“Cruella”: reinvented the origins of the Disney villain

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There is something special in everything that surrounds villains in movies, series or literature. That twisted character who runs a motel lost nowhere, that serial killer who scares us, that deranged psychopath who enters the dreams of young people or who hacks to pieces some campers. Hannibal Lecter, Kaiser Zose, Freddy Krueger, Annie Wilkes, John Doe, Michael Myers, Norman Bates or the Joker are part of popular culture. They are names that are part of our collective ideology, almost without realizing it. In that group of villains who are linked to our memory, there is undoubtedly Cruella de Vil, a character created by Dodie Smith that Disney would adapt in his famous animated film “101 Dalmatians.” And now, after its theatrical release last May, “Cruella” can already be seen on Disney +, a film that presents us with a new version of the mythical character, this time with the face of Emma Stone and with a fabulous soundtrack accompaniment.

Cruella - Disney+
©Laurie Sparham. Paul Walter Hauser, Emma Stone y Joel Fry en «Cruella

Directed by Craig Gillespie, Cruella takes us to London in the 70s in the middle of the punk rock revolution, to tell us the story of a young con artist named Estella (Emma Stone), an intelligent and creative girl determined to make a name for herself with her designs. Years before, when she was just an orphan girl, we will witness how she befriends two little thieves who will become her family, and with them she will build a life on the streets of London.

Cruella - Disney+
©Laurie Sparham. Tipper Seifert-Cleveland es la joven Estella/Cruella

Thanks to the memories of Estella herself, we will learn about her past with her mother, and we will know how since she was little she was already a misfit to whom a tragedy would mark her forever. However, chance (a robbery that did not come out) will make Estella meet Baroness Von Hellman (Emma Thompson), a fashion legend she will start working for. Although he will soon discover that the powerful have no mercy on those around them, and that to achieve success there is nothing else but to risk.

Cruella - Disney+
© Laurie Sparham. Emma Thompson is the villain of the role

It is not the first time that Disney narrates the origins of some of its most charismatic villains. Already at the time he decided to tell the story of Maleficent with the features of Angelina Jolie, and even greenlit a sequel with Michelle Pfeiffer dipped in garlic. A few months ago, the Mickey Mouse company confirmed that it had given the green light to a series starring Gaston and Lefou, which would narrate the past of these two characters from Beauty and the Beast.

Imbued with that revisionism that seems to invade our society, Disney embarked on filming Cruella, a film that tells the story of how the iconic villain became who we knew. In this case, reinventing his origins and getting fully into a story that aims to offer us a different and risky perspective on the character, although it does not quite succeed.

Cruella - Disney+
© Laurie Sparham. Emma Stone as Estella in “Cruella”

Cruella is above all entertainment, which is supported by a soundtrack that will delight the most music lovers. With a first part that takes time to tell us about the past of the girl who will end up becoming the evil villain obsessed with the Dalmatians, the film written by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara offers us both sides of the character. On the one hand, we are shown the kind and sweet young woman who lives happily with her friends, and on the other, we are shown the vision of her most wicked and cruel side, standing out in both facets an extraordinary Emma Stone who manages to completely blend in with the character, with a fascinating performance.

Cruella - Disney+
© Laurie Sparham. The costume design of «Cruella» is spectacular

From the moment in which Estella gives way to Cruella, in that dichotomy of Jekyll and Hyde that has been latent from the beginning, the film accelerates to the rhythm of seventies punk. The rise to fame that he so desired takes place, although for this he has had to take certain steps towards his darker side (I know, I could not avoid it) and events follow one another, revealing events of the past that definitively mark the future of the character. Was an antiheroine born? Do not forget that Cruella faces Baroness Von Hellman (Emma Thompson embroiders it every time it appears on screen), a powerful, cruel and despotic character, who takes advantage of the work of others to succeed. Is Cruella bad because she was born that way or because circumstances shaped her in a certain way? It is what this new version of the Disney character wants to teach us, even if it is sweetening the story to a great extent so that everything seems better to us.

In summary

Cruella It is an interesting proposal that does not finish risking with the story of the origin of one of the most charismatic villains of Disney. The film is entertaining, with a fantastic soundtrack that enhances each scene, and a great production design, spiced up by a great costumes by Jenny Beavan. The problem? It bleaches (in my opinion) too much the origins of Cruella de Vil, giving a simplistic explanation of her obsessions and her evil. But, this is not a movie about him Joker, and although her resemblance to Harley Quinn is evident, despite everything, the film works, especially thanks to a fabulous Emma Stone, and a superlative Emma Thompson.

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“Cruella”: reinvented the origins of the Disney villain