I am a big Disney fan. I know they’re a gigantic megacorp who own a terrifyingly large portion of the entertainment industry, but I can’t help it. They were too big a part of my childhood. And in all honesty, I’m a fan of at least the concept of the live-action remake. Admittedly, I think Disney’s made more bad ones than good, but I’ve seen enough good ones to make me always curious and cautiously optimistic.
I’ve also always been fascinated by exploring and reimagining villains, fleshing them out, diving into them. Again, blame a childhood of binge-listening to the Wicked soundtrack and Once Upon A Time. And Maleficent is one of my favorite of Disney’s live-action remake batch, if not my absolute favorite. So when I saw that it was announced they’d be making a movie focused around the backstory of Cruella de Vil I was immediately…confused but intrigued.
Not with the choice to go with 101 Dalmatians, but with the choice of character. Disney’s adapted 101 Dalmatians before, in 1996 with Glenn Close as the fashion-focused villain (it was not their first live-action remake, but it was the first smash success). That being said, Glenn Close was very clearly playing the villain, the antagonist, in that movie. That was a very different beast than something like Maleficent. And unlike the subject of Disney’s previous villain exploration, Cruella is a very direct and understandable sort of villain, with little ambiguity. Her actions and motives, while gross, are entirely understandable upfront.
So, how does Disney plan on making us sympathize with the woman who wanted to turn puppies into fur coats? Well, judging by the trailer that just released today…they don’t. Much to the surprise of me and, I imagine, a lot of other people, the vibe given by this trailer is not Wicked but…Joker (2019).
This trailer does not depict Cruella as a tragic figure (a few shots of her crying or messed up notwithstanding) but a bombastic, proud one, declaring herself “born brilliant, born bad, and a little bit mad”, with shots of her loudly laughing and London buildings burning. And to strengthen the Joker vibes, in this movie it will apparently be revealed that her name is actually Estella, with Cruella being a nickname she decided to adopt, giving the scene of her spitting “I’m Cruella” at someone all the more…well…comic book-like.
So, the surprise of Disney of all companies doing a movie about a villain protagonist aside, how’s the trailer? Well, honestly, I’m entirely here for it. Yes it’s cheesy, yes it’s over the top, and yes, Emma Stone’s accent is about as adorably hilarious as Elizabeth Olsen’s in Age of Ultron. But…it’s a movie about Cruella de Vil! One of Disney’s most over-the-top, flamboyant villains. And she’s a fashion designer to boot. Honestly, I’d rather they make the movie as a whole as over the top as she is. And to be quite honest, I rather love the costume design for Cruella, and the cinematography of the trailer as a whole, so that’s a good sign.
Plus we’ve got Emma Thompson and Mark Strong as supporting cast, and they’re generally pretty damn good. Even if I’m disappointed that the latter won’t be Jasper. All in all, a fun trailer, one that’s got me cautiously optimistic.
Cruella releases May 28, 2021
Images courtesy of Disney
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