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Dominic Corry: Are fairy tale movies played out, or heating up?

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Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman.  Photo / Supplied
Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman. Photo / Supplied

Yesterday saw the New Zealand release of Snow White and the Huntsman, the second revisionist adaptation of the classic story to come out this year and the latest example of a pervading Hollywood trend towards big-budget retellings of well-known fairy tales.

In the realm of modern fantasy epics, this new Snow White film isn't bad. But it isn't great either. There are plenty of choice design elements, a couple of decent action scenes, and it's more entertaining than the last Pirates of the Caribbean film.

But I couldn't help but feel a bit of fairy tale fatigue while watching it.

With the modern film market driven by name and brand recognition more than ever, it makes a large degree of cynical sense that films based on fairy tales would proliferate.

These are, after all, arguably the most famous stories of all-time, and the digital special effects revolution means they can be sold with more grandiosity than ever before.

But it doesn't always make for good movies.

Beyond the obvious name recognition aspect, the other factor driving all these fairy tale movies is the ridiculous success of Tim Burton's 2010 version of Alice In Wonderland.

That movie - which I cared for very little - made more than a billion dollars worldwide and just got pushed down to the eleventh spot on the list of all-time box-office champs by new No. 3 The Avengers.

Those kind of numbers send studio execs into a frenzy, and before long we had Red Riding Hood, the two Snow Whites, and plans for live action films inspired by Sleeping Beauty and Hansel and Gretel.

Usually by the time a movie trend hits TV, it's grown stale in cinema - like how 24 rendered a certain type of action movie redundant. But the success of shows like Once Upon a Time and Grimm, both of which have had second season pick-ups, doesn't appear to be quelling the studios' appetites for fairy tale movies. Plus I suppose The Vampire Diaries didn't slow down the Twilight franchise.

The Sleeping Beauty movie is called Maleficent and its point of difference is that it presents the story from the perspective of the antagonist - the titular evil witch, portrayed by Angelina Jolie. Seems like appropriate casting.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was originally due for release this year, but got pushed back to 2013, ostensibly to capitalise on the growing profile of it's male lead, Jeremy Renner, currently on screens in The Avengers and soon to be seen in The Bourne Legacy.

I can't help but be somewhat intrigued by the concept behind this film, which follows the sweet-toothed pair into adulthood (Gretel is played by rising British actress Gemma Arterton) where they have developed beyond pushing old crones into cauldrons to become fully fledged witch hunters.

I guess they will have also learned their lesson about using breadcrumbs to mark a trail.

But the dearth of anything significantly creative occurring in Snow White and the Huntsman makes me wish the trend was slowing down. The modern fairy tales all tend to have gothic leanings, but are never prepared to go truly dark.

They should take some inspiration from Jim Henson's amazing late '80s TV show The Storyteller, which adapted folk and fairy tales with flair and artistry. It was very creepy.

The Walt Disney Company tends to exert some degree of public ownership of certain fairy tales thanks to their defining animated adaptations of the best known stories. They had some success with the recent CGI Rapunzel story, Tangled, and their upcoming slate would indicate they plan to be in the fairy tale business for some time.

In addition to the aforementioned Maleficent, they recently acquired a romantic comedy pitch that involves iconic fairy tales. Oi vey.

I'm tempted to draw a connection between the trend described here and the potential glut of upcoming epic films inspired by the most famous fairy tale of them all - The Bible.

On the Old Testament front, Darren Aronofsky is about to start filming Noah and both Ridley Scott and Steven Spielberg are considering Moses movies.

I'd rather see any of these films than a revisionist re-telling of, say, the Pied Piper (which is totally happening!), but the upcoming biblical film I'm most excited is from a director I admire above all others.

Dutch mad genius Paul Verhoeven - the man behind Robocop, Basic Instinct and Starship Troopers. And Showgirls - has been attempting to mount a sure-to-be controversially revisionist biopic of Jesus Christ for a long time (he even wrote a book about the subject), and now it appears he may finally get to do it.

Now that's a movie worth getting excited about.

* Are you feeling fairy tale fatigue? Any classic tales you think they should adapt? Are you down for Verhoeven's Jesus movie? Comment below!

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