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Mermaid Movies; Atlantican Horror Story

Posted by Toby King on

If cinema is a form of escapism, mermaid movies are the ultimate excursion from reality. There are a ton of reasons as to why we enjoy entering the mer-world on screen so much, and if you really wanted to analyse the psychological aspects of it (water - femininity, the womb, tail - repressed desire etc) we could be here all day long. To simplify it… it’s fucking cool. Mermaids, Aliens, Dragons, Cher, Vampires… all in their own elite cool-kid club. How do you join? Being rare and legendary doesn’t hurt. Mermaids in movies are pretty scarce. Sure, they might make a cameo every so often in the sixteenth Peter Pan reboot of the decade or to provide dangerous eye candy in a tired Pirates of the Caribbean series, but it’s unusual to see a Mermaid - or any kind of Merfolk - lead their own storyline in a Hollywood blockbuster. Splash (1984) Aquamarine (2006) and The Little Mermaid (1989, 2017?) are unique recent exceptions. Today we’re going to talk about The Little Mermaid and it’s upcoming remake briefly, but I would love the chance to extend this blog in future to cover more ground. Let’s see how this one goes first.


I just referred to the upcoming Little Mermaid adaption as a remake. This isn’t strictly true, and here’s why. The story of The Little Mermaid was originally a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale written in 1836. Like all good fairy tales it was cautionary, sexist and a little bit frightening. The abbreviated version goes like this: The mermaid saves a prince from drowning and longs to be with him on land. She visits a sea witch who [SPOILERS for a two-century old book] cuts out her tongue and sends her up above the waves to live on land where walking on her new legs causes the ex-mermaid to feel like she’s being split in two by a sword - yet she dances for her Prince’s admiration regardless, only for him to fall in love with somebody else. Somebody without a mutilated muscle resting limply behind their gums, who’d have thunk? The Little Mermaid faces certain death… until her sisters rise out of the ocean with bad haircuts - having sold their luscious locks to the sea witch in return for a magical knife. She is told to creep into the Prince’s chamber and stab his heart with the blade, and when his warm blood runs down her legs she will transform back into a mermaid and can return home again. She wimps out on the murder pact after seeing him sleeping happily with his new bride and ends her own life instead. Grim, right? The whole book is like an Atlantican Horror Story. Then along comes Disney.

The Little Mermaid as most of us know her is named Ariel, she’s feisty and driven and gets a very different ending to her book counterpart. A happier ending - with legs and a husband and a tongue in her mouth (don’t be dirty). A whole generation is saved from watching their beautiful, mythical heroine die as a single teenager in/on a foreign land. There aren’t enough therapists in the world to fix a child’s memory of seeing a dead Ariel on the cinema screen.


You might have heard the recent rumours and leaked reports of a new live action Little Mermaid adaption that’s in the works. You are right. You might be really excited about it. We'll get to why it's best to remain cautious in a minute. You might have assumed that Disney are making it BUT YOU’RE WRONG. Disney have nothing to do with this upcoming movie (which means neither do Ariel and her friends as we know them), instead it’s being made by Universal. Reports of the project surfaced all the way back in 2011 with Joe Wright (Atonement) set to direct. Since then, Sofia Coppola (Lost In Translation, Marie Antoinette) was due to direct the movie, but has since abandoned the project due to “creative differences”. Reportedly, these creative differences were over the newly cast ‘Ariel’, Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick Ass). The script has changed hands so many times, we're not sure there's anyone left who hasn't had a go at (re)telling the story. It was reported that Kelly Marcel (50 Shades of Grey) wrote a draft for consideration, and then Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady) turned in a script featuring the dark original book ending back whilst Joe Wright was still set to direct but everyone involved subsequently moved on from the project. Caroline Thompson (The Nightmare Before Christmas) took a stab at the script whilst Sofia Coppola was on directorial duty, but that team have also jumped ship. It’s currently being penned by rom-com royalty Richard Curtis (Bridget Jones, Love Actually) yet still without a confirmed director. Judging by the current names attached to the project, I think it’s safe to say that our mermaid herione will survive to the end of this new film; even if it will skip the singing crabs and giant purple octopus-women in favour of a more faithful adaption. The last time Universal tried adapting a fairy tale was the Kristen Stewart-led ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’, so don’t expect anything too fantastic.

As I said though, mermaid-movies are such rare commodities that they’re worth getting excited (and a bit nerdy) about. The project has had so many setbacks you'd be forgiven for thinking it's doomed to remain unseaworthy for a long while yet, but the apparent aim is for a 2017 release. More fish-friendly movies are also in development, with Pixar’s Finding Nemo sequel ‘Finding Dory’ out next summer, followed by Disney’s new animated film ‘Moana’ in time for Christmas 2016. Moana is being directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, who also made… guess what? Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Only time will tell if these films sink or swim, check back after the next solar eclipse to find out.


What's your favourite mermaid movie? Are you excited for the new Little Mermaid adaption? Leave a comment below and let me know if you want more blogs like this one, I had a blast writing it! Don’t forget to also stop by our store on your way out, treat yourself.

Toby - aka Mr Merpola

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