Friday, June 15, 2012

Movie Review - Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman is the latest fairy tale live action "grown up" adaptation to the big screen...and the second Snow White adaptation in just a matter of a few weeks. From the trailers, I expected to like this movie a lot more than the one that came out previously (Mirror, Mirror). From the trailers, it was grittier, edgier and had a cast I was more interested in (with the exception of Kristen Stewart).

This movie takes the Snow White fairy tale we all (likely) know and changes it ever so slightly. (WARNING: Minor spoilers in following 2 paragraphs)

Even as a young child, Snow White is charming and cute and everyone in the kingdom loves her. The king's wife dies and he is sad and withdrawn as a result. Then comes a strange battle in which the king rescues Ravena (played by Charlise Theron). Naturally the king is smitten by her beauty and marries her.

And as you might have guessed...she is the Evil Stepmother, the Evil Queen. She kills the king, brings in an army and takes control of the kingdom. For some reason, she locks Snow White in the tower rather than killing her...and years later, Snow White somehow manages to escape into the "Dark Forest." The Queen calls in the only man known to have ventured in and returned...the Huntsman. He reluctantly agrees to find Snow White, but once he does, he has a change of heart and decides to help Snow White try and overthrow the queen.

As in the fairy tale, there are dwarves, apples, a scary forest, and plenty of magic.

The magic is very creepy, especially as wielded by Charlise Theron. She makes an absolutely creepy Evil Queen. There are plenty of cool effects and makeup to transition between her "fairest of them all" state and her older and withered state. She is cold, ruthless and violent. We get little glimpses into her backstory which make her motivations feel believable. Of the characters in the movie, the Queen is the most believable.

While Kristen Stewart has the pale and dark presence of a "Snow White", the rest of her portrayal was a bit off. Part of that could be due to the writing or direction, so I'll try not to give her the entire blame, though there were a few segments where I felt like her delivery was awful.

From a storyline perspective, it was hard to believe that this Snow White would have been able to successfully escape the castle, let alone survive as long as she does and come back to fight the queen one-on-one. From a logistics, strength and training aspect...she's spent the past 10 years locked in a small prison cell with no indication that she was doing any exercise or training and she has little or no knowledge of life outside the castle. Yet somehow...she makes it.

Probably the worst scene of all for Snow White is near the end of the movie when she is trying to rally her allies to support her in trying to overthrow the Queen. I suspect the writers & director were trying to go for something like the St. Crispen's Day speech from Henry V. Instead I found myself squirming and uneasy for Snow White, assuming that she was going to motivate NOBODY and ending up going on her own. The acting award has to go to the crowd that enthusiastically cheered and applauded her speech and agreed to join her cause. Once she suits up in armor, I felt like she looked just ridiculous.

Turning to the character of the Huntsman, I expected him to carry this film...and frankly, he did. Having already enjoyed him in Thor and The Avengers, I fully expected Chris Hemsworth to bring the same character to the screen here...just less magical. In some ways he did. In others, he didn't. Again, I don't think he's fully to blame. Generally the role wasn't set up the same as his Thor character. His first scene definitely reminded me of Thor...a drunken fight in the street. I even saw his trademark smirk after shaking off a punch. He was stoic and brooding but also did a great job of opening up his backstory and emotions and trying to understand and help Snow White.

Similar to the Huntsman, we also have the "Prince" (actually a duke, but who's counting). He only had about half the screen time of the Huntsman, but basically worked as a parallel to him, helping out in the fighting. He also provided the love interest for Snow White...which gave added tension, since it was evident that the Huntsman was also slated as the love interest. Thus we have two guys passively vying for Snow White's love. This certainly wasn't a love story like the fairy tale. But the Evil Queen does provide big commentaries on love. And there is the underlying "love's first kiss" to break a spell later on, but it's not really elaborated on.

The dwarves didn't get very much characterization, but I thought the special effects on them were pretty cool. They're all (as far as I know) played by non-dwarves, and yet they looked very dwarf-like throughout. And it wasn't the on-screen/off-screen effect as seen with the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings...at least it didn't feel that way. Instead, it was like some sort of strange shrinking effect that literally made them feel smaller even standing beside other actors. I'm not sure how it was done, but it was interesting.

On the plot and magic side, I felt like there were a number of huge missed opportunities. I already mentioned that they didn't expound on the "true love's kiss" to break the spell. There were also a number of other magical & mystical elements that were just placed out there for us to see, but then did nothing else with them. For example: the Troll, the White Stag, the animal helpers (doves, etc), the prophecy.

Overall, I found the gritty action scenes a lot of fun. The Evil Queen was frighteningly evil and I found her magic and behavior absolutely chilling. I was very underwhelmed and unconvinced by Snow White. While the Huntsman and the Prince were adequate, their performances felt a little lackluster. And the ending...? Well, even though the "love story" wasn't pronounced, I definitely felt the lack of a "happily ever after" for this fairy tale. While it wasn't awful, it wasn't fabulous. Could be a decent rental option.


3 out of 5 stars



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3 comments:

David J. West said...

Great review, I've meant to check it out but haven't yet.

Brian Miller said...

alright, waiting on the dollar theatre...i knew but still had hope, but....

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That about sums up my thoughts on the film. Very uneven. Without Hemsworth, ti would've had no heart either. And my wife hated the inconclusive ending.