After all, it worked for The Princess Bride.
It is hard to tell whether or not theatergoers will make Mirror, Mirror a success or not. While it is visually stunning to watch, the script can be sometimes hard to bear. Take, for instance, the ten or so minutes Hammer spends pretending to be a dog. I kid you not. The film even uses cartoon sound effects that seem to come out of nowhere to drill the scene home. The result is totally out of place and should probably have been cut from the final draft of the movie.
This summer audiences will have two Snow White’s to choose from when going to the movies. Who will be the fairest of them all? Only time will tell.