"what they craft is a beautiful piece of fairy tale magic"

The story of Cinderella dates back as early as ancient Egypt, whereby permutations of it can be found throughout history from Giambattista Basile’s Cenorentola in 1634, to loose modern re-workings like Hilary Duff’s sugar pop Cinderella Story. However, when one thinks of the fairy tale the image of the sweetly, singing blonde in the 1950 Walt Disney Animation is the first to come to mind, which is arguably the most popular version of the story to date.

It’s no surprise that director Kenneth Branagh and scriptwriter Chris Weitz wanted to produce a live-action version that was as true to it as possible to the classic animation.

What they craft is a beautiful piece of fairy tale magic that is sadly lacking a punch. Lily James’s Cinderella is a passive figure within her own story left to the whim of fate and magic to set things in line for her. As a heroine – if we can really call her that – the grit that makes her a strong role model or even an inspirational figure is totally absent. This is due to the decision to remain faithful to the much-loved 1950 animation; the consequence of this being a film that falls somewhat flat in the originality stakes.

Cinderella fails to capture and entice. Granted, the visuals are stunning and it is sure to get a positive nod for costume and set design, but the story and acting doesn’t stir the same feeling of wonder and magic as the original. This is probably because our minds have already been captured by the 65-year-old film and has no new offerings, so we feel as if we have seen this all before (because we have), especially since there are so many Cinderella stories out there. This has less to do with James’s credentials as a lead, but the fault of restrictions placed upon her by the script.

Disney has recently presented their audiences with a series of strong heroines; including Frozen’s Elsa, Tangled’s Rapunzel and The Princess and the Frog’s Tiana. These are admirable women who, after feeling trapped and oppressed, fight for their own futures. Therefore, it is somewhat disappointing that they can’t continue in this vein and give audiences a character who is somewhere between James’s Cinderella and Drew Barrymore’s Feisty rendition in Ever After.

While the titular heroine is a bit of bum note, Cate Blanchet as the formidable Lady Tremaine is sheer brilliance. She is sassy and wicked while also allowing moments of fragility. She’s a much more realistic character than any wicked mother before her. She is unjust in her oppression of Cinders, yet is this way because the world has been hard upon her, as she has lost all that she once held dear – her actions are by no means condonable but somewhat understandable. In a film that is charmingly twee, Blanchet stands above the rest and is definitely the best thing about Branagh’s remake, adding much needed colour and dynamic.

In this instance it appears Cinderella would have benefitted from straying from her roots and engaging in a bit of rule-breaking where some modernising wouldn’t have hindered it. Maybe Disney will take note when Emma Watson dons the yellow dress to tell a tale as old as time in the upcoming remake of Beauty and the Beast.