There’s something rotten in Denmark… or wherever the hell it is this story is supposed to take place geographically. What may come as a surprise to many of you, is that the decaying fruit of Snow White and the Huntsman, is not, as many postulated ahead of time, Kristen Stewart, who may have given one of her strongest performances yet. Nor is it Chris Hemsworth, whose medieval clone of Thor is just as endearing and testosterone laden as ever. No, the bad apples fall in the shape of a script-by-committee, and a badly overreaching Charlize Theron, who could have been one of the most terrifying and seductive witches in movie history, were she reigned in towards anything resembling subtlety. On the whole, there’s a lot to like here, and moments work independently of the film throughout. However, without a good foundation, there’s very little satisfaction to be gleaned from the proceedings when taken as a whole.
From the opening narration… yes there’s an opening narration. Feel free to check your eye rolls at the door on this one folks, or you’re apt to give yourself a headache by the end. As I was saying, from there on out, it’s pretty clear that the first hour or so of the film has been picked clean by studio notes. There’s little to no character development to be found, and we get to know so little about our leads that its surprising we feel anything for them at all. In some ways, the bulk of the movie is journey based, with our heroes traveling through a dark forest, and then eventually ending up at the castle where the last remnants of the army Snow White’s father once led is housed. The problem is, nothing of note seems to happen to them for large amounts of time, and yet the bad guys still manage to locate them with inexplicable ease. Time and time again, we’re led to believe that Snow White and her Huntsman have found safety, and then, by virtue of there being no other forces at work in the plot, they are tossed back into some form of violent struggle where they get away but other innocent people die. It gets so repetitive and tiresome that you long for the opening narration after a while. At least that voice of god brought with it some semblance of forward momentum.
What can be said on a positive note about the film? It’s absolutely gorgeous, one of the most consistently eye popping collection of images I’ve seen in a very long time. This is the look all those half-baked fantasy epics since The Lord of the Rings have wished they could achieve, and though some of the sets and costumes are a bit too reminiscent of Game of Thrones, there’s plenty of visual panache to set this project apart. The director,
a first timer, is known for commercials and video game cinematics, so he’s certainly got the flair for striking imagery, and the movie coasts on that talent almost too often for its own good.
However, as pretty as your picture is, it’s all for naught if we can’t muster up the energy to feel something for your characters, and by the time the inevitable poison apple gag comes into play, you’re really not sure if you’d mind Snow White just passing away quietly right then and giving you the chance to do something else with the half hour you didn’t know you’d have. Hemsworth has a wonderful scene with her supposedly dead corpse, and from the look in his eyes, you’d think he’d been in love with this girl his whole life. That’s the moment you realize that there had to have been more setup than you got to see, that there’s material there that makes this moment work… and we just weren’t shown it. If nothing else, that’s what disappointed more than anything, that there’s a much more impressive film buried in a vault at Universal, and that it will probably never see the light of day.
Before I wrap things up, I have to address Theron, because I feel like I’m going to get a lot of flack for not jiving with her acting here. I like her a lot in most of the films I’ve seen with her, and there’s nothing to say that she couldn’t have been perfect casting here. She certainly knows a thing or two about maintaining her youth, even as she gets older, and her witch transformations work all the better because of how stunning she can be. The problem is that she screams in practically every scene, and not because it’s dramatically necessary either. It reminded me a bit of Kate Capshaw in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Eventually you just really wish she’d shut up. When she keeps her cool, she’s absolutely menacing, and the breaks were just too frequent to maintain her mystique. It’s a shame, because it could’ve been absolutely perfect, and though I feel bad to have had such a high level of expectation, I think with a performer of her caliber it was a justified expectation.
Will Snow White and the Huntsman make you shout angrily at the screen or storm out with the knowledge that you wasted a movie ticket that could have gone to a better film? Probably not. In fact, many will find the experience enjoyable, if a bit on the shallow side, and I’m sure the box office will be solid for Universal. The inevitable sequel poses interesting questions, like “What story do they have left to tell?” and “Will they be able to write around all their missing character work or will they basically start from scratch again?”
Honestly, I just hope the director gets the chance to do something else in between, something he might have a bit more control over, and has the chance to really show us what he’s made of. It’s the big reason why I’m excited to see Joseph Kosinki
’s (Tron Legacy
) next film, Oblivion
, because I’m curious what these guys would be capable of if they weren’t held on such a tight leash. Give Snow White and the Huntsman
a shot if you’re a fan of the genre, but play it safe if you’re after a gripping or thought-provoking bit of cinema.
Snow White is the only person in the land fairer than the evil queen. Unable to tolerate the insult to her vanity, the evil queen decides that Snow White must die. The queen sends a huntsman to kill Snow White. However the huntsman finds himself unable to murder the innocent young woman, and instead ends up training her to become a warrior capable of threatening the queen’s reign.