Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Mirror, Mirror

directed by Tarsem Singh


In a society which values looks over everything else, Julia Roberts' evil queen is the inevitable consequence. The ageing, neurotic queen is a figure of pity as much as ridicule as she bankrupts her kingdom for the sake of parties, gowns, fancy shoes, and getting people to fawn over her. Snow White (Lily Collins) is the fly in her expensive ointment, threatening to outshine the queen with her beauty and popularity without even trying too hard, even though she's forbidden to attend any of the queen's lavish parties.

Mirror, Mirror goes overboard with colourful, foppish costumes and you can tell the designers had a lot of fun creating them all. My favourite has to be the queen's enormous white feathered gown. There are also magical effects as well: the queen doesn't merely talk to the mirror, she steps into a mirror world where her sharp-tongued reflection speaks to her like her conscience and warns her about the high cost of using magic. The queen, of course, never thinks about the cost of anything.

Snow White's story is well known, but this version rings quite a lot of changes, starting with the dwarves. The seven of them are living out in the forest, a place people avoid because it's said to be inhabited by a beast. They get by as bandits. Napoleon, Grub, Half Pint, Grimm, Wolf, Butcher, and Chuckles aren't the cutesy version of the dwarves, they're strong and they know how to fight in spite of their size. I liked the way there's a good reason for the seven of them to band together and live out in the forest, and it all ties in with the queen's aesthetic tyranny. In the town the poor people are starving due to oppressive taxation, and when Snow White slips away from the castle she's shocked by what she finds in the wider kingdom.

There has to be a prince of course, but although Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) is handsome he's also bemused by what he finds. The queen wants to marry him as soon as he lets slip that he has a fortune, and if she can't charm him she's more than willing to cheat to get what she wants.

Mirror, Mirror's Snow White is a progressive sort of heroine willing to fight for herself rather than lie down and wait to be rescued, and where possible she thinks herself out of trouble. This is a very gentle, PG film, tame to the extent that it's hard to believe in the queen as a homicidal villain because she does everything with such a flippant attitude, as though she's removed from everyone else's suffering. It's a story that looks and feels like it should be more of a comedy than it is, but I found the humour a bit too predictable and there simply wasn't enough of it. The second half of the movie is an improvement on the first because that's when they get down to the main conflict and the queen shows her true ugliness. It's not a bad version of the fairy tale, although it sets the prince up to look like a fool quite a lot and this doesn't always strike the right note. However I did warm to Lily Collins' Snow as she changed from a fairly bland princess into someone determined to stand up for herself and for what's right.

5th April 2012

Film Details

Year: 2012

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

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3 star rating

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