The problem with being young is that you’re impressionable. You read stories about girls being plucked from obscurity to marry a handsome Prince and you believe, if you’re lucky, this might just happen to you. Unfortunately, reality hits and the magic of Disney, Pixar and the brothers Grimm is exchanged for your teenage years, where the only time you pick up a book is if it’s on your syllabus and the only films worth watching have a certificate of 15 or above. However, since 2010 there has been a resurgence of the fantastical within cinema. We’re not talking classic Disney stories either; these are dark, twisted tales aimed at an adult audience.
They say that events in history are often reflected in the literature and film produced at that time. For example, in America the Great Depression resulted in movies that were escapist and musicals that were bright and full of success stories. Since the recession began in 2008, parallels of our current problems can be found in every fairytale: Caroll’s Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee seem to resemble the doltishness of our bankers, the Seven dwarves are probably unemployed somewhere – everyone is looking for a little bit of magic, which explains why the box office is now filled with fairytale remakes and re-imaginings, and it looks likely that this will remain the case.
In March 2010, the five highest-grossing films were based on fairytales. At the top of this list was fantasy king Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland. As this article goes to print, Alice in Wonderland’s worldwide gross stands at $1,024,299,904. While the critics may not be so fond of these remakes, the public are buying more and more into the world of dark fantasy.
Last year saw not one but two remakes of Snow White: Snow White and the Huntsman and Murror, Mirror. These remakes sought to rebrand the stereotype of the fairytale princess, who are now no longer damsels in distress that sing to the birds and wait for their handsome Prince to come save the day. In SWATH for example, we see a princess that channels her inner Joan of Arc, going into battle waving a sword and favouring full body armour over a dress.
However, Joe Wright, director of action thriller Hanna, argues that these themes have always been at the core of fairy tales. Originally, they were fables, made to teach lessons to young children through the medium of storytelling. Wright said himself in a recent interview, “The original fairy tales, before they got colonised by Disney, were dark tales that involved violence and darker element, with a thriller action premise.”
Even Disney now seem to have turned to the dark side, as 2014 will see the release of Maleficent, a new twist on the classic story of Sleeping Beauty told from the perspective of the eponymous evil Queen. Angelina Jolie is set to take on the title role, and has a lot to live up to with recent fairytale queens including superb performances from the likes of Charlize Theron, Julia Roberts and Helena Bonham Carter. Moreover, one has to question if Maleficent is going to be released into an already over-saturated market and whether, by the time of its release, we may have grown tired of the ideals of the fairy tale world.
We can at least be comforted in the fact that fairy tales aren’t all fantasy. There’s still hope of us marrying a handsome prince someday – after all, Kate Middleton did it. There’s probably just as much hope of that happening as getting hit by lightning and winning the lottery, but still… A girl can dream.