Monday, December 10, 2018

Armando Gutierrez's "Little Mermaid" Movie is Now on Netflix

We've been keeping an eye on this movie since 2016, and were naturally very excited to see it pop up on our Netflix feed this weekend. From the trailer, we knew to expect a circus theme, set in Mississippi, but beyond that, many questions swarmed our mind. The biggest unknown was how strong the film's connection would be to Andersen's tale. It clearly wasn't trying to be a straightforward adaptation, but would it merely use the title for name recognition?

Here's the trailer for those who haven't seen it yet:

The movie's villain, played by Gutierrez himself

The movie starts with an animated short to provide the movie's backstory. A mermaid rescues a man  from a shipwreck and falls in love with him. She becomes human in order to be with him, but her love is not reciprocated. So far, pretty close to Andersen's version (there are also other little details directly pulled from the fairy tale). However, the goal of Andersen's mermaid is to gain a soul by winning the heart of the human prince. Here, mermaids already have souls, and this one (whose name is Elizabeth) bargains it away. When her human does not fall in love with her, the evil wizard gets to keep her soul forever.
While this is a significant difference, I think the change makes a lot of sense for the movie. After all, this is less of a retelling and more of a sequel to the original. Andersen's story has a definitive endings, leaving no reason to revisit the characters again. Gutierrez tweaks the circumstances around to give the plot a reason to continue.

Did you catch the bit about the evil wizard? Yep, this movie follows Disney's lead and adds a clear villain for our characters to battle. Sometimes it's hard to remember that there's nothing truly diabolical about Andersen's sea witch, who doesn't seem to have any agenda, unlike Disney's Ursula. Andersen's conflict stems from the Little Mermaid's circumstances. She is her worse enemy, in many ways, since the choices she make set her up for disaster. But for a 90 minute movie, it's harder to anchor the audience if you don't have a clear opponent for your heroes to fight against. So we get an evil wizard who steals Elizabeth's soul in order to grow his own power. It's a bit simplistic, but it's not a horrible choice.

So what did I think? Honestly, I found the whole package pleasant, but rather forgettable. The actors are solid, the plot doesn't have too many holes, and it's rare for me to gush about beautiful CGI, but the mermaid's tail was truly flawless and believable. I'd say it's one step above what I'd imagine a Hallmark mermaid movie to be like, but most of that step is in the production quality. 

We could be done with this review here. But there is a part of me that started analyze this Little Mermaid from a more critical angle. As a feminist, I can't stop myself from thinking about how mermaids are often objectified, treated as a symbol for male desire and fantasy. Even the darker more dangerous Sirens still embody male temptation. This movie doesn't challenge the mermaid stereotype, although one could argue that Elizabeth is more like a chaste princess in a tower rather than an unattainable temptation. Elizabeth is sweet and beautiful. She longs for freedom and love, but there's not much else to her character. In fact, the younger female protagonist, Elle (human), has more complexity to her character, but that's probably because she's too young to have a romantic plotline.  

Sidenote: Is this why Shape of Water was so revolutionary? Is is because it gender swapped the traditional roles of human and mermaid? 

Now, don't get me wrong, there is something irresistible and timeless about the whole land/sea love story. I can't deny that there's something inherently electric about characters longing for the seemingly impossible relationships. But can mermaids exist outside of this construct? I'd be curious if anyone knows of any mermaid books that really break the mold on this. Please let me know!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Vote for Timeless Tales' Next Theme

In case you haven't heard, voting is currently open for choosing Timeless Tales Magazine's next theme. While they often feature fairy tale themes, this time they are returning to their other love: Greek mythology.

Since opening up the poll a few months ago, Persephone has taken an early lead, but there's still time to give a boost to the other contenders. Visit their website to cast your vote now!

Here's how things currently stand: