Rewatched Jun 26, 2012
Corey Pierce’s review:
The most underrated (misunderstood?) film of the year, and a gorgeous blu-ray.
Within a minute of it's runtime, Mirror Mirror slaps you in the face with the unusual, leaving you suspicious and distant about where it might go, and you have about 10 to 15 minutes to decide if you want to go with it. We see a backstory presented much like the intro to Hellboy II, or the Deathly Hallows story, and Julia Roberts is cracking wise. It's undermining it's own epic mythology. The trailer for this film was not good, and Julia Roberts opening this film in that manner could confirm the worst for those who had prejudices going in.
But as I am often likely to do, within the first 15 minutes the bombast and whatthefuckness of it all gave me an increasing amount of faith in Tarsem's vision, and from there I fell in love, enough to walk out of the theater feeling like I had just witnessed the Speed Racer of princess films.
I'll say outright of all the participants, Julia Roberts might still be the only thing I'd change if given the opportunity. I'd prefer a Michelle Pfieffer, a more obvious vamp/camp worker, and hope she would bring it like she did in Hairspray. Moving on from there, here's where Mirror Mirror works
Character, casting, stylistic bombast, confidence in its own adaptations, the willingness to take risks with tone, risks with the expectations of a fairy tale film, and risks with the expectations of Tarsem's style.
Tarsem's usual tricks are here, the fabric porn, the color palate, the composed grandness of it all. But by taking on a fairy tale he's opened the door to influences from the warm fuzziness Jeunet's Amelie, the swashbuckling of Robin Hood stories, the woodland fantasy of the Harry Potter world, Tim Burton-ish stabs at costuming, the adventurous spirit of Gilliams Time Bandits and Baron Muchausen, and the slapstick madcap humor of Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge. And then when you think you're done, there's Bollywood, and you realize there was a bit of that in there all along as well. The mishmash does feel as risky and inspired as Speed Racer was for me, and I can only respect and applaud such ballsy work.
Yes, the story is more Robin Hood than the Snow White story you're used to. Lily Collins, daughter of Phil Collins, is AMAZING here, and a massive contrast to the emo waif Snow White we're getting from Kristen Stewart later this year. She's feminine but eventually Zorro-ish in attitude and spirit, she has the magnetic charm of a young Jennifer Connelly, and she's as gorgeous too. She is a perfect Snow White. Armie Hammer is in Jon Hamm Junior mode. The dwarves are all fantastic, oozing personality, and especially feel inspired by Jeunet-ish ensemble casting taste, Gilliam's sense of mischief, and Luhrmann's unpredictable whimsy. Tarsem uses them to push his own offbeat equivalent of steampunk in their 'giant' battle attire. Nathan Lane is working Disney buffoon assistant mode, which is one of the off putting elements in the opening minutes but quite enjoyable by the end. Also Disneylike is some of Menken's score, not a surprise when his name popped up in the credits.
The humor is deliberately corny, much like Speed Racer's "nonja" one liners and the kind of quick quips you'd maybe see from an animated sidekick in an animated film. When you put this in Tarsem's world, its' one of those things that's a little weird at first, but if you let it wash over you, will have you giggling or smiling often.
Overall I can't help but be in love with the spectacle, creativity and engenuity in this more hero-driven adaptation. There is a nice surprise near the end that's kind of meta regarding one of the actors involved, a spell of a different kind gets broken there.
Mirror Mirror was a humongous surprise. It woke my heart up with true love's kiss***. I may end up being the only one who thinks it's a masterpiece, but I'll take comfort in being so thoroughly convinced that I am right, and that at least the good part of the theater that clapped and stayed through the entire credits agrees. Easily my favorite film of 2012, and the reason I go to the movies.
***Boxquotey bullshit on purpose
More of my thoughts podcasted here at Criticalmasscast: criticalmasscast.com/?p=2493
and here at RowThree: