'Cruella': a sumptuous new reinvention of a Disney villain that shows the most cynical side of the exploitation of the franchises

It can be seen in ‘Cruella’, which is currently in theaters and Disney +, an attempt by the largest children’s entertainment factory of all time to adjust its characters to a more modern reality, and for that take one of his star villains to fit the shapes and tone of today’s entertainment cinema, theoretically serving as a prequel and in turn as a possible first link for a new franchise.

The operation not all that strange in this gold rush of live action versions of his animated films, in which it seems that Disney is exploiting the moment to assert its traditional properties against the cultural superiority of the others they have bought, nothing less than all of Marvel and Star Wars. From these reviews ‘Maleficent’ (2014) surprised a long time ago, in which the story of the witch from ‘Sleeping Beauty’ (1959) was looked at from another point of view.


Spoilers de la trama del film en el texto

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The difference is that we did not know too much about Maleficent and, in the manner of ‘Cobra Kai’, what I was trying to do was seek an understanding of the same story from the other side, creating a strange sweetened fantasy fable that, without finishing working, did not stop being original and even risky. However, we know everything we need to know about Cruella de Vil in advance. It is the incarnation of the devil in the shape of sadistic, rich and unscrupulous woman to kill puppies with which to make a coat.

At the time when ‘101 Dalmatians’ (1961) was made, it was not difficult to see in Cruella the most recognizable symbol of the capitalist bourgeoisie in its purest expression – and understandable by children and adults alike. savage materialism capable of destroying even puppies. Today, however, Disney’s discourse rarely appeals to these archetypes, because the cultural language has changed and the middle class seems to need an aspirational discourse, that is, that of a class that seeks to resemble its YouTube (or twitch) idols. and wants to enter a world whose glamor shines from outside.

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Thus, it is not difficult to find certain patterns in films like ‘Ready Player One’ (2018) – leaving the shitty poor neighborhood to be a video game star -, ‘The Mitchells against the machines’ (2021) – leaving the boring neighborhood of parents to go to film school and make friends cool– and other examples that speak of the adolescent discourse of looking for your dream at any cost so as not to fall into mediocrity, ergo, not to live as one more. ‘Cruella’ adopts this same pattern from the perspective of the fashion world, logically when dealing with the character, accepting the ostentation of the world Estella intends to enter.

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The whitening formula of this villain is a difficult task but the routine script of Dana Fox and Tony McNamara not only has no interest in accepting the challenge, but prefers to mold its story to previous type templates and adopt a tone that could resemble what Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher’s Batman movies could do for their villains in the 90s, with the difference that here it does not quite differentiate between antiheroine, modern Robin Hood or Harley Quinn seedy attempt and the Joker, but this time Todd Phillips.

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The decision to hire Craig Gillespie is not accidental, since with ‘Yo, Tonya’ (2017) he managed to make Margot Robbie more Harley Quinn than in the mediocre ‘Birds of Prey’ (Birds of Prey, 2019), however, she is cruel It is not so much Disney’s Quinn as a confusing story of origins that cannot understand where he wants to see his character beyond being photo-ready with makeup. Like ‘Joker’, he uses a declining society approach in which the protagonist has a physical defect. In this case, instead of an out-of-time laugh, it is bicolor hair.

Cruella Emma StoneCruella Emma Stone

There is not a Thomas Wayne here, but an aristocratic tyrant who, as in ‘Joker’, really is the mother of the protagonist, with which there is also a plot of inheritance, a revenge and a hint of “revolution” in which at the end, for different reasons, there is the same wink “Anonymus” inspired by ‘V for Vendetta’, although there are no people with clown masks but black and white wigs. Come on, the identical plot inspiration from ‘The man who laughs‘that Phillips used in his film, as much as the world insists that this product does not want to have anything to do with the success of DC.

The devil wears a dalmatian

The idea to outline the new Cruella begins with a frankly idiotic coup, like turn Dalmatians into bloodthirsty dogs that the protagonist hates for revenge, to continue with another aspirational story in the world of fashion that imitates in its first bars ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ (The Devil Wears Prada, 2003), in which Meryl Streep was a tyrant inspired so much by a real character like… Glenn Close’s Cruella de Vil, so she had the undisguised detail of her white hair.

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And it is that in the two funny adaptations of ‘101 dalmatians‘(1996) the character was a true precedent for that tyrant in the fashion world that Emma Thompson brilliantly embodies here. I mean, what happens in ‘Cruella’ is that the main character is not Cruella, but one of his victims. Estella, who is the alter ego “Selina Kyle” played by Emma Stone, is just the correct facade to hide the true feelings of the young woman, revenge and assault on the skies in the world of haute couture.

However, in her journey of transformation there are not too many turning points, but rather a series of moments of self-realization and reaffirmation in her journey, which has a (false) egregious parallelism with the life of Vivienne Westwood and the birth of punk, although the film never attends to the true cultural substratum that caused the emergence of that way of life and it reduces it to a store and a clumsy allegory of social change that is not clear about the motivations of the characters who execute it.

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Scrap cinema

Cruella’s friends are actually childhood Dickensian companions whom she uses like villains use their minions, despite the fact that their adventures are dressed as a kind of baseless class struggle, with a heroism based on fame, the newspaper headlines and the logic of the king of the mountain. All in the name of camp, glamor, chic and the interesting war of costumes that goes through, where the only thing that can be saved from the film shines, Jenny Beavan’s wardrobe, which seems to have more narrative sense than the own director.

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The dynamics become repetitive, the conflicts do not evolve and the sequences are accommodated to the cliches that a story under this template is supposed to have. So we have friends threatening to give up helping Cruella without really anything particularly different from what she has done before, or Estella herself having an “Anakin moment” on her motorcycle, with a dramatic speech in Scarlett O’Hara code. , without a compelling reason that leads to that moment, more than the suspicion that a scene was needed for Stone to justify is now an actress with Oscar.

And it is that Stone is at half throttle from the beginning and it seems that he only enjoys it in the moments when he can parade as ‘Cruella’ as in a Cabaret show. Logical when the film only plays scene after scene without a convincing transformation that makes it tremendously tedious in its intractable two hours and 17 minutes. Gillespie is clear about where he wants to go but he does not have the faintest idea of ​​how to do it and it seems that on the way he is dedicated to shaking everything very hard so that it is not noticed that the villainization of Estella is more of a humanization of Cruella and everything is summarized in a number with ‘I Wanna be Your Dog‘in which it “appears” that he has killed his boss’s dogs.

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Genetic criminalization for all audiences

Of course, ‘Cruella’ does not dare to go there, however, it does leave some breadcrumbs to unite its conclusion with the fate of the 101 Dalmatians – to whom it gives an involuntarily funny incestuous origin – with what really, in the end it does seem to be evil. Although we don’t know why, since During the past two hours we have seen a tale with the spirit of Sherwood and another villain to overthrow. However, the explanation from the prologue is that Cruella is perfidious from birth, so her hair is black and white, or vice versa.

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Not because i suffered bullying for her hair. No. The cruelty already came from the factory. And it turns out that in this Disney universe Lamarckist evolution dominates and they understand genetics as the author. Or what is the same, propose that evil is hereditary, in a dangerous and retrograde fantasy logic that the child audience can take as something real, and that follow thoughts not as old as those of the authors of “the red gene”. At least ‘Joker’ made it clear that the murderer was made and was not born, and the laughter condition was not the true reason for the character’s narcissism.

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Of course, in ‘Cruella’ there is no bad intention, It is just another example of the laziness with which the project moves and it tries to fill in the gaps of what the marketing department wants to project with a kind of story that must be told in some way. That said, the narrative stumbles and there is no trace of the efficient, ‘Yo, Tonya’ idea director, not a hint of his biting, not a single witty sentence. The staging is vague and limited, it gives the impression of being rougher than many series and the period setting is very poor.

Anarkía and cold beer at Disneyland

The 200 million budget may have been spent on songs, since the use of classics is indiscriminate and probably the worst of the film. The songs appear chained like sausages, without an edition that takes into account the rhythm of the music or what happens on the screen or accompanying the epic it represents, for example ‘These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ to go buy bread. From Talking Heads to Blondie, the use of their hits is absolutely functional and arbitrary, so much so that in the middle of the movie it starts to wear out and at the time of ‘Should i Stay or Should I Go’ it is embarrassing.

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The monotony and the what-do-me-here accumulate with a plot that seems to want to fit right into the tracking shots, because it is supposed to. One of the movie’s sequence shots is so clumsy, run over, and gratuitous that makes ‘Cruella’ look like a movie that wants to look like a movie, one that first needs to be the embodiment of an idea-purpose first to fit a franchise name on the surface of today’s hero and villain entertainment.

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The reasons for transforming the character do not add up, the game of antiheroine and villain lives an internal conflict and ends without having clearly defined the heiress, in a confrontational game that turns Pitof’s ‘Catwoman’ into a provocative kitsch artifact with more self-awareness and daring. ‘Cruella’ hides in her roll anarchy in the UK, another repellent facsimile of punk fashion in Stradivarius, counting the history of a revolution and a generation that eats the previous one like that of one that tries to become exactly the same as the old, but being even more ruthless and miserable than that.

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