Once upon a time, there was a studio executive. And on one bright, sunny, beautiful day, that studio executive put on his magical thinking cap and came up with the grandest of ideas: “I’ve got it!” the handsome man said to his loyal assistant steed. “Let us tap into moviegoers’ hearts via nostalgia. Let’s bring to life the mystical, wonderful tales they heard as wee ones ready for respite in bed! And where, I say, is my coffee?” And so it began: The fairy tale movie trend.
So, after awhile, a Stardust came and went. Then an Enchanted, a conglomerate of every fairy tale of our youth, captured our hearts. Then an Alice in Wonderland collected more gold than a leprechaun could ever hope to see. And today, we see the casting of Julia Roberts in one of two Snow White projects, and Famke Janssen in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (which Paramount confirmed to EW). So you know what this means: This trend will carry on until the fat lady sings. You know, Strega Nona.
Now, I’m hardly complaining: The Princess Bride, a film that perfected the craft of fairy tale storytelling on the big screen, is one of my favorite films of all time. And, quite honestly, Snow White is way overdue for a new hairstyle. But, after Tim Burton’s dark fairy tale adaptation made bank, it seems filmmakers are becoming more attracted to the dark side of the tales — bringing them to the big screen, really, in the form they were originally written. Both The Brothers Grimm: Snow White and Snow White and the Huntsman are supposed to be more sinister versions of the tale, and Hansel & Gretel is pegged as an action film. (And as for Catherine Hardwicke’s upcoming Red Riding Hood — my my, what angsty it has!) And while that excites a Brothers Grimm fan like myself — who’d love to see the original stories, bleak endings and all — represented in some form, I wonder how it will pay off for filmmakers. Ignoring a happily ever after does allow them more creative license to challenge themselves and the viewer, but in our own bleak world — where moviegoers like to blow off steam with Shrek and its many sequels — is it a gamble to reveal to audiences what really happens on the final page of a Brothers Grimm tale? (Sure, Burton’s gotten away with dark storytelling, but that’s because the director has spent a career perfecting films with a mixture of dark themes and levity. Seeing his movies, you never walk out feeling defeated or robbed of a happy ending.)
I say, go ahead, Hollywood: Continue developing fantastical tales with melancholy overtones. Bring to the big screen The Little Mermaid Hans Christian Andersen created, with the title character (spoiler alert) committing suicide. Make an adaptation of Carlo Collodi’s original version of The Adventures of Pinocchio, which ended (spoiler alert) with the puppet being hanged for various crimes. Create the Brothers Grimm version of Rumpelstiltskin, in which the gnome (spoiler alert) literally tears himself in half in a fit of anger. (Kind of awesome, right?) And I’m still waiting for Burton to take on the petrifying title character of Heinrich Hoffmann’s children’s book, Der Struwwelpeter. Really, any of these would be better than, funnily enough, the comedic 2005 film The Brothers Grimm.
Anyone else digging the trend of grim fairy tales? Hey, it worked for 2006’s Pan’s Labyrinth, right?