There is something naturally silly about the torso of a woman merged with the lower half of a fish, and yet there is also something prevailingly dazzling and enchanting about the fabled mermaid, who has intrigued and captivated audiences for a long time. Mermaids abound in literature, legend and folklore, and though there are many mermaid movies, there aren’t nearly enough. Here are some of the more interesting movie interpretations of these sensational creatures.
Peter Banning returns to Neverland to recapture the adventurous and sprightly spirit of his youth. He re-aquaints himself with the Lost Boys and pesky pirates, but also with the beautiful mermaids, depicted here as benevolent and frankly ‘free with the lovin’ types who return him to the world above the water with a whimsical kiss. This short scene really captures as a cameo the serene and ethereal nature of the mermaid. There design and makeup, though simple, shimmers and shines.
2. Peter Pan
Disney never disappoints with its maidens. Characters tend to be polarized as all good or all bad, and the mermaids as depicted here, are childlike, spiteful and jealous, and can afford to sit around all day combing their hair and looking pretty. They are happy to be reunited with piper Peter, but are a little more reluctant when it comes to Wendy, but its okay, they were ‘only trying to drown her’. They fit the traditional depiction of mermaids as gorgeous, unknowable and vacuous.
3. The Little Mermaid
Ariel, underwater princess and daughter of King Trident, sacrifices the life she knows to gain a human soul and the love of Prince Eric. The first mermaid I witnessed on film (this movie was released the year I was born), Ariel was unique amongst Disney princesses as a rebellious, free-spirited and unconventional soul, right down to her flame red hair and skimpy attire. Most little girls might dream of being princesses or make-believe that they are mermaids, but Ariel dreamed to be human. Disney doubters see the story of the Little Mermaid as the tale of a young girl who sacrifices her independence and individuality to give herself over to a life of convention and tradition, but there is still something endearing about this story, which is the epitome of ‘the grass is greener on the other side’ syndrome.
A mermaid with a valley girl twist, the consequence of two best friends wish to not be separated, Aquamarine is the ‘miracle’ that emerges as a result of their wish. She is able to take human form during the day so long as she makes no contact with water. She has arrived on land in order to understand the human emotion of love and quickly captures the attention of lifeguard Raymond. This is a fresh take on the mermaid story and interestingly depicts the mermaids fascination with humanity, which rivals that of mans preoccupation with the sea. Think ‘The Little Mermaid’ meets Clueless.
Everyone knows this mermaid movie. Daryl Hannah is Madison the mermaid, who befriends a young boy named Allen, and captivates him for all of his days until she reunites with him in adulthood. Unlike ‘typical tails’, which are quintessentially turquoise and relatively aquatic, Madison’s tail is reminiscent of that of a large goldfish jumping into the setting sun and is memorable because of it.
6. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
The saving grace of this otherwise dire movie, are the mermaids, who prove to be the scene stealers. Erotic, exotic…oh and flesh-eating, these mermaids lure men to their dooms, similarly to the sirens, and drag them to their deaths in the depths by coaxing them in with a kiss. These mermaids are both innocent and evil, captivating and crafty, but yet frustratingly underused in the movie and in the promotional material. Hopefully, Disney will catch on to the fact that the world needs more mermaids!
6. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
The merfolk of J K Rowling’s world are a complete reimagining. They lack the glamour, instead appearing as rather grotesque, and most certainly not wizard friendly. The merpeoples’ language exists as an ear-piercing screech above water, but appears as a lulling melody below. Any director when told that mermaids will be making an appearance in their movie, would be tempted to resort to the tried and tested clichés of the beautiful female mermaid (that is, after all, what most movie goers want to see). Not so in Harry’s world, where mermaids appear more androgynous and indecipherable. Harry has to venture into their world to conquer his second trial in the Triwizard Tournament.
Ponyo is Studio Ghibli’s imagining of the story of The Little Mermaid. Originating from a castle under the sea, Ponyo who is enlivened with great curiosity after a trip in her fathers submarine, slips away to see more of the world above the waves. Here, she befriends Sosuke and transforms into a human child.
Most men probably dream of seeing Kelly Brook embodying the role of a scantily clad mermaid. With this film, their fantasy can reach fulfilment. Here she portrays the stunning mermaid Nereid, who is in danger of being poached for her rather expensive tail. Like many mermaids before her, Nereid sacrifices her existence as a mermaid to become a human woman.
9. Peter Pan (2011)
The mermaids of the 2011 interpretation of Peter Pan are an unusual combination of sensuous and eerie, with their flame red hair (before Rihanna made it mainstream) and pale blue skin. The mermaids are aware of everything that occurs in Neverland and are notoriously evasive (somewhat different to the Disney mermaids, who enjoy a chat and catch up and act more like sorority sisters). The mermaids still have it in for Wendy (poor girl).
10. Night Tide
Slinky sailor Johnny Drake falls in love with Mora, who plays at being a mermaid for a living. As the film progresses, we cannot be sure if Mora really is a mermaid, or whether she is simply a little lost in her own fantasies. Mermaids don’t usually feature in thrillers, so this is well worth a watch.