Thursday, March 27, 2014

Snow White and the Huntsman

I saw Snow White & The Huntsman for the first time a few days ago, maybe because I had a craving for Game of Thrones. Unfortunately, this was like wanting a slice of warm apple pie topped with a scoop of ice cream, and getting an apple core to nibble on.

I’ll start with the good. The black glass warriors were very cool. Also, I liked the music at the end (the coronation plus the song that plays over the credits).

Other than that, everything was blah. Except for Charlize Theron’s turn as the evil queen Ravenna, who reminded me a little of Jeremy Irons’s evil mage Profion in the similarly awful Dungeons & Dragons. It’s as though they realized they were the only elements in the films with the potential to be something other than dull, but regardless, they couldn’t possibly make the films worth watching. So they just went to town on the scenery-chewing.

I can’t even think of Kristen Stewart’s character as Snow White. That character is Kristen Stewart, wearing a perpetually dazed and open-mouthed expression. The sets and clothes are so grungy that her two upper incisors, always on display, look all the whiter in comparison. Even when she’s crowned queen, she just stands there silently with her chest heaving, a tabula rasa to the end.

You can tell they were going for a Joan d’Arc vibe, because to gain her throne she put on armor, led a tiny army and fought the evil queen, but all throughout it I just wondered why no one was wearing a helm. Plus, the resolution of the battle is telegraphed from the moment she meets the titular huntsman. If a man teaches a woman a self-defence move, I guarantee the woman will pull that move out at the last minute to save herself from the villain.

Another problem is that I was never sure what was the source of the evil queen’s power. Shades of Elizabeth Bathory here, since she imprisoned a girl, fed on the girl’s youth and became beautiful while the girl grew old. But apparently there’s a whole village of women who have deliberately scarred their faces (just pale lines down their cheeks, wouldn’t want to gross anyone out) to deter the queen from choosing them. So… she derives her youthfulness from only hot women?

Then she eats a bird’s heart, and of course she wants Stewart’s as well – though why she kept Stewart locked up in the tower for years is anyone’s guess. As for the nature of her power, that goes beyond youthfulness. She’s got Wolverine’s healing factor, Mystique’s ability to change her appearance, super strength and telekinesis (she can raise a portcullis by walking to it). Oh, she also changes into a flock of birds. Basically, she’s all over the place, and no, I have no idea why Stewart was able to kill her at the end. But it was a relief, because that meant the film was over.

The dwarves were awful, the takeover of the castle was unbelievable, and the black glass warriors were utterly wasted. If millions of shards of obsidian fly at you at high speed, you’ll need to be rinsed off the walls. Of course, Stewart’s love interests are barely scratched.

These love interests are the scruffy huntsman (who doesn’t even have a name) and some pretty-boy duke’s son, both of whom kiss her after she eats the apple. I’m sure you can tell which one’s kiss works, but this is a modern retelling, not “Some Day My Unshaven Prince Will Come”, so he just exchanges a few angsty glances with her afterwards.

The queen, a self-made widow, has a love interest too – her brother. Yes, they were going for Jaime/Cersei here, because this film is a patchwork of borrowed concepts covering up a whole lot of nothing. The brother has a silly haircut and that’s about all I can say of him.

If you want to see a strong yet vulnerable princess, watch Pan's Labyrinth instead, because Ivana Baquero can act, plus there’s a gripping story and a believable villain to go along with her. Everything this film doesn’t have.


Maria Zannini said...

Thanks for the review. I hadn't gotten around to watching Snow White and the Huntsman, and now I won't bother.

I agree about Pan's Labyrinth. It's a rich, visceral movie.

Sarpedon said...

Try watching the BBC's adaptation of 'Going Postal.'

Its got Charles Dance playing a (ever so slightly) more cuddly version of Lord Tywin.

The same actor who plays Dolorous Edd also appears.

Kami said...

I'm glad you posted it. I had no desire to see this movie because even in the previews it looked like a rolling disaster. Now I have negative desire to see it. :) But, I got some good laughs out of your review of it, so looks like I got some entertainment out of the movie after all!

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

We got this out of the library and watched it a few months back. Not a good movie, certainly. Not bad enough to turn off, but God, who decided Kristin Stewart gets to be in things? Does she know somebody? (well, I guess by now she knows lots of people....)

Pan's Labyrinth is a fantastic movie! We saw it in the theater when it came out, and I'm so very glad. It seems like I had another movie to suggest, but of course it flew out of my head immediately. Ah well.

Marian Perera said...

Maria - Yes, Pan's Labyrinth has not only the symbolism and atmosphere, but amazing characters.

Sarpendon - Thanks for the suggestion. I don't have a TV, but if the library has copies of the DVD in stock, I can watch them on my computer.

Kami - I've read one great retelling of Snow White. Tanith Lee's short story "Red as Blood". I have no idea why, given a big budget, the filmmakers couldn't have come up with something even half as good.

Jennifer - Kristen Stewart just looks so blank most of the time. Which might have worked for Twilight, but it helped sink this film for me.