Disney has unveiled the first good look at its live-action update of "Cinderella" via a new trailer, and it has all the touchstones of the classic tale: There's a beautiful heroine (Lily James of "Downton Abbey"), a wicked stepmother (Cate Blanchett), a pair of sparkly glass slippers and a magical pumpkin-turned-stagecoach.
Upon closer inspection, the trailer, viewable above, also suggests that director Kenneth Branagh may be taking some pages out of his old "Thor" playbook and making a sort of stealth superhero movie.
The two-and-a-half-minute clip opens with a flashback of Cinderella's mother (Hayley Atwell of, ahem, the "Captain America" movies) apparently on her deathbed as she imparts her daughter with an enduring life lesson: "Have courage and be kind," she says. Later on, she adds: "You have more kindness in your little finger than most people possess in their whole body."
Thus, in the character of Cinderella we have an orphan with great potential who is both haunted and guided by the memory of a lost loved one (paging Spider-Man, Batman and Superman). Like any superhero, she also has a nemesis (Blanchett) with henchmen — or in this case, henchwomen — in the form of evil stepsisters (Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera).
Fortunately, Cinderella gets help too, from her fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter), who outfits her with everything she needs for her quest.
If the superhero analogy seems like a stretch, Branagh himself has acknowledged the notion. In a recent interview with E Online, he said: "There was talk way back about redefining goodness as a superpower and kindness in the same way. I think it can be very active and charismatic and compelling, but it needs to be lightly done."
While Disney has enjoyed blockbuster success with its Marvel movies, it's far from a sure thing that the same approach will translate to fairy tales. Either way, to make the movie work, Branagh and company will have to find a way to make a beloved but relatively flat, reactive character compelling to a modern audience.
Branagh has acknowledged the challenge. He told E: "We've given it a contemporary feel that is human and humane and strangely enough, not built around the idea that Cinderella's life depends on finding a man or things, like clothes or a title, or just hoping this magic will come along."
Cinderella will save the world — er, appear in theaters — March 13.
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