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'Mirror Mirror' trailer: Are the Snow White wars overblown?

November 16, 2011 |  9:20 pm

Those of us who make our living following the entertainment business tend to look for rivalries because, well, it's fun, and because Hollywood is enough of a copycat place that it's impossible to avoid the competition even if we wanted to.

But we didn't have to look very hard to find a battle between Universal Pictures and Relativity Media over the last year as they each raced to mount Snow White movies. The fight had more story lines than the Grimm Brothers could come up with: Two movies, each putting a new spin on the virginal beauty and the mirror-gazing villain, were pushing forward at the same time.

Each had buzzy young actresses in the title role (Kristen Stewart for Universal's "Snow White and the Huntsman" and Lily Collins for Relativity's film, which would eventually be titled "Mirror Mirror") and an established Oscar winner as the Evil Queen (Charlize Theron in “Huntsman” and Julia Roberts in “Mirror”).

Each hired Hollywood outsiders to get behind the camera (Rupert Sanders for "Huntsman" and Tarsem Singh for "Mirror").

To top it off, you had two companies with history: Relativity for years had financed a large section of Universal's slate before breaking out to produce and release movies on its own.

Throughout the summer, it seemed like the companies played chicken with release dates, before settling on March 16 ("Mirror") and June 1 ("Huntsman").

But there's been a nagging feeling for a while now that the movies may not turn out that similar to one another, if only because that's not really in anyone's interest. As much as each side in one of these battles says it wants to win, what it really wants is to avoid cannibalization. Sure, these standoffs sometimes amount to riches for everyone -- "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact,” from 1998, is the oft-cited example -- but chances are if two studios make their movies too similar to each other, they’ll both lose at least a little bit.

If there was any doubt that the similarities were overstated, the newly released trailers underlined the point. The spot for "Snow White and the Huntsman" came out last week, and it immediately made clear it owed a creative debt to a host of genre movies, from "Twilight" to "The Dark Knight." The villains were genuinely scary and the mood was ultra-serious; even the heroine's not doing much smiling.

Right on its heels came Relativity Media on Wednesday -- it seemed like a response, but who could say for sure -- with its own trailer for "Mirror Mirror." The company appeared to have blinked when it took the "Snow White" name off its movie. But it may also have been hinting at something else: Its film really doesn't go to the dark roots of the Grimm Brothers or to the hunter/hunted angle of its counterpart.

As the trailer suggests, it's a light, bouncy story, somewhere between "The Princess Diaries" and a live-action "Shrek." Roberts’ Evil Queen isn't fearsome as much as goofy, and Collins looks like, well, a princess, not sprinting, breathless prey. (For our sister blog Hero Complex's take on the two trailers, please check out its story here.)

It's possible that some filmgoers will still conflate the films. But at this point it's becoming clear that each movie can succeed on its own.

Not that that will be easy. "Mirror Mirror" has to battle it out with the proliferating number of family films, which has already claimed some victims. And "Huntsman" has plenty to worry about with the other dark mythology-laden stories, such as "The Dark Knight Rises," which comes out this summer, and fairy-tale television dramas  like "Grimm" and "Once Upon a Time." There will be rivalries, in other words. Just not necessarily the ones we expect.


Snow White and the Huntsman vs. Mirror Mirror: Which is fairest of them all?

Mirror Mirror trailer shows another side of Snow White

Kristen Stewart's Snow White looks to be the fairest of them all

Kristen Stewart vs Lily Collins: Who's the fairest of them all?

-- Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Julia Roberts in "Mirror Mirror." Credit: Relativity Media

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