Recreated and retold many times over, the rags-to-riches story of Cinderella has become one of the most beloved and well known plots of all time. Walt Disney first stole people’s hearts in 1950 with its animated Cinderella movie. Though this entertainment powerhouse has produced this same storyline many times over in live-action films such as A Cinderella Story, Another Cinderella Story, and Ella Enchanted, a new version directed by Kenneth Branagh was released in theaters in early 2015. The release of the new live-action Cinderella caused many people to wonder if it could live up to the most beloved original. Though not a true remake as it contains some notable differences, Cinderella (2015) for the most part stays in line with the original 1950 plot.
The movie begins with a focus on Ella (Lily James) and her two loving parents. They reside in a mansion on the countryside where Ella befriends many of the animals, including the mice, and learns of magic, dancing, and love from her mother (Hayley Altwell). The happy, sunlit atmosphere makes everything seem perfect until her mother becomes sick and soon dies. However, right before her death, Ella’s mother asks her daughter to promise to always “be kind and have courage.” This is perhaps one of the most notable modern twists in this movie. The phrase “be kind and have courage” becomes the guiding line of encouragement and a recurring theme throughout the movie. While this theme of kindness and courage is implied in the animated version of Cinderella, this new film is a little more blatant with revealing its themes.
While the portrayal of the themes is slightly different between the 1950 and 2015 films, the most notable plot difference is the fact that the protagonist’s name in the most recent movie is actually Ella. In this film, Ella is forced to sleep next to the dirty kitchen fire to keep warm due to the cold draft in her attic room. When she awakes in the morning to serve her step-sisters breakfast, she unknowingly has cinders smeared across her face, and her sisters disdainfully nickname her Cinderella.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of a live-action remake is the question of whether the actors can recreate the magic of an animated film. Fortunately, the casting was on point for this movie. Cate Blanchett played the perfect wicked step-mother and was quite terrifying at some points. But more than a perfect malicious step-mother, the Cinderella story needs a perfect Prince Charming, and Richard Madden was just that. Helena Bonham-Carter as the fairy godmother also did a spectacular job and added humor to the fairytale. Although a little over the top at times, the costumes were excellent and fitting overall.
Disney does a wonderful job of portraying a magical, picturesque atmosphere–an aspect that is essential to all Disney fairytale stories. While this is a live-action films, there are still some animations within to depict the perfect seaside kingdom. Due to its similar plot, modern twist, and excellent casting, costumes and settings, Disney’s most recent Cinderella definitely lives up to its animated original.