Kenneth Branagh has been putting his touch on big budget blockbusters these last few years. He's been taking on iconic characters and I think his take on Cinderella is safe but entertaining.
Branagh doesn't push the boundaries in many places and pretty much just sticks to the plan. From what I could see the story was pretty spot on with the Disney's first attempt 65 years prior. There are however a few major differences from the 1950's version.
First, when making her dress, Cinderella does not use any of the her "family's" old clothing, her sisters and step-mother are just cruel for even fewer reasons. Secondly, the Captain played by Nonso Anozie is a new character and is basically the honorable and kind half of the Grand Duke. Which brings us to the fact that the Grand Duke isn't supposed to be evil but is portrayed so in this story by Stellan Skarsgard.
Lily James put in a pretty visceral and real performance, but when you're comparing it to a cartoon it's like comparing apples and oranges.
One thing that piqued my attention is the way they got her into the beautiful blue gown by the end. She supposedly could only eat soup because of the physical limitations set upon her by the gown. As far as feminism goes I am not particularly outspoken but Cinderella is a strong female character that is hard working, loving, and kind. She is my second favourite Disney Princess (Belle will always hold a place in my heart) and rightfully so. Lily James is not a big girl and she is beautiful and I am fine with that casting. But had they loosened the corset, would it really have killed the image? Cinderella is supposed to be a woman so stop trying to make her a cartoon.
Hayley Atwell's role as Cinderella's mother is warm and loving and you really believe it. Although, for me, her beautiful brown locks seem to suit her more than the blonde but that is neither here nor there. Drizella and Anastasia were as described but mostly forgettable as they were overshadowed by Cate Blanchett's eerie performance as Lady Tremaine. Blanchett could seemingly play many of the villainous female characters Disney has to offer. She could have easily slotted in as Maleficent as well as a remade version of Cruella de Vil (although Glenn Close was terrifying). Helena Bonham Carter is exactly as you might expect as the Fairy Godmother, absolutely, wonderfully weird.
Finally we get to Pretty Boy....I mean the Prince. Richard Madden portrays the Prince with those piercing blue eyes and Ross Geller-inspired white teeth. Many of the Prince's scenes provide some sort of quick quip or joke and brings some levity to oppose the cruel and dark situation that befalls Cinderella. His inability to speak to Cinderella asking for the first dance is cute only in a pre-teen first "date" kind of way. It is a bit awkward but it rolls past it fast enough.
Technically speaking I thought it looked dark. I'm not sure if that was intentional or just an issue with the projector itself. On one hand it made for a somewhat more realistic look, with a little less artificial light but on the other hand tt made some of the details muted or muffled. The images weren't quite as crisp as they could have been.
I loved the set decoration. Towards the end is when it really started to shine. Cinderella's carriage and the interiors of the castle were simply magnificent. There were touches of computer graphics for those things but I think most of it was practically done.
I did find the movie spent a lot of time explaining some of the minutiae of the story which was nice but they did rush over Cinderella making her dress for the ball and that was disappointing. Also, there is a lack of the magical music present in the original. A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes does play but only after the credits start rolling.
Speaking of credits, I should add that there is a post-credits scene. Although my policy is to stick around until the credits are over, I succumbed to peer pressure and my friends leaving the theatre. Having only read what it entails, it's not a huge deal if you miss it but just a somewhat chuckle worthy extra snippet.
All in all, it was fun. It isn't reinventing the story but it shows it in a different medium. I didn't feel like it was too geared towards children but it didn't have any frightening parts either (e.g. Spider Baby Head and his friends from Toy Story). I can imagine the IMAX Experience does punch up the effects quite a bit but I'm not interested in buying an overpriced ticket just for that. Regular admission is perfectly adequate but I might suggest waiting a week or two for some of the theatres to get less crowded. Besides spoilers shouldn't be an issue for those that haven't been living under a rock for the last 65 years.