In the original Snow White, the wicked stepmother’s ultimate punishment is to dance in hot iron shoes until she dies.
– by Erykah Brackenbury –
In the original Snow White, the wicked
stepmother’s ultimate punishment is to dance in hot iron shoes until she dies. In Mirror,
Mirror, Julia Roberts’s queen is
awarded a depressingly 21st-century fate worse than death.
For all that
Mirror Mirror claims to be ‘the untold story of Snow White’, Lily (daughter-of-Phil) Collins is a rather unmemorable
heroine. Channelling the spirit, and eyebrows, of Jennifer Connelly in Labyrinth,
she spends much of the film wearing a look of doe-eyed wonder, regardless of
whether it be shock, anger or love she is portraying. While she tries her best
with the limited scope her character is given, Collins is frequently upstaged
by most of those she shares the screen with, particularly Roberts, who camps it
The trouble is
that while we are supposed to root for Snow White, the evil queen is such a
more entertaining and well-rounded character that it is difficult not to be on
her side. Julia Roberts, clearly well-versed in the pantomime tradition,
creates a character deserving of boos and hisses, getting all the best lines.
Yet the film expects us to empathise with Snow White, a character so
astoundingly dim that when sneaking into a masquerade ball she has been banned
from, shuns any form of disguise in favour of wearing an entire dead swan on her head!
one of the few genuinely visionary artists working in cinema today, Tarsem Singh offers merely workmanlike
direction, the most creative and inspiring part of the film being the
stop-motion introduction. Unfortunately while beautiful, this reeks of somebody
in the art department having watched Harry
Potter’s Tale of the Three Brothers the day before and hoping the use of 3D
rather than 2D figures will prevent anybody noticing the resemblance.
Inevitably for a
tale originating in the 1800s, concessions to feminism have been made. Snow
White is – at a slight stretch of the imagination –turned into a powerful
fighter, leaping to leader of the dwarves in just a few weeks. Naturally, every
POWERFUL woman needs a POWERFUL woman outfit, so Snow White is squeezed into a
corset and somehow still manages to defy the laws of physics and somersault her
way through fight routines. Snow White still cooks and cleans for the dwarves,
despite the fact they have managed to independently feed themselves for several
In this version
of the tale it’s Armie Hammer’s
hapless Prince Charming who is the one who needs rescuing from the Queen’s
spell, giving Snow White at least a modicum of agency in this
reinterpretation. However, these
concessions to feminism are far outweighed by the insidious message at the
heart of the film. A decade after Shrek
taught a generation of children that you can still find true love even looking
like the back end of a bus, Mirror
Mirror’s main message is that being young and pretty is the most important
thing a girl can be. The most terrible fate is to be wrinkled and old. As
feminist interpretations go, it’s no Angela Carter.
Mirror Mirror adds nothing to the Snow White mythos. Sean Bean is criminally underused and
while children will be entertained by the bright colours and quick plotting,
the film is a curiously forgettable experience.