Cinderella (2015, Disney, Blu-ray)

Director - Kenneth Branagh

Cast - Lily James, Cate Blanchett

Country of Origin - U.S./UK

Discs - 2

Distributor - Disney

Reviewer - Scott MacDonald

Date - 09/27/2015

The Film (5/5)

     Ella (Lily James) is a young woman with a positive hopeful outlook on the world. She lives in a country estate with her Father and Mother. However, one day her Mother is unexpectedly stricken with an illness and dies. Ella remains positive, and supports her Father through his mourning period, and when he announces his engagement to the Lady Tremaine though reluctant, her support continues. Unfortunately, for Ella her new Stepmother, and Stepsisters are not the friendliest of family, and mistreat her from the moment they arrive. This condition worsens when Ella’s Father also dies while on a business trip. The abuse they showed towards Ella not only increases, but they make her their servant. She is made to sleep in the attic of the manor house, and when that is too cold, she sleeps by the dying embers of the kitchen fire. The ashes that remain on her face the next morning, cause her stepsisters to nick name her Cinderella.

   One day while riding her horse in the woods she meets a stranger who is part of a hunt. The two immediately start a spirited discussion, and spark a mutual interest in one another. She is of the belief he is a simple apprentice, when he is actually the Prince Kit, the eldest son of the dying King, and a bachelor. He is being encouraged to marry a Princess for the sake of the Kingdom, but has no desire to do so. Rather, he has now taken an interest in Ella, but having not been given her name decides to hold a Kingdom wide ball to find her. Unfortunately, Ella's stepmother forbids her from attending the ball, and it would seem all is lost. That is until Ella's fairy godmother uses a bit of magic to ensure the meeting occurs, and young love is allowed to happen.

   With the Jungle Book about to hit theaters in the next few months Disney is about to release the fourth film in their cycle of live action remakes of their animated classics. The first 2 films Alice in Wonderland and Maleficent not only did not impress me, I actively hated the films. Alice seemed like another cookie cutter film from the Tim Burton/Johnny Depp assembly line, and Maleficent looked like a higher budget version of a SyFy film. It also gave an iconic villain a back story where none was needed. Cinderella, however, did a wonderful job adapting it's source material, and I should say by source material I mean the original Disney animated film not the original tale to 21st Century live action cinema.

   Cinderella doesn't give unnecessary back story. No, what it does is give the already iconic story some additional elements that add substance to the characters. Cinderella isn't simply a sweet character when we first meet her, she was raised in a loving environment, and is acting accordingly to the way she was raised. Her meeting with the Prince at the ball doesn't result in love at first sight. They meet in the woods, they talk, they realize a certain chemistry, and while yes it is a quick courtship, it does offer a bit more of a foundation then the earlier version. I will interject that I do love the original Disney animated tale as well, so this is not meant to come off as a backhanded complaint against the earlier work.

   Further, Kenneth Branagh directs the film with a style that manages to mix simplicity with spectacle. The first half allows the story to unfold at a nice solid pacing that is never dull, and allows the viewer to get a solid feel for the characters, the world, and the new direction of the story. The performances from the cast are absolutely marvelous, and while the costume direction of the film occasionally feels like a tongue and cheek adaptation of the visual style of the animated classic, the performances are anything but. They offer a powerful and dynamic representation of the material, and the cast have fantastic chemistry with one another. The set and costume design are absolutely phenomenal. This is not something I normally have to point out, but all across the board, I found myself floored by the smallest detail.

Audio/Video (5/5)

   Cinderella is presented in a stunningly gorgeous 2:39:1 1080p AVC encoded transfer that preserves the original look of the theatrical presentation. The fine detail present here is quite excellent, colors are fantastic, and black levels are inky and deep.

     The audio for the film is presented in a similarly excellent DTS-HD MA 7.1 track that is well balanced with the dialogue, score, and films effects coming through nicely. I did not detect any audio issues.

 

Extras (3/5)

   Disney have included some minor extras on their release of Cinderella. There are some Behind the Scenes featurettes, including a costume test, and staging. There is also a short piece of animal training,  and a Frozen short film.

 

Overall

     Cinderella was a surprise to me, seeing how much I disliked the first 2 Disney live action remakes. This is truly a phenomenal film, and the Blu-ray looks and sounds fantastic. It could stand some more extra features, but certainly comes HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.