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Snow White and the Huntsman – Not the fairest Snow White, but certainly enjoyable

Snow White and the Huntsman - Theater Review
Release Date: 06/01/2012 - MPAA Rating: PG-13
Clacker Rating: 3 Clacks

The second Snow White adaptation of the year had so much potential, but all the cool visuals in the world can't give a flat protagonist depth.

Is it too soon to say fairy tales are the new vampire in Hollywood? There was last year’s Red Riding Hood, the two Snow White movies this year, and this past TV season’s Once Upon a Time and Grimm. Oh, and there are a plethora of upcoming and in development fairy tale movies like the Hansel and Gretal monster hunter movie and the Maleficent retelling. I was pessimistic about this adaptation when I heard who the heroine was going to be, but the weird aspects of the trailer lured me in. And it was entertaining … but it could have been so much more.

The most distinct part of the movie is Charlize Theron‘s evil Queen. She’s over-the-top evil, but you do believe it. The creepy visuals connected to her magic are really fun to watch and you never know what she’s going to do or how dangerous she’s going to be from moment to moment. It’s a fun character and you can tell Theron had fun playing her, even if sometimes she goes a little too melodramatic to the point of silly. There is some backstory about why she is the way she is, told all in flashback visuals and sprinkled in the 2nd act of the film. It was the classic show instead of tell and that worked to keep the story moving. To add another level of creepy, her pale, effeminate and molesting brother (played by Sam Spruell) would fit right in as a villain on Game of Thrones.

Chris Hemsworth is the best thing about the movie as the Huntsman. There are certainly some similarities with the Huntsman and Thor (he’s introduced during a bar fight), but his character is the most compelling simply for his charm and the way he pulls off the snarkiness. With The Avengers and Cabin in the Woods, this is the third strong role I’ve seen him in this year and he’s proven to me that he’s a good actor. The other stronger aspect of the movie is the dwarves, who were played by notable strong actors like Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost and Ian McShane. It takes about half of the movie to get bring them into the story and it feels like just enough without the comedic moments getting too grating. These actors also gave the roles some dignity and the CGI dwarfing of them is absolutely seamless.

Speaking of the dwarves, the 2nd half of the movie owes quite a bit of their visuals and music to Lord of the Rings. Not that I’m complaining — I’d rather new movies borrow from movies I like than movies I don’t like — but when Snow White and the handsome rugged hunter with a past trek a mountain side with dwarves … I kept thinking, “And they call it a mine! A mine!” The other art inspiration seemed to be Guillermo del Toro’s dark, haunting visuals, especially in the Queen’s scenes. I didn’t get quite what was going on with the ivory white milk bath she took, but it certainly added to the creepy-sexy atmosphere of the movie.

Where the movie fails is our protagonist. I went in keeping an open mind about Kristen Stewart because I had heard her other work isn’t as bad as Bella, but she brings nothing to the character. She almost always looked like she was about to be either sick or confused and I swear, her mouth was open about 90% of her scenes. Learn to close your mouth!

However, some of Snow’s flaws are not Stewart’s fault. The writers just don’t give Snow White much to do — she’s mostly led by the Huntsman and doesn’t have many lines. It’s slightly better when she initially escapes because she has to improvise, but even then she was led by some birds into the woods. By the last half of the movie, she barely speaks until the end and is more spoken about. I feel a much bigger connection to the Huntsman’s and the dwarves’ stories.

The movie starts off so strong, but the third act is just flat. It goes back to Snow White and her lack of development. The movie tries to turn this traditional feminine figure into a warrior hero (as you can tell from the promotional pictures), but we never see her hero’s journey. We learn nothing about her wants, her dreams or her interests and we certainly don’t see her grow as a protagonist. So when she dons the armor and leads her people into battle on horseback, it’s not convincing. She’s not very clever and not very strong, but at the end she leads an army because she’s “the one.” She never even learns how to use her sword (she gets one dagger lesson from the Huntsman and that’s it) and her lack of skills shows during that last fight with the Queen. When the Queen ultimately falls, it doesn’t feel like Snow White earned her ending.

Besides our heroine, the flaws of the movies are just small details. When the now grown Snow White escapes the dungeon, the Queen curses herself for not killing Snow when she had the chance. All I could think was … yeah, why didn’t you, Queenie? And the reason Snow White escapes is because a bird showed her a nail just outside her cell’s window. Are you telling me that for all the years Snow had nothing to look at but that window and she never noticed the loose nail? On top of that, the ending just came and felt sort of anti-climactic. And Kristen Stewart still looked like she was about to be sick.

If you like dark fantasy adventure movies, I’d suggest checking it out during a matinee. I really enjoyed a good amount of the movie — especially the art design — but when your biggest problem is your protagonist, then you have a problem. In the show Once Upon a Time, Ginnifer Goodwin‘s Snow White is confident, strong and feisty. Oh, and she knows how to used a sword. I kept imagining that Snow White placed in this story and interacting with Hemsworth’s Huntsman. In that case, it might have been one of my favorite movies of the year, but instead it’s just OK. And that’s a shame.

Photo Credit: Universal

2 Responses to “Snow White and the Huntsman – Not the fairest Snow White, but certainly enjoyable”

June 1, 2012 at 3:44 AM

This article is so rubbish.That’s not true. I watched last night and Kristen did a good job in this movie.

June 1, 2012 at 4:05 AM

I have to agree with Katie. Kristin Stewart looks absolutely bored in everything she’s in, on the red carpet, and even on magazine covers. She didn’t even attempt an accent. Poor Charlize Theron had to gnaw on the scenery it just to bring some life to their scenes.

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