Fairy tales cast spell on Hollywood

Kristen Stewart stars as Snow White in Snow White and the Huntsman. (Handout)

Kristen Stewart stars as Snow White in Snow White and the Huntsman. (Handout)

Liz Braun, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:12 AM ET

Hollywood wants you to live happily ever after.

How else to explain the tidal wave of movies based on fairy tales that's headed our way?

Snow White & the Huntsman opens this Friday, hot on the heels of Mirror Mirror, but if you think two Snow White movies in a year is odd, just wait: Over the next two years, you'll see dozens more fairy tales on the big screen.

There are, for example, at least three Pinocchio movies coming to a theatre near you, including a live-action picture directed by Tim Burton, a prequel called The Three Misfortunes of Geppetto and a 3D animation version produced by Guillermo del Toro. Jiminy Cricket!

And del Toro will direct a new Beauty and the Beast, starring Emma Watson. People have already heard about Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, which teams Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as the adult Hansel and Gretel, taking names and kicking witches, and Maleficent, which is Sleeping Beauty told from the wicked witch's point of view. That one, of course, stars Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning.

Another Sleeping Beauty starring Hailee Steinfeld is in the works. There's supposed to be a new Little Mermaid (either Shana Feste's Mermaid or Joe Wright's long-awaited project), and even more Snow Whites -- a kung-fu outlaw extravaganza called The Order of the Seven, with Saoirse Ronan and Chow Yun-fat, and A.D. Calvo's dark version, which features a suicidal Snow. Mark Romanek will direct a live-action version of Cinderella.

And all that's just the tip of the iceberg.

You're probably wondering about the social, ethical and intellectual reasons behind such an increase in fairy tale movies, or at least pondering why they are so much a part of the contemporary zeitgeist. Or perhaps you're wrapping fish. At any rate, fairy tales haven't just appeared suddenly this year -- they never went away.

Why? Because sub sole nihil novi est.

Either straight up or disguised as something else, the fairy tale has been a staple of movies since the beginning of motion pictures -- consider the 1915 silent version of Alice in Wonderland. And after you remember that Alice in Wonderland isn't a fairy tale, think about the 1937 version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

There are any number of rags-to-riches "chick flicks" based on Cinderella, including such movies as Sabrina, Pretty Woman and Ever After, and Little Red Riding Hood is the basis for all kinds of tricky bad guy/even trickier girl movies, such as Freeway or Hard Candy or The Company of Wolves.

(Remember Freeway? A young Reese Witherspoon as the runaway from juvey and a young Kiefer Sutherland as the perv she outwits? Guess not.)

You can love the Oscar-winning animated Disney version of Beauty and the Beast, but the story itself turns up as the basis of many other movies, including Tim Burton's Edward Scissorhands. In the same way, the film Like Water For Chocolate owes something to the fairy tale Cap O'Rushes (which is comparable to King Lear); if it's the Pied Piper of Hamlin you're after, try to find a version of the truly bizarre Krysar (1985, directed by Jiri Barta).

There are plenty of versions of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, including Robin and the Seven Hoods, Sydney White and Seven Samurai; we're just kidding about the last part.

What looks promising about the new crop of fairy tale movies is the possibility of a return to their original bleak endings. Most fairy tales are frightening, sad or grim, or all three; for example, The Little Mermaid sacrifices herself for love, and certainly never gets the prince or a pair of legs as she does in the smiley-face Disney version. Rape and murder are not uncommon in fairy tales and people are often getting their eyes scratched or pecked out. Furthermore, those pesky stepmothers and cruel kings don't always get the punishment they deserve.

We happen to think the scary bits in Snow White & the Huntsman are probably the best part of the whole movie experience. Let's hope the new crop of fairy tale movies will continue to explore the dark side of the imagination.

Poison apple, anyone?

 


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