Saturday, April 18, 2015

Venturing Into the Woods

Note: This is not a review. This is merely a gathering of my thoughts, and is not meant to be comprehensive. You can find an excellent content review here.

Recently I watched Into the Woods, and came away . . . conflicted. I love fairy tales, and I generally enjoy musicals, but aside from those general labels, I had few expectations. That’s probably a good thing, because a few weeks later, I still can’t make up my mind about it.

The movie begins delightfully, introducing multiple story threads and drawing them all toward the perilous Woods. The rich scenery and costuming, clever lyrics, and vibrant characters had me grinning as I settled deeper into my seat, eager to see the many threads collide.
Empty-headed Jack trudges into the Woods to bring his beloved cow to market.
Cheeky Red Riding Hood marches into the Woods to deliver goodies to her ailing granny.


Wistful Cinderella heads into the Woods to visit her deceased mother’s grave.

The desperate Baker and his Wife rush into the Woods to hold up their end of a bargain with a witch, who says she’ll give them the child they long for if they gather certain items.

And somewhere deep in the Woods, lonely Rapunzel languishes in a tower.

A fascinating web, is it not? Especially when the items the Baker and his Wife are supposed to gather happen to be:

·        A cow as white as milk

·        A cloak as red as blood

·        A slipper pure as gold

·        Hair as yellow as corn

You see where this is going, don’t you?

It’s this couple’s quest that tangles all these stories together. And it’s rather enjoyable to watch the tales interact and intertwine the way they do. (I found the Baker to be one of the most endearing characters.)

But the final act ruined it.

Just when the story seems to be wrapping itself up nicely, everything comes crashing down. The plot slogs into tedium, the songs stretch out a few too many verses, and in the end, no one gets a truly happy ending.

As a member of the audience, I was left frustrated and restless. “That’s how you end it?” I thought. With a dragged-out finale? With characters left to a bittersweet conclusion at best, a miserable existence at worst? Can there not be at least one happy ending?

That’s my viewer’s opinion.

My writer side, however, feels differently. First of all, this tale rang truer than a lot of sugary, Disney-fied movies. (Yes, this was a Disney film too, but it felt more darkly realistic. Definitely a Grimm flavor.) Characters made choices, and those choices had consequences. There were profound messages on parenthood, the cost of obtaining one’s desires, and growing through trying circumstances. So as a teller of tales, I can see how the movie drives home an important point. It’s not a happy point, but it is something worth paying attention to. As a writer, I appreciate how the story played out.

If the pacing had been faster/smoother, I would have been mostly satisfied. I wish the plot had culminated more efficiently. But “wishes come true, not free.” And so I’m left to ponder these matters, a whirlwind of issues even the Witch would be proud of.

What about you? Have you seen Into the Woods? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, what do you think about unhappy endings in general?


  1. I'm so glad you did this! I was really curious what your thoughts were.

    I had big expectations for it as well. I mean, FAIRYTALES. You know how I feel about those. It just seemed like a movie completely up my alley. But by the end I was just kind of like..."Um, what?" It was just so bizarre! I often like strange movies but this one just felt a little TOO strange. The pacing was weird, I didn't entirely grasp the messages they were portraying, and that ENDING. Uuuugh. Before I had seen it I had heard a lot of people say they liked it up to the last 30 minutes, so I was expecting something awful to happen, but my goodness!

    Obviously we can't always have happily ever afters, sometimes I like a bittersweet story, but this one just rubbed me the wrong way for some reason. You put it really well, in that if it was smoother it might have been more satisfying. All the pacing just felt so off. The whole FEEL of that movie can't even be explained. I don't know, I wasn't very impressed.

    Now, I didn't entirely hate it. I really appreciated how they kept true to a lot of the original stories and held on to that eerie Grimm feel. Most of Disney's portrayals of fairytales are a little...fluffy. XD So it was kind of neat seeing the fairytales the way they were originally written. And I did fall in love with most of the characters. But still, it just kind of left a bad flavor in my mouth.

    And good grief am I babbling! Sorry, I apparently had a lot of thoughts on this movie. XD And I'll probably share some more when I reply to your emails, which I plan on working on VERY soon!

    I really enjoyed this post. Your thoughts were practically identical to mine!

    1. EXACTLY. I love fairytale retellings. But it wasn't the same sort as, say, Maleficent or the new Cinderella. Definitely an odd, Grimm spin on things. My biggest two problems were the pacing and the (SPOILER ALERT) part where the Wife cheats on the Baker. Like, *really?* I already disliked Prince Charming, but the Baker's Wife? She had such a good husband, and they were finally working things out, and then she goes and steals a kiss? *shakes head* (SPOILERS ENDED)

      Yes, my family and I agreed that if the movie had ended before the last half hour, we would have been much happier.

      I know--something just wasn't quite right! At least it provides some good discussion afterwards, though. XD

      Yes, that part I really did like. A lot of the characters really popped, and it was fun seeing the original elements show up. (I confess, I was a little shocked when the stepsisters start amputating digits. XD)

      No, you're not babbling at all! I love seeing your perspective, and it's funny how similar our thoughts are on stuff like this. ^_^ Yet another brain twins moment!

  2. I watched half of it, and then had to stop for some reason. I really should finish it, but apparently it ends bad. :) I like and dislike bad endings. I like them more than most people for realism, but I hate them all the same. Because movies are an escape from reality in a way, and I don't need to be hit with the cold truth. Sometimes I like a sugary ending even if it isn't realistic in the slightest. What did you think of the Wolf ?

    1. If you get a chance to finish it, I'd take it (if I were you), just for the sake of completion. It's not a great ending, but it's not totally worthless either. *shrugs*

      Yes, exactly my thoughts--I appreciate the realism, but there are times I just don't want it. The happy endings, as sugary as they sometimes are, can inspire hope. ^^

      Ooh, the Wolf... He played his part, however small it was, really well. But I also found him creepy. (I agree with the Plugged In review: he came across a tad too much like a child molester. Not good.) His howl at the end though, that was funny. XD What did you think?

    2. I think I will give it a shot. :)

      I thought he was great, but yes maybe a little creepy. He did inspire me do to a similar wolf costume on one of my sisters. Yes the howl was funny.

    3. Let me know what you think when you watch it. ^^

      Oh, that would look neat! Do you have pictures of the costume?

  3. I really like the story. I like it better than the original play. The play is grimmer than movie and I've been watching the play for years. Sometimes ending aren't entirely happy, but Cinderella, the Baker, Red, Jack, and the baby had each other so it wasn't totally sad. The biggest thing is "what you want isn't necessarily what you need." I know a lot of people don't like the last act, but I'm one of the few who does I guess lol. The movie had a lot of good themes and that's what I like most about it.

    Stori Tori's Blog

    1. I haven't ever watched the play, so maybe if I had, I would appreciate the movie more.

      Yes, at least they had each other! And that is a very good point--what we want isn't always the same as what we need. (Case in point, Cinderella. I'm glad she ended up seeing the Prince for who he really was!) Maybe that dissatisfied feeling some of us had after watching the movie was intentional; it did drive home some themes that aren't necessarily comfortable. :) So in that light, I do appreciate a good portion of the movie.

      Thanks for chiming in! Oh, and you might be interested in watching Lindsey Stirling's Into the Woods medley:

  4. I haven't seen it buuuut I KIND OF WANT TO. I mean, I'm not a huge musical theatre fan, which is wy I hesitate, but I AM a massive fairy tale retelling fan. x) And it has some epic actors in there, which makes me uber curious. That ending sounds appalling though. I HATE BAD ENDINGS. It can ruin the entire movie, even if the beginning was awesome. *sigh*
    Thanks for stopping by @ Paper Fury!

    1. YOU SHOULD. I mean, the ending left a lot to be desired, but the first three-quarters are worth watching the movie for. So...maybe just stop before the final act begins? XD

      (And I'm a wee bit star-struck here: the famous Cait has visited my blog. ^^ Thank you for stopping by too!)

  5. Um... I have NOT watched this movie but... Um. Your pictures sure are nice and um... Yeah... That's about it... XD
    -Your Littlest Sissy, Kit Kat :D

    1. Lolzy, Kit Kat. Glad you liked the pictures. :)

  6. Into the Woods, in my opinion, was decent and had two important themes ("be careful what you wish for" and "wishes come at a cost"), but overall, I didn't like terribly much. It got to the point where I was like, "Can you people just stop singing and talk normally?! Good grief..." XD Tangled and Frozen were both musicals I enjoyed, but this one... Too much!
    Personally, I think it's kinda amusing that they advertised Johnny Depp as being the Wolf, and yet he's in there like, what, five minutes? Ten minutes tops. What they should've done was make him a little less... "weird" and make him the main protagonist instead of the deep-voiced giant lady. (THAT was also totally weird, in my opinion.)
    All in all, not a movie I have a desire to watch a second time. :P

    1. Wellll, that's because you're not much of a musical fan, right? (Aside from Tangled and Frozen, as you said.) But even I found it a bit much by the end, and I enjoy musicals.
      Hahaha, that would've been...interesting. o.O That giant was kind of strange, yes.
      Ooh, so does this mean I can use "rewatching ItW" as a threat next time I need a good one for you? ;D

  7. I haven't watched the movie. And that's ok with me! :P :D
    It depends on the movie/book. Some movie/books do perfectly with a sad ending. And others... Well... (I actually can't think of movie/book that I didn't like the sad ending. I haven't watched or read that many that are sad... So there goes whatever point I was trying to make...............)

    1. You're right, sad endings are perfect for some stories. This one was more . . . unfortunate, I guess, rather than sad, and it just didn't sit quite right.
      Lolzy, you funny gal. XD