Cinderella is Walt Disney Studio's latest live action adaptation of their beloved animation catalog. The movie was directed by Kenneth Branagh and stars Lily James as the title character along with Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Nonso Anozie, Stellan Skarsgård, derek Jacobi, Ben Chaplin, and Hayley Atwell.
Young Ella (James) has been living a fairy tale life filled with magic and wonder, at least until tragic events leave her without her parents and in the hands of a step mother who only seems to care about her own two daughters. As Ella grows up under these less than desirable circumstances, she is basically treated as nothing more than a slave being forced to cater to every whim and fancy that her step sisters and step mother could ever desire. Of course, life takes another turn when the ruler of the land orders his son the prince to choose a bride during a grand ball and ceremony and Ella begins to dram about what might be. With an entire kingdom up for grabs, the stepmother prepares her daughters for their royal meeting while forbidding Cinderella to come along. With the young girl's dreams on the edge of completely dying out, a little magic and pixie dust may end up ruing the night.
Kenneth Branagh is really good at period pieces that feature worlds from bygone eras that are filled with color, pomp, and much circumstance. His sense of style and bold design are an absolutely perfect match for Cinderella. The powers that be at Disney definitely knew what they were doing when they hired him to bring the Mighty Thor to the screen in a way that would evoke Shakespearean fantasy without going too far over the edge and at the same time seamlessly fitting Asgardian gods into the Marvel universe. No small task indeed! With Cinderella, Branagh goes big in just about every way with immaculate set designs and a color pallet that, at times, makes you wonder if you are watching live action or animation. Camera angles are meticulously thought out in the same way a team of artists might map out every little detail within an animation cell and you can tell that the entire cast has completely bought into the fact that they are helping to bring a fairy tale to life.
Lily James as Cinderella should be looked at in the same light as Amy Adams' breakout performance in Disney's Enchanted. She absolutely owns every frame of film she is in and completely embodies the style and charisma of a Disney Princess. You would think she might get lost within a cast filled with big names like Blanchett and Bonham-Carter, but she does more than hold her own against these other amazing women. Richard Madden does a fine job as the Prince and I was completely unaware until after the fact that he also played Robb Stark from the Game of Thrones series. Thankfully, he does not have to go through anything like the infamous "Red Wedding" in this film although James' Cinderella was nearly more than even he could handle.
Even without the star power of someone like Johnny Depp or Angelina Jolie to bank on, Cinderella is still a very solid entry into Disney's roster of live action feature films and should do very well at the box office. We all know the classic story behind the glass slipper, yet this version still seems fresh and exciting and turned out to be a really nice surprise.