The latest trend from Hollywood these days have been expanding fairy tales and turning them into big budget, over-produced films, and often times forgetting that the charm and timelessness of fairy tales have always been the simplicity of it. Fairy tales, after all, were meant to teach children basic lessons, morals and standards and codes of conduct, using symbols and magic to ignite the imagination of the youth.
Hollywood, in its attempts to reach out to a younger Facebook-Twitter-YouTube generation, have commercialized the magic and pumped up the modern sensibilities, tearing away at the essence of what makes a fairy tale so enchanting in the first place.
Take this example for the upcoming movie Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters:
It sure looks like a lot of fun. It's got Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton kicking ass in a Gothic fairy tale meets punk, leather, and Rambo. It's got Famke Janssen (and I'd watch anything with Famke Janssen in it). I'd watch it in 3D. I'm probably even going to think it's cool.
But one look at this trailer and you know that the magic is going to be all in the special effects, in the fight choreography, and in the cleverness of the modernization of the fairy tale. It has nothing to do with the portrayal of child abuse, the cruelty of parents, and the resourcefulness of children, which is what Hansel and Gretel is really about in the first place and that's where my misgivings lay.
Now take this example of the trailer of the upcoming film Jack the Giant Killer:
I'm frightened because I've stopped becoming a fan of director Bryan Singer. I loved Usual Suspects and I loved Apt Pupil but since then, he hasn't given us good work. The first two X-Men films were weak and Superman Returns was disjointed and lacked energy. When the best thing about a Superman movie is Parker Posey, you know something is wrong.
There's something artificial and Hollywood-esque about Jack the Giant Killer. It doesn't seem at all romantic or magical. The beanstalk, a fabulous metaphor for hard work, ambition, dedication, and perseverance looks fake and made out of plastic. The giants aren't majestic or grand. Instead they look savage and brutish, which is fine, if that's how they wanted to go about it, but then again we've had quite a lot of really good savage and brutish giant monsters that they would be in comparison to.
At the same time, taking my cues from the trailer, they've expanded the story to include a kingdom besieged by the giants. Why not? That could work. But I fear they might be focused on the spectacle of a war with giants than they are in what makes Jack and the Beanstalk such a lovely little tale. It is the story of a poor boy who reaches the heavens and finds his fortune in a land so far removed from his own. It's a personal tale that is a metaphor for hard work and dedication but it also has shades of theft, taking what is not yours, and of survival. By turning it into this grand display of special effects, I'm afraid it might just become another big-budget Hollywood movie.
I saw Snow White and the Huntsman because Charlize Theron looked unbelievably gorgeous and I knew she'd be fantastic as the evil queen. I was quite surprised that director Rupert Sanders delved into the mystical forces of life and corruption and elevated it into this rebellion against oppression. It wonderfully kept the fairy tale mode while expounding on its themes. I appreciated that. It's no surprise, though, that I did not appreciate the casting of Kristen Stewart, who was horribly miscast and served to ruin what could have been a very lovely fairy tale adaptation.
I was told to stay away from Red Riding Hood with Amanda Seyfried. Haunted by poor reviews, I never actually gave it a chance to see if it lived up to the essence of the original fairy tale which is about seduction, the loss of innocence, and even pedophilia. I've been told that there was a twist to its end, and I knew that I didn't want to see it.
Off-hand, I can only really think of Ever After as being the sort of champion for Hollywood's attempt at adapting and even modernizing popular fairy tales. They may have removed the magical and "fairy" elements from the film, but what they kept was the soul of the tale and brought in new and modern sensitivities without deviating too far from the story. They found the magic from romance of the era, the romance of the story, and from the triumph of goodness and not through special effects.
So while I will still watch Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters because I love Renner, Arteton, and Janssen, I'm not expecting much. I'm not expecting to be blown away or ridiculously charmed. I think in this day and age, that's what Disney and Pixar is for.
Billy Nacis said: Yes, some adaptations or remakes now are too lazy to watch. But maybe its what today's generation is looking for. Adaptation with a twist. A make-your-own ending, plot or story is a marketing and smart way to encourage present viewers. Good casting, director/producer picks and of course trailers make it so cool that even if you're not a fan of that tale you'll simply watch it because of them. Hope we (Filipinos) will also have a really nice remake. (hindi puro panday o darna)