It is almost impossible not to start comparing Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror to that other revisionist take on the classic tale: Snow White and the Huntsman. But apart from the source material, these two movies couldn’t be further apart. Whereas Huntsman gave off a Game of Thrones vibe in its visuals and tone, Mirror Mirror takes its cues more from Marie Antoinette (even though Sean Bean makes an appearance). And although both movies try to revise the original story while keeping the major elements intact (dwarfs, apple, mirror), Huntsman’s variations on the theme are much more inventive. Mirror Mirror doesn’t seem to be aiming for much more than a live action version of the Disney classic. “The rhythm is tiresome, Tarsem’s visual power nonexistent” (Javier Ocaña, El País). This film ends up being “barely enough to put drowsy children to sleep” (Noémie Luciani, Le Monde).
Compared to Kristen Stewart‘s warrior princess, Lily Collins plays the more traditional Snow White here, and is “as pretty as she is bland” (Noémie Luciani, Le Monde). Kept hostage by the evil Queen (Julia Roberts), she escapes to the forest and runs into a band of dwarf robbers, who help her toughen up and take back the kingdom. This may sound fairly fresh, but it only “gives rise to a couple of action sequences without any zest” (Javier Ocaña, El País). Meanwhile, there is the inevitable Prince (Armie Hammer) who comes under the queen’s spell and starts acting like a puppy (literally, not metaphorically). The resulting scenes are probably something Hammer would like to forget as soon as possible.
In terms of tone, this is a movie that wanders somewhere between “bland memories of the old tale and creative whims without style” (Noémie Luciani, Le Monde). The makers attempt an ironic distance complete with quirky sound effects and self-referential comments by Roberts’ Queen. But they fail and all we get is “humor of a staleness we rarely see” (Noémie Luciani, Le Monde). Visually, this film clearly shows it could not match Huntsman’s production budget (which was double that of Mirror Mirror) nor the visual talent of the director at its helm. Rupert Sanders‘ euphoric visuals alone are reason enough to see the other Snow White movie. But Tarsem Singh disappoints here, with endlessly derivative Louis XIV imagery, claustrophobic sets, and a snowy forest that looks so fake it makes you wonder if it is some kind of self-imposed limitation a la Dogville. Sadly, it is not.