Not a Movie Snob - Snow White and the Huntsman

Posted on Thursday, June 14, 2012 at 06:00 PM

"If you go down in the woods today..."

Snow White and the Huntsman

Most fairytales, Disney or otherwise, have a much more sinister and twisted origin than their sunnier, family friendly counterparts. Of the great brilliance that was Walt & co. was their ability and insight to take tales of darkness and magic and turn them into fairytales of fluff and magic, at times holding onto a crumb of that edginess that so embodied the original stories.

The original Snow White in truth has not aged well. It was the first ever full length feature animated film and that makes it as old as your oldest grandparent (if you're around 30). And just like your grandparent's features have begun to sag, so then, has Snow White's. Maybe that's why the movie green-lighting powers that be decided to thumbs up a Twilight and Hunger Games crowd aimed remake. The original story of Snow White by the Grimm Bros. is, for lack of a better word, f'd. It's a violent and disturbing tale that bears little resemblance to the original Disney adaptation. This new version has attempted a more faithful retelling, but even they had to leave out a fair chunk of the naughtier bits.

In this version Snow White is imprisoned in a tower after an evil witch bewitches (as they do) her father into marrying her, then kills the poor chap right before he's about score with her and overtakes his kingdom. The rest is fairly familiar: magic mirror, Snow White grows up, threatens witch's beauty, escapes to Dark Forest, Huntsman sent after Snow to bring her back to witch, falls in love, dwarves, battles, defeat (but who defeats who? See, no spoiler).

The film cracks off with some stunning visuals and doesn't let up. This is one seriously beautiful looking and beautifully shot movie. At times it took on the constitution of a moving painting. This is director Rupert Sanders' first full length movie and from a visual standpoint alone I'm excited to see what his third eye comes up with next. Sanders makes seemingly little attempt to hide his influences and inspirations. Some Lord of the Rings, some Harry Potter. There's even a scene involving a forest spirit that's lifted directly from Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke. But if I'm not going to scold DePalma for looting from Hitchcock's artistic output, I'm not going to do it here either. 

Kristen Stewart plays Snow White. For my money, she was entirely miscast. As I said before, Snow White and the Huntsmen seems geared towards the Twilight/Hunger Games crowd looking for edgy teen movies, and in that regard it only made sense to cast either her or Jennifer Lawrence, but the weight of the role is beyond her capabilities. I've never seen one of the movies, but here she consistently reminded me of her in the Twilight trailers. There's one scene in the film where Snow has to give a rabble rousing speech of inspiration (every movie of this sort has one) to stir the crowd into action and my wife noticed something that only women would notice: every time the camera cut back to her, her hair was slightly different. Not shifted around by the wind different, a break in continuity different. This tells me two things: one, the film needed better editors, or female ones at least, and two, it took many many takes for Stewart to nail that speech. On the whole, she doesn't feel like a strong-willed princess, doesn't act like one, looks silly riding a horse and is not the fairest in the land.

I'm sorry at the bit of shallowness I'm about to exhibit, but to ask a film audience to believe that Kristen Stewart is fairer than Charlize Theron is like asking Homer Simpson to switch from Duff to Duff Light. Even in the bits when Theron is an old wrinkled mess, she's still the fairer of the two. Ok that's all. Sorry, I know that was rude. Speaking of Theron though, as fair as she is, she wasn't very good here either. She's very hammy and over the top, almost parodying herself to save SNL the trouble. Chris Hemsworth was fine though. He's getting quite good at playing the brooding, reluctant hero, considering that's pretty much all he plays, and cuts a buyable Huntsman. 

The dwarves (eight this time) are one of the best parts of the whole movie. There's something almost giddily exciting about seeing some of the finest character actors in the business playing three foot, scraggly, hard drinking dwarves. Every one is amazing and I'm sure everyone who sees this movie will wish there was more screen time with them (except maybe the Hemsworth swooners).

Snow White, despite its acting faults and shameless plagiarism, is really a lot of fun. It's a harder edged (than the last one) retelling of an even harder edged Grimm tale that is beautiful in set design and direction. It uses its music (and its magic) well and in its dwarves, creates some of the most memorable and well cast little side kicks this side of Alicia Silverstone in Batman & Robin (that was a joke kids). A movie that's a blast in spite of its faults. Welcome to summer!

Rating: **** 



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