I’ve recently seen Mirror, Mirror as well as Snow White and the Huntsman and enjoyed both, but for very different reasons. Both stories are a retooling of the classic tale, but Mirror, Mirror sets itself up as a comedy, while Snow White and the Huntsman remains more faithful to the traditional Brothers Grimm fairytale.

Mirror, Mirror stars Julia Roberts as the Wicked Queen with magical powers and features Nathan Lane as her faithful sidekick and errand boy. When Lane’s character fails her, she turns him into a cockroach. This comes off as a gratuitous comedic attempt (if there even is such a thing), and is one of the few aspects of the story which didn’t fully succeed. It reminded me a bit of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where the Peter Pettigrew character hides as a pet rat named Wormtail. J.K. Rowling utilizes this plot point better than Mirror, Mirror. Most of the rest of the story, however, holds together. Naturally the Queen wants Prince Charming for herself so she whips up a potion, but this backfires when the prince turns becomes a puppy dog, infected with puppy love. I actually liked this aspect of the story, and I also liked the turnaround on the tale whereby Snow White saves the prince instead of the reverse. The role of the dwarves as outlaws and degenerate renegades reestablishes their importance in the tale, so unlike the 1937 Disney movie where the diminutive dwarves are only used as comedic foils for the Wicked Queen. One of the best lines, a line that drives the story is: “It’s important to know when you’ve been beaten.” This adage is turned on its head when Snow White defeats the Wicked Queen. The movie Burlesque echoes this plot point when one performer tells the ingénue and rising star, “Clearly, one of us has underestimated the other.”

In Snow White and the Huntsman, the tale is much more faithful to the very scary aspects of the Brothers Grimm story. One of the dwarves, for instance, is blind, a trope that is often utilized in classic stories to point out that the blind are sometimes the only true seers.

One thing both stories reminded me is that people no longer read as much as they used to. The main way audiences are introduced to classic stories and mythology is through filmic depictions, retold and reimagined. The Huntsman film reminded me of the cinematography of the recent Lord of the Rings trilogy, a broad, sweeping cinematic canvas. Still, in my mind, as a writer, I’m convinced that nothing quite equals the evocative images and use of the imagination when it comes to envisioning stories that are read. I’m quite certain my English and creative writing instructors would agree. My advice: go read books, lots of them, then see the films only as escapist entertainment.

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