Emma Stone’s ‘Cruella’ Turns Villain to Fabulous Anti-Hero

Shad Engkilterra
3 min readOct 18, 2021

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Dalmatian walking near water
Photo by Mauro Lima on Unsplash

If you haven’t seen Emma Stone’s “Cruella,” do yourself a favor and watch it now. It is a visually stunning, wonderfully told story that you shouldn’t have spoiled… Which means you may not want to read any further. Bookmark this page and come back when you’ve seen this fabulous film.

Why I Waited to See ‘Cruella’

When Disney announced “Cruella” would be available on Disney+ for an additional subscription fee of $30, I decided it wasn’t worth the cost. While the additional fee is a brilliant strategy on Disney’s part, and is a good deal for families that would spend more at the theater, for a couple, it’s just a little too much to stomach, especially knowing the film would be available for regular subscribers in three months. We are charter members of Disney+; we could still wait for the movie to come out for our regular subscription fee. (There were plenty of other good things to watch while we were waiting.)

The idea of “Cruella” wasn’t appealing to me, even with Emma Stone in the title role. Not all villains need an origin story to make them empathetic; Cruella seemed to fall into this category. She was hoarding puppies so she could make a coat out of them. It doesn’t get much eviler than that. (She also had those crazy eyes when she was erratically driving her car through town — terrifying.) There are no life events that can justify someone wanting to actively harm puppies.

After the soulless, creatively bereft remake of “The Lion King,” I didn’t want to ruin another Disney classic with a retelling. “101 Dalmatians” also had a remake with Glenn Close. I wasn’t convinced that Cruella needed more screen time. While “Maleficent” was good, its sequel basically undid everything the first movie tried to accomplish. Disney’s continuing reliance on existing intellectual property to tell stories is tedious, even if it is a safe way for the company to make profits.

Why I Finally Saw ‘Cruella’

Emma Stone is amazing. Ever since she demolished Jimmy Fallon in a lip synch battle, I have been a fan. She emotes with her face, knows how to put on a great show, and can go over the top without feeling like she’s chewing the scenery. In short, she has all the skills that playing Cruella requires. Emma stone was, and is, the single best argument for seeing this film. She is glorious as Estella/Cruella. Stunning and fabulous are words that her character would approve of and that fit the gift she has given viewers with her portrayal of the iconic villain fashionista.

As an author who has examined the pop culture and creativity influences of Walt Disney and the company he and his brother built, curiosity got the better of me. (Curiosity drives creativity.) I wanted to see how the Disney Company would handle the character for this generation. Besides, it’s Halloween — a great time to visit the Disney villains.

Spoiler Alert — More Details about ‘Cruella’

“Cruella” is an amazing work of creativity and story-telling. The visuals are beautiful, drab, colorful, and black and white. There’s a girl-on-fire moment and a sequence that calls to mind another gathering (possibly in one of the Batman films). While those two scenes are derivative, it’s okay because the rest of the film is filled with Emma Stone’s brilliance and writing that twists and turns to keep the viewer guessing. Wardrobe, makeup, and design come together to craft a world of decadence, deceit, beauty, beasts, and an Emma Thompson whose look changes gradually and slightly so her outside looks more like what’s on the inside. The soundtrack features some of the best music of the 1960s.

Jasper and Horace are given new life as they form Cruella’s new family. They become likable, caring, and competent accomplices for her intricate and devious plots. “Cruella” elevates its title character to more than a DeVil. It left me hoping that they will be able to come up with a sequel to this prequel. However, I don’t know how likely that will be since this story was driven by revenge. The next would need to be wholly new, crazy, and amazing. Bring back this cast, and I might pay an additional $30 to see it.

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Shad Engkilterra

Earned a Master’s in Creativity and Innovation from Malta U., author of “Disneyland Is Creativity” and other books, other works available at www.penguinate.com.