The second of this year’s dual Snow White revisionist adaptations was the one that has the broad public appeal from the start. You had male and female leads with strong fan-bases, a great actress as the villain, and seemingly enough big fantasy cinema to stuff trailers full of knights and creatures and fighting. Part of me is thrilled we live in a time where fantasy on film (be it big cinema stuff like The Lord of the Rings or TV stuff like Game of Thrones) has crossed over into the mainstream. But Snow White and the Huntsman is a firm reminder that where there’s a trend, there will be terrible cash grabs based on that trend.
Snow White and the Huntsman, directed by first-time feature director Rupert Sanders, starts (much like the earlier, better Snow White movie this year, Mirror Mirror) with an elaborately narrated back story. Chris Hemsworth, in ridiculous Irish brogue, tells the tale of a happy kingdom and a young princess named Snow White. Her widower father, left to raise her, ends up finding and falling in love with a mysterious woman named Ravenna (Charlize Theron), who murders him and usurps the throne, locking away Snow White in childhood to rule the land with an iron fist.
The queen, who is both literally and figuratively sucking the life out of the kingdom to feed her magic and her quest for eternal youth, eventually discovers that Snow White (now ‘of age’, and played by Kristen Stewart) is the fairest of them all, and unless she can rip out Snow’s heart the young princess will be her undoing. Snow ends up escaping, and even the efforts of the eponymous Huntsman (Hemsworth, still sporting his terrible accent) to find her go awry, leading to the usual dwarves, apple, and then epic medieval battle scenario. Wait, what?
Yeah, I don’t know how that works out either, which is kind of par for the course for Snow White and the Huntsman. The movie starts out with the normal fairy tale stuff, but quickly throws itself into a mess of inconsistent tone, dancing from one fantasy trope to the next. Do you like the dirty sparse ‘realism’ of Game of Thrones? Then the first half of this movie is for you, where everyone is covered in muck and even the hapless townsfolk leer at a fleeing Snow with hidden (but never realized, as this movie is relentlessly PG-13) menace. Would you rather have the higher fantasy of Lord of the Rings? Then check out the second half, where a bunch of dwarves and men and Snow White crawl along mountains for minutes at a time before gearing up and riding into a almost-massive, bloodless battle against another indistinguishable set of guys in armor and CG beasties.
Snow White is a mishmash of wholesale theft from its betters, trying to sell you the whole gambit of things you liked more the first time under the guise of its hamfisted dark and gritty revamp of a story everyone knows all the beats to anyway. It would be fine if they took it in a new direction, or showed an iota of originality in the setting or telling, but it’s all second string fantasy nonsense. From off the shelf ren faire extras to jarringly out of place creatures in settings that don’t otherwise account for them, this movie will steal from anywhere to make a set piece without a second of shame. Hell, there’s even a ‘pivotal’ scene mid-movie that lifts the entire scene from Princess Mononoke of all places. And it’s all done with a lazy grab-bag approach to mythology, cracking open a bestiary of Western myth and shoving pagan symbology and fairy tale stalwarts right next to unnecessary Christian allusions. I personally find ‘chosen one’ hero’s journey stories tedious anyway, but this is the most pedestrian rehashing of these old cliches I’ve seen in quite some time.
The problem with Snow White and the Huntsman isn’t with its actors, either. I’m sure Kristen Stewart is going to continue to get a lot of hate, but honestly she’s fine with the role she’s been given here. The problem is the role is terrible. As a heroine, Snow White in this movie is tasked with being in peril up until the movie’s spun its wheels into a third act, where suddenly she becomes the leader of her people, giving speeches and riding into battle after a decade’s imprisonment. It’s a character devoid of actual characterization, and before people pile onto her, this movie manages to take a charming rising star like Hemsworth and turn him into a drunken boor, so I can’t blame Stewart for floundering. Even the dwarves—a collection of usually great character actors including Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, and Nick Frost—can’t manage to keep from being indistinguishable and dull. By the time of the final battle, it’s a good thing the heroes stupidly forget to bring helmets, or you’d never tell them apart from the dozens of other disposable soldiers.
In fact, the only person who manages to escape this trainwreck unscathed is Charlize Theron, who is better than this movie by a mile. She seems to know it, too, spending most of her time hamming it up with the shouty, scenery-chewing paroxysms of theatrical rage, the kind of work of an actor who knows their time is being wasted and spends it having as much fun with bad material as possible. And honestly, her parts end up being mostly watchable and nearly enjoyable because of it, even if the idea of Theron as worried about her beauty seems laughable on the face of it. It takes a mountain of makeup and CG to make her look ‘old’, and even so she’s striking, parading around in an succession of incredible dresses that undoubtedly cost more than the rest of the wardrobe combined. She’s turned into a piece of visual art, in a movie already heavy with things to look at.
I say that because for all of its lack of interesting story and insultingly derivative plot, the movie is fairly striking visually, especially when it escapes the towns and battles other movies with bigger budgets could handle better. Rupert Sanders comes from commercials, and it shows in almost every frame of the movie. It’s a weird mishmash of high fashion perfume ads and lazy period-action credit card commercials (you know which ones) made into an actual movie, always nice to look at but ultimately devoid of any actual investment or stakes. It looks and feels like a movie made for the internet to fawn over, beautiful and coherent in three second oversaturated gifs that I’m sure will litter tumblr this weekend. But as an actual movie, just like the queen, it’s in terrible need of a heart to sustain it.
Trailer: Snow White And The Huntsman
Lord Of The Rings meets Snow White in this summer 2012 blockbuster. It looks interesting, although perhaps it's telling that Kristen Stewart isn't allowed to speak at all.
|news||DVD/Blu-Ray: September 11th||staceywi|
|review||Fails to Entertain. (2 out of 5)||MasterPr0phet|
|blog||Universal Expels Kristen Stewart and Opts 4 Solo Huntsman Film!!||VioletEyedDragon|
|news||Box Office: Ted Beats Magic Mike||staceywi|
|news||BOX OFFICE: It's All About Brave||staceywi|
|review||Snow White and The Huntsman (3 out of 5)||baileyhenderson|
|news||BOX OFFICE: Animated Afros and Space Aliens Win Again By A Landslide||staceywi|
|news||BOX OFFICE: Madagascar 3 Beat Prometheus||staceywi|
|The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring|
|The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers|
|The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King|
|The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe|
|The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian|
|Alice in Wonderland|
|Clash of the Titans|
|Red Riding Hood|
|Wrath of the Titans|
|The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey|
|Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters|
|Jack the Giant Slayer|
|Oz: The Great And Powerful|
|The Hobbit: There and Back Again|
|Untitled Snow White & the Huntsman Sequel|