If it's crap ... We'll tell you
With the Twilight movies racking up the big bills, studios are scrambling over each other trying to find the next big fantasy movie to satisfy the female demographic looking for escapist adventure. We’ve had reenvisionings of Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and even a previous version of Snow White – all with mixed to negative reactions. Snow White and the Huntsman aims for a different approach, seemingly more influenced by Lord of the Rings, Pan’s Labyrinth, and Game of Thrones, the story takes place in a bleak, ugly world filled with political intrigue, death, and desperation. It’s fascinating to see what portions of the original story they pick and reuse in different fashions, making the film fresh and familiar at the same time with such a traditional tale.
The story begins, appropriately enough, once upon a time where a Queen, inspired by the beauty of a stoic rose against the cold winter, wishes for a child just as brilliant. Her wish to have a daughter like the rose comes to fruition as she gives birth to a beautiful daughter, Snow White. After the Queen dies, her husband King battles against and encroaching army of soldiers made of glass. After the battle, the King discovers Ravenna, a woman taken as an apparent prisoner-of-war. The King and Ravenna soon wed, but it’s soon revealed that she secretly schemes taking over neighboring kingdoms, and kills all the resistance found at the castle. Fifteen years pass, and Snow White, now a young woman imprisoned in the castle’s dungeons, manages to break free and run into the Dark Forest. Fearing a foreshadowed coming of her own destruction at the hands of Snow White, the Queen enlists the help of a widowed drunk, Eric the Huntsman, to find her, promising his wife’s resurrection as a reward. Eric’s search for Snow White leads to an epic journey to stop the Queen and free the Kingdom.
Right off the bat, major commendations should be given to the production designers and special effects team of the movie as they craft a dark world filled with visually stunning creatures that break away from tradition. Creatures like trolls and fairies are designed to give them a more down-to-earth appearance. First time director, Rupert Sanders, obviously takes inspiration from the best in fantasy movies, like the aforementioned Lord of the Rings films, as his cinematographer capture the sweeping splendor of the countryside, the grandiose architecture of the castles, and the dilapidated housing of the downtrodden peasants. The sound of the movie should be an aspect attentive movie-goers should pay attention to as they lend a sense of weight and believability to the world that include the crunching movements of the glass warriors, the haunted creaks and moans of the trees in the Dark Forest, and enraged roars of a troll.
The movie presents another case of some actors doing more with their characters than the script does. Charlize Theron plays the cold Queen Ravenna whose flares of anger come from a place of insecurity and fear rather than sheer villainy; her portrayal of the dark Queen gives the character a sense struggle to find some minute measure of justice for her tragic upbringing and life. Chris Hemsworth (who some may know as the son of Odin) plays Eric the Huntsman as a beaten, world-weary man incapable of finding anything to live for after his love’s death. Hemsworth’s natural charisma entices the audience to root for his character to find something to bring him back to humanity. Believe it or not, Kristen Stewart isn’t that bad in this film – not good, mind you, but a passable acting endeavor. Her character’s existence is more of the catalyst for story action here than her actual character, so the filmmakers seemed to have minimalized her dialog for that purpose. I think I finally understand why I’m not a huge fan of her acting – she doesn’t move her eyebrows. In the movie, she yells in anger, screams in terror, cries in joy, and smiles with humility, yet you never see her eyebrows register anything other than complacent apathy. DAMN GIRL, MOVE YOUR BROWS!
Other side-characters include the seven dwarfs reimagined as vicious fighters. Notable veterans such as Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, and even Nick Frost give the film a much-needed dose of levity and surprising delight for a story focused on so much melancholy. Sam Spruelll plays Ravenna’s brother, adding a level of humanity to her character while also showcasing how depraved the Queen’s influence can make another. I know uninteresting stoicism is a staple mark for brave “noble” characters, but William, portrayed by Sam Claflin, is so bland in writing and acting that I forgot several times during the course of the movie that he was even a part of the story.
The actual story of Snow White and the Huntsman starts out as intriguing, offering fresh spins on classic story elements while adding interesting character motivations. The second act, though in dire need of tighter editing, hints towards a good culmination of the already presented elements. The third act is just plain disappointing as the resolution brings an all-out war, though it is very visceral in the depiction of violence. While the story also gets the bare bones of narrative structure together, there are a few moments where plot threads aren't adequately explained, leaving the audience to give a lot of guess work involving the mythology of the universe. It’s not anything you haven’t seen before, but it is presented well. This reviewer would also like to comment on how refreshing it is to see a strong female protagonist in an action film not be reduced to waltzing around in a thong for the simple desire to appease the young male demographic.
Snow White and the Huntsman sticks close to the rules of storytelling, and though it is uneven in some areas, and downright rushed in others, you won’t leave feeling like you’ve been cheated if you’re hankering for a dark retelling of a classical tale done right.
There's also a random scene of Charlize Theron bathing in milk for no apparent reason...yeah...