Disney, Don’t Mess This Up…

This week marks another supposed win for the Disney villain line-up. Along with the lackluster 2014 ‘Maleficent’, the Walt Disney Studios has decided to try their hand at reintroducing Cruella De Vil to society. ‘Cruella’ releases May 28th, 2021 and features Emma Stone in the leading role. I am not entirely sure what the plot will entail, but from what I can tell it will involve her early days as a psychotic seamstress(?). The film also stars Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, and Emily Beecham. Much is unknown about this story so I will just dissect the trailer/images.

First official trailer for ‘Cruella’

First off, Stone looks great. I mean, WOW, this poster makes a statement. I don’t love the text but Stone’s face/expression easily exceeds my own previous expectations. Before we first see the classic black-and-white hair, De Vil dons dark red hair and looks mischievous as hell. Emma Stone is such a lovable personality and I am curious to see how she approaches this crude figure. The film takes place in 1970’s London and already the set design and costuming looks idyllic. I love “period pieces” so hopefully this lives up to the aesthetic requirements. Thankfully, ‘Cruella’ is directed by Craig Gillespie (who also directed ‘I, Tonya’), and I have some faith that the film will at least be enjoyable and fun as hell.

Okay, but we need to talk about something. It’s 2021 and Disney is still trying to “reinvent” their IP for current-day audiences… which makes no sense to me. The bigger problem here is creativity. Of course this goes beyond Disney, but my god are we settling for remake after remake that just recycles old ideas for the sake of it? ‘Maleficent’ and ‘Cruella’ are in interesting positions — they take on characters that have no contextual background and exist… solely to be evil.

Angelina Jolie as Maleficent (2014)

That’s what makes villains so fascinating; who even are they? Today’s creators have the opportunity to totally “flip the script” and reject redemption. ‘Maleficent’ was such a missed opportunity because Disney tried to make us feel for her. We, as an audience, don’t need to have our emotions facilitated by a studio. Villains are relatable on their own, and transforming their struggles into a “hero’s journey” goes against their objective existence to hurt another. Simply put — I want my villain to be a badass! That’s why ‘Cruella’ is such a tall order. I would hope Disney could put their creative mind before their economic one and remember that these characters mean something to people (I know they don’t… let me live my life). What’s even the point of telling these stories if their origin result to nothing? Am I taking this too seriously?

Stone as Cruella De Vil

I just find the idea of re-developing original stories into overexposed, “modernized” reimaginations pointless. There’s no innovation. Why even hire new workers if they just churn out monotonous content? Seriously, step your game up, Disney. The bigger question is this: why are we so obsessed with looking to the past? Is nostalgia seriously that powerful? Don’t get me wrong — I am excited to watch ‘Cruella’ eventually. Emma Stone looks fantastic, and there are plenty of opportunities for Gillespie and the rest of the crew to explore. What’s the point if we already know Disney isn’t going to take those risks? COVID has already taken most of the magic out of the cinematic experience, I would hope this could bring a new renaissance of storytelling.

Regardless, ‘Cruella’ will come out on May 28th most likely on Disney+, and I’m sure plenty of families will sit down and enjoy the terrible British accents and lavish set decoration. I hope Disney has taken their opportunity to re-establish themselves as credible storytellers. Feel free to let me know what you all think, but I will reiterate that the first trailer WAS intriguing and DID give me some hope. I see the potential and am only writing his because I care so much. I will probably be eating my words later on, so we shall see!

-H

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