In a new essay for Harper’s on Wednesday, Martin Scorsese wrote another lengthy essay, railing against the great leveling of every cultural product. “‘Content’ became a business term for all moving images: a David Lean movie, a cat video, a Super Bowl commercial, a superhero sequel, a series episode,” he opined. It's not hard to imagine "live-action origin story of a classic animated villain" slotting right into his list, so here's a new trailer for Disney’s Cruella:
Maybe to Marty’s pleasure, the 101 Dalmatians origin story is, optimistically, planning to open in movie theaters on May 28. Emma Stone is here as Cruella de Vil, alongside Emma Thompson and Paul Walter Hauser, to bring the classic villain a lightly twisted origin story. The first thing you notice about its marketing, save for the anarchist circle-A in Stone’s name on the poster, is that it’s going for the whole Joker thing. Wanna know how I got this penchant to skin dogs, the movie seems to ask, when it’s more satisfying to settle on something a bit simpler:
Cruella takes us back to 1970s London, when de Vil worms her way into the elite fashion world. Thompson’s Baroness hires de Vil to work at her renowned fashion house, where she brushes up against the wealthiest reaches of society. Somewhere along the line, it’s implied, she takes a liking to Dalmatian coats and makes it her life’s mission to rack up a body count in the hundreds.
The movie’s entire aesthetic and reason for being are pretty confusing! Part elaborate costume drama (at least one of The Favourite’s writers is here), part Hot Topic revival, and part riffing on the entire DC cinematic universe, Disney is certainly aiming for the PG rating’s darker confines. Zooming in on the latent motivations and formative trauma is certainly a page from Joker (2019), but all those Cruella scrawls and manic energy are straight Suicide Squad and Birds of Prey.
Even if this sort of origin story misplaces the viewer’s interest on how they got so twisted, rather than their mysterious chaos in the moment, there’s no sense in fighting it. Everything works like Joker and Cruella now, and before too long we’ll be finding out why Wile E. Coyote loves to eat birds, but gritty.