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‘Cruella’: One of Disney’s best villain origins

| Thursday, September 9, 2021


Claire Kirner | The Observer

We all know the saying that good always triumphs over evil. That is what Disney was known for back in the day to the younger generation, but the tables have turned as now evil is the new good. Arguably, “Maleficent” was one of the first films to tell the origin story of the villain. Since then, we have not had a really good origin story until May 28, 2021 rolled around, when director Craig Gillespie released “Cruella,” the origin story of Cruella de Vil from the 1960 animated Disney film “One Hundred and One Dalmatians.”

“Cruella” takes place primarily in London during the punk rock movement of the 1970s. It tells the story of Estella (Emma Stone), who is an up-and-coming fashion designer who butts heads with the Baroness (Emma Thompson), a haute couture designer who runs the House of Baroness fashion brand, slowly causing Estella to transform into the vengeful and notorious Cruella de Vil. 

The movie has a very dark tone to it, in that there are a lot of very dark colors used in the film’s costumes. The primary colors are black and a lot of dark red, mainly from Estella since she is the one who is with black and white hair, but later dyes it dark red after the death of her adopted mother. The colors seem to represent Estella dying figuratively and Cruella de Vil taking the spotlight. The film is also dark in that the atmosphere seems to be very dark. There are points in the movie where the lighting is very dark and can sometimes be very gloomy. This film technique is very well used in that it captures the essence of a broken woman who now has to make a name for herself in a rather devious but creative fashion (no pun intended). 

One of the things I personally love about the movie is how it really delves into the psyche of Cruella. It was so interesting to see how Cruella was first portrayed as an outcast who had a sense of rebellion against her superiors at the beginning of the movie. It was also very interesting to see how she had met Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and Jasper (Joel Fry) and how Cruella first started off as a thief. 

The other really interesting thing about the exploration of the psyche of Cruella, is how her relationship with the Baroness is affected throughout the movie. At first, Cruella had dreamed of working with the Baroness because she saw the fashion designer as a huge idol in her eyes. But as the movie progresses, Cruella becomes bitter rivals with the Baroness after she deduces the Baroness may have caused the death of her adopted mother. I won’t go into spoilers about how the relationship comes to a head, but all I can say is that I was shocked. 

I also really liked the setting and timeframe during which the movie takes place. Obviously, the movie takes place in London, as the source material before it, but setting the movie during the punk rock movement was a unique addition to the film. Fashion was a huge staple during the punk rock movement of the 1970s so the tie-in with the movie was a nice touch. Not only did the punk rock movement inspire a lot of the costuming for the characters, but it also influenced the soundtrack of the movie. Bands like Black Sabbath, Queen and the Bee Gees were featured on the soundtrack. 

Overall, I personally have nothing bad to say about this movie. It was one of the best villain origin stories that Disney has ever made. Hopefully, they’ll make more of these in the future. 


Title: “Cruella”

Director: Craig Gillespie

Starring: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Paul Walter Hauser

Genre: Crime/comedy

If you liked: “One Hundred and One Dalmatians,” “Maleficent”

Shamrocks: 5/5

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