With the release of Maleficent, Disney and Hollywood have basically continued the trend of gritty, dark movie interpretations of fairy tales in the world of cinema. For those who don’t know what I’m talking about, the 2010’s have seen a rise in action-oriented reboots of old fairy tales, all of which had previously been processed as either saccharine children’s bedtime stories, or saccharine Disney films. In this new trend, however, Hollywood isn’t just removing the saccharinity induced by Disney. They also seem to be turning them into gothic action films.
The trend started back in 2011 with the release of Red Riding Hood, which was basically a gritty reboot of Little Red Riding Hood (which removes “little” from the title just to seem edgy). A cursory glance will reveal that Red Riding Hood was little more than a result of committee thinking, thought up of by producers who wanted a slice of the success enjoyed by the Twilight films. They must have tried to act pretty damn hard to mask the embarrassment of making that movie, unless it turns out they had no shame at all as long as they got paid to do it. It also misses the point, since Little Red Riding Hood was originally written as an allegory of a young girl entering maturity, a point which is repeatedly left out in most modern interpretations.
In 2012, we had Snow White and the Huntsman, which is basically what you get when you take Snow White and put her in a neutered Game of Thrones setting. Everything from the original Snow White movie is there, including the mirror and the dwarves, but in a significantly stupider way, mainly due to the fact that there are eight dwarves. Snow White wasn’t even conceived this way. Even Disney got what the original version was about, because the original tale was about an evil queen who wants to kill Snow White because she was more beautiful. In Snow White and the Huntsman, however, the story is about some war against a cliché sorceress.
Last year, we got the Joan Collins special, with Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, a film so ridiculous that I don’t think any intelligent person would even think of going near it. Hansel and Gretel was originally a German fairy tale where two children were left in the woods whose mother leaves them in the woods. They eventually encounter a cannibalistic witch, who they eventually outwit. The film tries to continue from that tale, but in the form of a film so ridiculous it makes Van Helsing look like a masterpiece.
This year’s gothic action flick, Maleficent, is basically Sleeping Beauty from the villain’s point of view. The entire point of the film misses the point of La Belle au bois dormant, the fairy tale that inspired Disney’s film. The tale was about a princess who was put to sleep via a spell from an evil fairy. I don’t think the character Maleficent shows up in the original tale, and may have first occurred in Disney’s Sleeping Beauty. In either version, the film involves a brave hero seeking to save the princess. In Maleficent, however, the fairy curses the infant Princess Aurora (the same princess from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty), only to realize that she might be the only key to achieving peace between two warring kingdoms. Did that have anything to do with Sleeping Beauty at all?
I’m all for fantasy and all, but this is just ridiculously overdone. Am I to understand that not one Disney executive objected to this?
If there’s one thing that all of those films had in common, aside from the overall formula, it’s that they all have very high budgets (Maleficent alone costed $180 million to make), and many of them were box-office successes, no doubt thanks to the foreign markets Hollywood has been ever so comfortable about relying on.
Even though the earliest instance of this trend was in the 1997 made-for-TV film Snow White: A Tale of Terror, I think that this trend really started with the commercial success of the Twilight films, which for a brief moment made people think that emo was cool. It’s likely that Maleficent will succeed in the box office, but of course, these trends all die out at some point. I can only hope that this particular trend is no exception and will die out soon, because it takes fantasy and sucks the life right out of it.