Old-fashioned fairy tales are generally a bit on the dark side, especially the sort of Germanic folklore recounted by the Brothers Grimm. Hollywood nonetheless has several fairy tale re-imaginings in motion, most of which promise to be either a more gritty and modern take on a classic story (the upcoming Snow White movies), a more warped and macabre retelling of a well-known fantasy tale (Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio), or a more action-packed yarn with beloved characters (Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters).
It comes as little surprise then that arguably Hans Christian Anderson’s most famous work, The Little Mermaid, is also returning to the big screen in a darker light (minus the singing crabs and fish, a la Disney’s classic animated version of the story).
The project in question is Sony’s Mermaid: A Twist on the Classic Tale, based on the popular novel written by Carolyn Turgeon and published earlier this year. Turgeon’s work purports to put a darker spin on Anderson’s story about a young mermaid who strikes a deal with a sea witch to become human, so that she may romance a human prince. Unlike in the Disney cartoon, things don’t work out so nicely.
Variety is reporting that Shana Feste has signed on to both write and direct a cinematic version of Turgeon’s Mermaid. Feste became a bigger name in 2010 after she wrote and directed the musical melodrama Country Strong, which boasted the Golden Globe/Oscar nominated song “Coming Home” – but failed to bring the sort of awards glory to star Gwyneth Paltrow that it was clearly being positioned for.
Last year, Joe Wright was said to be working on his own Little Mermaid movie, as a followup to his own princess fairy tale “re-imagining” – this year’s Hanna. There’s been no recent word about the status of that project, so it cannot be said right now whether or not there will competing Mermaid films arriving in the future – like the dual Snow White pics scheduled for release in June next year.
Mermaid sounds most similar to Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman, in the sense that it largely differs from its inspiration by fleshing out and expanding the role of a pivotal supporting character – in this case, the human princess (here, named Margrethe) who serves as the Little Mermaid’s (Lenia) rival for the prince’s affection. Although a love triangle forms between the three of them, Turgeon’s original novel seemingly does not travel down the Twilight road of supernatural romance.
Anderson’s take on The Little Mermaid is (not surprisingly) far more bittersweet and melancholy a tale that Disney’s 1989 film adaptation, which most people are familiar with. Feste’s Mermaid may offer an even darker version of the story than Anderson’s – but whether or not that’s a good thing is up for debate right now.
On the other hand: considering that more recent films featuring mermaids haven’t always painted the mystical creatures in the most innocuous of lights (see: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), a darker take on The Little Mermaid might not seem so unusual after all.