Friday, March 30, 2012
Movie review: Mirror Mirror
The movie’s dazzling, until the actors open their mouths.
What happens when you limit a visionary’s vision? You end up with a movie like Mirror Mirror, which finds director Tarsem Singh’s fascinating attention to detail compacted so it can fit into a mediocre retelling of the Snow White fairy tale.
As is so often the case with fairy tale adaptations, characters don’t have personalities. Rather, they’re simply reduced to types. This makes it incredibly hard to care about any characters onscreen, especially because we know how the story will end. Despite a few half-hearted “girl power” moments, the story hits all the beats you know it will.
While the story may be familiar, you certainly haven’t seen it like this before. That’s because Singh, his costume designer (the late Eiko Ishioka), and art directing team make sure every scene dazzles the eye. The craft aspects of the movie are as flawless as Snow White’s skin.
But sometimes the “look-at-this” tone of the movie goes overboard, bringing to mind Tim Burton’s disastrous take on Alice in Wonderland. Fortunately, only two scenes reminded me of that debacle, but they’re both examples of overdoing it. First, instead of talking directly to her magic mirror, the Evil Queen (Julia Roberts) walks through it, gets transported to another dimension, and walks into another room to look into another mirror to talk to her reflection. That’s overkill.
Second, the climactic battle against the Beast suffers from “Gigantism,” a common symptom in effects-driven movies. Basically, a battle against a creature is not good enough, so the creature must be anywhere from three to 10 times bigger than the human fighting it. (There will be plenty of these in Wrath of the Titans.) And there’s no need for it. It doesn’t add any tension to the proceedings. It only emphasizes the underachieving visual effects.
So what about that acting? Roberts is the only one here who’s neither a blank slate nor typecast (sorry, Nathan Lane). She cranks it up to 11 as the vindictive, self-absorbed, wasteful ruler. This is the first time she’s played a villain since My Best Friend’s Wedding, and she relishes the role.
As for the rest of the cast, Armie Hammer certainly commits himself to playing Prince Charming, but he has no screen presence, only a winning smile. Lily Collins (daughter of Phil) certainly looks stunning as Snow White, but she has no chemistry with the prince and it’s always hard to gauge her reaction when the queen snaps at her. Should she wince in fear or roll her eyes? Or should she stand her ground? Instead, she just stands there and does nothing.
That pretty much sums up the film: awe-inspiring to glance at, but blank inside.
For showtimes for Mirror Mirror, click here.