Beyond the Trailer: Cinderella (2015)

Cinderella (2015)
Growing up as little girls, many probably had their favorite Disney Princess.  The original animated Cinderella made in 1950 was a popular choice.

With the growing popularity of live action fairy tale adaptations in Disney such as Alice in Wonderland (2010), Maleficent and recently, Once Upon a Time, it is no surprise that Disney is trying to take advantage of it.

Has anybody else noticed that they are mostly utilizing the blonde and beautiful female leads in all these versions, such as Alice, Aurora and Cinderella?

As one of their most popular princesses, it is no surprise that Cinderella was given an adaptation, with Cinderella played by Lily James and the Prince played by Richard Madden. And being one of those little girls who grew up watching this princess, I, of course jumped at the chance to watch it in Cinemas.

The Cinderella fairy tale had been given several adaptations and versions over the years. We have Ever After (1998), with the titular character played by Drew Barrymore and Glass Slipper (1955) with French actress, Leslie Caron; A Cinderella Story  (2004) with the former Disney star, Hilary Duff. These are just to name a few. So the challenge was really to give the story something to make it stand out.


Young Ella, before she became Cinderella.
Ella had a golden childhood, with a mother and father who loved her. While they didn't have a title or riches, she was the princess of their tiny kingdom.

Her father was always away since he worked as a merchant. However, Ella still had her mother.

She was the very image of her mother. Not only physically with their blonde hair and beauty. The mother also wanted to teach her daughter another important lesson, "Have courage and be kind."
Young Ella, speaking to her mother
before her mother passed away.

Ella's mother loved her daughter and they had talked of magic, like fairy godmothers. Unfortunately, her mother became gravely ill and had died, leaving husband and daughter distraught for many years.

 When Ella grew older, her father told her that he had met a woman whom had lost her husband. Being uncertain of how his daughter would react, he admitted that he hoped that this would be another chance for him to find the happiness he lost when her mother died.

Lady Tremaine (Stepmother)
with Anastasia and Drizella (Stepsisters)
Wanting only her father's happiness, Ella told her father that she would support the new marriage. The marriage to the Lady Tremaine came with two stepsisters, Anastasia and Drizella.

The three ladies were spoiled ambitious. They often had expensive parties and felt entitled to be bought expensive gifts when Ella's father went away.

On one such party, Ella went to see her father at his office hard at work. It became very clear that he was very aware of how difficult his new wife and stepdaughters were. He also confessed that he still held love for his first wife. Unfortuntely, Lady Tremaine had been looking for her husband and had heard everything. This didn't improve the already distant relationship between stepmother and stepdaughter.

When Ella's father was scheduled to take another trip, the two stepsisters asked for a parasol and lace. Ella told her father that she wanted him to bring her home a branch from a tree on his trip, because what she wanted most in the world was that he returned home.

Ella saying goodbye to her father
before he goes on his trip. 
His return was not meant to be. Her father died on his trip. A farmer went to the house to tell them the bad news and give Ella the branch he had promised.

While Ella mourned the loss of her father, the stepsisters mourned the loss of their presents and the stepmother worried about their economy.

The Lady Tremaine dismissed the household. To keep her home afloat Ella began doing the household chores by herself. Then slowly, Lady Tremaine manipulated her until Ella became more of a servant than a daughter of the house. She was moved to the attic, but when the night was too cold to sleep there she slept by the fire in the kitchen.
Ella, and how she became named, Cinderella.

The next morning, her face was covered with ash, much to the enjoyment of the stepsisters. They dubbed her with the name, Cinderella.

She did her best to keep believing in her mother's words to be kind, even if it was clear that Lady Tremaine did not deserve it.

But bad became worse and lady Tremaine wouldn't even allow her to sit with them anymore and treating her like a joke. Unable to stand the treatment anymore, Cinderella took a horse from the stables and rode into the forest where she meets the prince who had been there hunting with his entourage.
The Prince, Kit as he meets Cinderella for the first time. 

Intrigued by Cinderella after rescuing when she lost control of her horse, the prince introduced himself as Kit, an apprentice from the palace. Cinderella became "acquainted" with the moose the prince's party was hunting asked him to stop.

At first he told her hunting was simply something that was done. She retorted, "Just because it is done, doesn't mean it should be done."

Meeting her had inspired the prince to hold a ball for the people. He commanded that every maiden in the kingdom was to be invited. That night he would choose a lady to be his bride. Ecstatic, Cinderella brought the news to her stepmother and stepsisters. They immediately made plans to ensnare the prince. Cinderella wished to go as well to see Kit again.

Cinderella helping Drizella with her corset
to get ready for the prince's ball. 
Lady Tremaine ordered Cinderella to buy a dress for herself and her two daughters in the latest French fashion but refused to have one made for Cinderella.

She did not give up and instead worked hard to restore one of her mother's old dresses in time for the ball.

Her stepmother and sisters were not pleased. They tore her dress and said that she was just an ambitious servant girl. With her dress in pieces, she was forced to stay home.
Cinderella's Fairy Godmother

Cinderella cried for the dress she worked so hard on and the cruelty of the three women. She wanted one night of happiness. As she wept, an old woman appeared and asked her for milk. Drying her tears, Cinderella smiled and gave the old woman a bit of milk from their containers. The old woman was touched by her show of kindness and revealed that she was actually her fairy godmother. She had been watching her for a long time and felt that it was finally time to reward her kindness.

Cinderella in her fairy godmother's transformed dress.
Her fairy godmother turned a pumpkin into a coach, but not without completely destroying her greenhouse. She then transfigured two lizards into footmen, mice into horses and a goose into a driver. Once she was done, Cinderella thanked her and asked if it was possible she could mend her dress. The fairy godmother offered to give her another dress, but Cinderella told her that she wanted to keep the dress because it was something of her mother's and she felt it would be like having her with her at the ball. She agreed, but not without updating it into an even more beautiful dress.

But she was not done. She completed her look with glass slippers, promising they would be comfortable. Before Cinderella left, the fairy godmother left her with a warning. The magic will disappear after the stroke of midnight. Cinderella assured her that it was more than enough. What she had given her was already more than the had ever hoped for.

Cinderella arrives at the ball.

Once at the ball, she had immediately caught attention of everyone in the room. Of course this includes the prince who had already been searching for her. So distracted was he that he failed to pay attention to the princess his father had chosen for him.

He chose her to join him in his first dance of the evening, still believing he was the apprentice he had introduced himself earlier. Because of the fairy godmother's magic, Lady Tremaine and the stepsisters failed to recognize Cinderella but the stepmother couldn't help but feel something was amiss.

The king was horrified by his son's treatment of the princess of his choosing, but was determined to have them marry in the end. his talk with the Grand Duke was overheard by Lady Tremaine though and was asked to keep it secret.
Cinderella and the prince in his secret garden.

Meanwhile, Cinderella and the prince had escaped the ballroom and by then it seemed that Cinderella realized that he was the prince. He, however, mistook her for a princess.

He takes her to his secret garden where they talked and he shared more about himself. He admitted that his father wanted to marry him to a princess. His father was wise and he was dying, he wanted to do all that he could for his father and kingdom.
Cinderella runs away at the stroke of midnight.

Unfortunately, the bell struck midnight. Remembering her fairy godmother's words, she ran away as fast as she could to her coach before the magic can be lost.

Kit tries to run after her but he was hindered by Cinderella's stepsisters who both were vying for his attention. He had his guards run after her but they managed to elude capture and just in time for the magic to run out. The animals returned to as they were , her coach returned to being a pumpkin and her dress returned to its torn mess it was before --- with the exception of Cinderella's shoe.

After the ball, the king laid dying and asked him again to marry the princess he chose. Still taken by Cinderella, he sadly refused. Knowing that his son's happiness was in finding that girl he danced with at the ball, he gave him permission to find happiness with her.
Lady Tremaine finds the glass slipper.

The king died and the announcement was made, but with another announcement that the prince was searching for the maiden from the ball because she would be the lady he planned to marry.

Her heart filled with hope, she returned home to retrieve her slipper. However, her identity was discovered by Lady Tremaine. Her stepmother attempted to bargain and manipulate her with the promise of returning her slipper. She refused. As punishment, Lady Tremaine broke her slipper and locked her in the attic.

Lady Tremaine still wanted to use the information to her advantage, so she approached the Grand Duke. She asked for the title of Countess and advantageous marriages for her daughters in exchange for her silence. The duke agreed.

However, Kit didn't want to give up and asked for them to fit the shoe on every maiden in the land. The magic prevented any foot other than Cinderella's to fit the shoe, so despite everything the ladies did to fit it it wouldn't. It came to pass they arrived at Cinderella's home. The sisters tried but neither of them could fit the slipper.

Lady Tremaine, Grand Duke, Captain and the soldiers
hear Cinderella's singing.
The entourage was about to leave when they heard singing. The mice had managed to open the window, so that Cinderella who was singing a lullaby taught to her by her mother could be heard from the outside. The Grand Duke wanted to leave, but the Captain was adamant about finding the voice. Knowing that it was the servant girl they sought, the Grand Duke commanded that they leave. His order was overruled when the prince, disguised as one of the soldiers revealed himself.

Lady Tremaine forbade her as her mother to try on the slipper, but she was also overruled by the Captain. Cinderella told Lady Tremaine that she had never been a mother to her and tried on the slipper, with no surprise it fit.

Cinderella and Kit marry. Lady Tremaine, her daughters and the Grand Duke left the kingdom.  The couple ruled the kingdom by following the words of her mother: "to have courage and be kind."


Sketch of Cinderella's ball gown. 

I feel like it is only right to start with my favorite dress, Cinderella's ball gown.

Designer, Sandy Powell wanted to make the dress look lovely whether she was dancing with the prince or running away at the stroke of midnight. She had to appear like she was floating and effortless. When she moved, she had to appear like a painting or like she was air.

It was also important that they were able to convey Cinderella's innocence and purity while at the same time still able to stand out in a crowded ballroom with other beautiful girls.

The vision was an ambitious one.

To create this illusion, they applied twelve layers of fabric on the skirt. Fabric of different kinds and hues were used. At first glance, the dress may appear to simply be blue but shades of lilac, green and lavender were also used.

The dress as seen in the movie.
They made a nine versions of the dress. After 270 yards of fabric, 10,000 Swarovski crystals and 500 hours by 18 tailors, they perfected the vision.

At first I had been a little uncertain about the dress since it deviated from the original design in both style and color. On film though it is difficult to argue that it is an incredible dress.

I suppose that if they did try to recreate the original dress there wouldn't be any point making this movie. I love that they played around with colors with this dress. I was also impressed that she could wear all twelve layers while wearing a corset. It can't be easy to pull off. James did mention that the corset wasn't hard to wear unless she ate something.

She had crystals on her blonde hair, butterflies on the bodice of the dress and on her slippers. The image is very young and princess-like, which I can imagine little girls and the young-at-heart are going to love. I already hear that this dress is already inspiring prom dresses.

Cinderella's glass slippers as seen in the movie. 
It seems the Swarovski crystal company did it again. I have mentioned this company before in my review for Romeo and Juliet (2014). They do wonders for not only dresses and gowns but also shoes.

They and Powell made and designed Cinderella's glass slippers. They made six versions of the shoe before they perfected the one they liked.

Each shoe weighed one kilogram.

This isn't the first time the company had worked on shoes. They created Dorothy's shoes from the Wizard of Oz. And like the shoes in that movie, their goal was to create something that would stand out as an icon.

Sketch of Fairy Godmother's Dress

My next favorite it the Fairy Godmother's dress.

This movie is full of sparklers.

They deviated again from the original story with this design. In the original animated Cinderella, the fairy godmother wasn't even wearing a gown but a hooded cloak.

I suppose they are trying to make her appear more "fairy" than "godmother" in this adaptation. Rather than making her appear elderly or motherly like in the original animation, the look achieved here is more like the eccentric fairy and flighty  aunt. I don't really think it is a bad change though.

It was important that she appeared 'magical.' After all, she is supposed to be a fairy. She had to sparkle and shine as a fairy should. While that wasn't a problem, designer, Sandra Powell did admit that there had been a small issue of adding wings to her original design.

I applaud Bonham Carter for being able to wear this dress because to create this fairy godmother look, her dress had been filled with lights and had batteries attached to actually make her shine.

She even liked to joke that she had someone to turn her on every day.

Her look also included 100,000 crystals on her dress, wand and jewelry.


Ella aka Cinderella played by Lily James.
Lets start off with the titular character Ella, also known as Cinderella played by Lily James.

I actually do like her portrayal. She gives good expressions and while soft spoken, her acting isn't quite as deadpanned and lifeless as Mia Wasikowska's Alice.

She really has a beautiful and innocent-looking face, which really looks well in the role. Sometimes I do wish she would act a little more scared when she was about to fall off a cliff or act with a little more backbone when the stepmother threatened her, but in general she did embody the character and made her likable.

Kit aka Prince Charming played by Richard Madden
The role of Prince Charming went to Richard Madden.

For the first five minutes of his appearance I couldn't even pay attention to his acting --- those eyes are too distracting. I can't look away. I blame the costume department who specifically designed his clothes to make his eyes so blue.

The original animation didn't have much on the prince's character, so unless one watched the sequels the actor wouldn't have a lot to work with. I actually have watched the third Cinderella movie, "A Twist in Time" and I think Madden actually did resemble the prince from there. That might not be a good thing for some people though, since I am sure there are a lot of people that didn't like that movie.

Movie still of James and Madden in the garden.
He is charming without a hint of arrogance. You'd think he'd have a hard time pulling off the love-at-first-sight scene, but he actually pulled it off. Personally, I think that James and Madden had great chemistry together.

Despite the cliché in many scenes I still enjoyed them and it wasn't acted in a way that made me groan with secondhand embarrassment. Scenes like, rescuing the girl from a runaway horse, showing girl his secret getaway and her entrance stunned the crowd bringing all eyes on her. That dress really was eye-catching.

Cate Blanchett as the Evil Stepmother
Cate Blanchett played the perfect evil step mother.

Blanchett studied for the role and it really showed. She acted the role of the cultured and beautiful social climber like a pro.

What I loved about her character in this version is that she is much more human. A lot of the unanswered aspects of her character had been shown. For example, in the original version it was unclear why she treated Cinderella like she did. Here, her jealousy of her stepdaughter is much more apparent.

What I also like about this character is her drive. I don't think being ambitious is a bad characteristic nor do I think her desire for a good life for her daughters is particularly bad. She was being a parent, an evil parent but she still had that side of hers to understand.

Helena Bonham Carter as Cinderella's Fairy Godmother.
Helena Bonham Carter was given the role of the quirky fairy godmother. 

I love this actress and I am going to miss seeing her in Tim Burton's movies if she stops appearing in them,

She had a total of one scene in the whole movie, but she milked it and became one of the most memorable characters in the movie despite having just that one scene.

Just like the goose. I really love that goose.


Cinderella discovers her glass slipper is missing.

"Have courage and be kind."

It is a nice lesson for little children. Kindness is such a rare quality in the world as it is. Forgiveness is another. Cinderella forgives the stepmother in the end. It would be nice if this movie inspires more of both.

But what I realize after watching the movie is that I am a little frustrated with Cinderella in a way that she doesn't have to do anything but be kind. While being kind is not a bad thing, she doesn't really do much to help her own predicament. She is so accepting of her punishment.

I don't think being kind means accepting every unfair punishment given to you.

When she was locked up in her room, she doesn't try to escape at all or scream for help. It would have been nice if she just did something to help herself. She just sits by the window, sings and every bit the damsel that needs to be rescued. The mice had to be the ones to open the window so her singing would be heard below. I guess that is why Drew Barrymore's Cinderella is still my favorite version. She took things into her own hands.


Movie still of Cinderella at the ball
dancing with the prince.
The costumes and sets were beautiful; and the actors played their roles to the best of their abilities. It also answered a few plot holes from the original animation.

I will not be surprised if this will become another hit for Disney.

To be honest, I don't think this will become the classic the original animation was but it was still an enjoyable take on the classic fairy tale and I had no regrets purchasing the ticket.

I think they really got the spirit of the original animation and the little girl in me that loved it really loves them for it.



  1. Great review! I agree with a lot of what you said, and you wrote it well. The layout of the post and the pictures look good as well.

    "What I loved about her character in this version is that she is much more human." YES, AGREED. I think that was my favorite thing about this movie... you get to really understand the motives of the evil stepmother, but you don't really pity her either because you know that what she does is wrong.

    The movie was visually beautiful (that dress really did seem to float!), and I thought Lily James was a nice Cinderella, but I had a hard time really getting into the movie because it didn't bring a lot new to it -- Cinderella has just been done SO many times. Even though there wasn't much innovation in the story, they made the movie well. And I suppose that's better than a good idea which is done poorly (the fate of so many movies I've seen...)

  2. Wow- thanks for this very thorough review! I would love for Disney to start doing more recent stories in their live-action adaptations, like Aladdin or Mulan.

    I agree that being kind doesn't mean being meek. And if you accept all hardships heaped upon you as punishment for being you, you're going to have very low self-esteem, and probably be constantly pursuing validation from others. Not good traits for a heroine who is beloved by little girls everywhere.

    Of course, when your source material is dated you're a bit constrained. But I think I'll skip this one, and stick with Ever After.

  3. I have a feeling that the only reason Cinderella is blond in this is because that's the iconic Disney thing. Had to have blond hair, had to have a blue dress... if it wasn't a direct live action adaptation of the cartoon, I don't think this would have been the case. I would like to see a total shakeup, though, like the 90's R&H version.


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