Wednesday 27 June 2012

Snow White & The Huntsman

Surely this 2012 adaptation is more worthy of your hard earned dollar than Disney's 1937 cartoon right??  Hmm.. Read on - but be warned, there be SPOILERS ahead.

I was quite looking forward to seeing Snow White and the Huntsman.  The imagery and visual style I’d seen in the trailers hinted at a modern fantasy in the vein of Labyrinth, The Princess Bride and Willow, movies that I had lovingly watched as a child.

Alas that was not to be the case.

The story of Snow White is an old one.  Collected and popularized by The Brothers Grimm in 1812, the story has undergone various incarnations and modifications.  Having never read the original books, Disney’s 1937 animated movie is the one I’m most familiar with.

Originally the story centered around Snow White and her vain evil queen stepmother.  Threatened by Snow White’s beauty, the queen would order a huntsman to execute Snow White in the woods.  However, being unable to bring himself to harm the innocent and pure Snow White, the huntsman would instead help her to flee.  In the woods White would meet the seven dwarfs and live with them peacefully until such time that the queen would learn that White was still alive.  The evil queen would then infamously visit Snow White in disguise to give her a poisoned apple causing White to fall into a deathly sleep.  A sleep that would later be broken by the kiss of a prince, White’s true love.  In the Disney version the queen was chased onto a cliff by the dwarfs where she would fall to her doom, whereas in the original books the ending was purportedly much more sinister.  However, in no version did the events follow those of this movie.

Although it’s nice to see an attempt to put a new lick of paint on a story and see it done seriously, there were so many issues and inconsistencies in this movie that it just did not work for me.  Globally, however, the movie was a success paving way to discussions for a sequel.

The movie begins with the noble king Magnus battling against the evil dark army soon after the death of his wife.  During this battle he would discover Ravenna (Charlize Theron) who appears to be a prisoner of the dark army.  Enamored by her beauty, he takes her as his new wife and marries her the very next day.  Doesn’t sound very noble does it?  Unbeknownst to Magnus, however, Ravenna is in fact an evil sorceress and leader of the dark army.  She kills Magnus on their wedding bed while he appears to be making quite inconsiderate and non-consensual advances on her.  This leaves Ravenna as the queen of the nation while a young Snow White is locked away in a tower.

Time passes and we see queen Ravenna talk to her enchanted mirror asking who is the fairest of them all.  A Terminator-2esque man emerges from the mirror to announce that Princess Snow White (Kristen Stewart), who has now come of age, is the fairest of them all and if left to live will destroy Ravenna.  However, if Ravenna were to kill Snow White and eat her heart she would be granted immortality. 

Wait a minute – Stewart is ‘fairer’ than Theron??  This mirror clearly needs to be cleaned or polished or something.

There is a strange scene where we see Ravenna talking to the mirror-man but when her brother sneaks a peak to see who she is talking to we see that Ravenna is in fact stood alone talking to herself.  It is never explained whether the mirror-man is real or just in Ravenna’s head like some kind of hallucination.  One of many unexplained plot points in this movie.

Theron sends her silly looking brother to go and kill Snow White.  Having spent all these years locked away in a tower, you would think that White would be some kind of weakling.  Nope, not the case.  She manages to escape from the brother on the back of a horse that comes to her aid from out of nowhere, taking her to the dark forest where Ravenna has no powers.  This part of the movie was interesting.  In the Disney movie, White’s fear leads her to see things, branches as hands reaching out for her, trees as monsters etc.  In SW&TH there appear to be toxins released by the vegetation in the woods that leads to the victims hallucinating and experiencing a distortion of the reality around themselves.  I quite liked how they created this alternative explanation for why things seemed the way they do in the woods.

So Ravenna enlists the help of Thor, sorry, Eric the hunstman who has previously braved and survived the dark forest to go and find Snow White.  Besides the dodgy accent, Hemsworth does a good job.  Hemsworth and Theron are clearly the two real leads of this movie.

Eric does find Snow White but also finds himself betrayed by Ravenna’s brother Finn and, as such, Eric helps White to escape.

The best thing about this movie is probably the imagery.  Sequences in the fairy garden are really quite beautiful and lead us to believe we are in a ye-olde magical fantasy world.  The style was very Guillermo Del Toro-esque for me.  Unfortunately we just don’t see enough of this in the film.  Combine this with characters that we really don’t care for and what we have is a film that ultimately fails.

This was the main fault of the movie.  I just did not care one iota about what happened to Snow White, whether she lived or died and actually, at times, I was even kinda rooting for the evil Ravenna.  I’m not sure if this was because of how White’s character was written, or how Kristen played white – maybe a combination of the two.

Snow White appears to have an unusual affect on everything around her.  Beasts seem tamed, animals miraculously appear to help her, wise creatures appear in her presence as if she is some kind of prophet.   But it is never explained why this happens.  Sure, she is the princess but what power does she have and why?  Are we meant to just accept all this without questioning it?

We are later introduced to not seven but eight dwarfs! That’s right, you heard right – eight!!  It was pretty cool to see the dwarfs, but no – we can’t go down the Disney route, this movie instead has to focus on the story of Snow White and the huntsman.  As a result, we don’t get to see much of the dwarfs and their role is kept secondary to all the other characters.  It’s as if the dwarfs are only making a guest appearance to remind us that this is a Snow White movie.

The famous poisoned apple sequence takes place leading to Snow White’s apparent death.  Her deathly sleep is not, however, broken by the kiss of her childhood friend, Prince William, but by the kiss of Eric the Huntsman.  Why we shall never know because at no point did any semblance of romance or connection develop between White and Eric.  Adding to this, no one seemed at all shocked to see White come back from the grave.

Following a typical Hollywood style rallying speech, White leads the troops against Ravenna’s evil army and kills Ravenna with surprising ease.

The lack of faithfulness to the story we all grew up with, the numerous unexplained plot points and finally a protagonist that you just can’t care about all meant that I could not enjoy this movie.  I really wanted to like it, all the ingredients were there, classic story, good CGI, decent actors – but the implementation meant that this movie will be nothing more than something to kill a few hours on a rainy day.  I just can’t bring myself to recommend it.  Give it a miss and instead do yourself a favour, go and watch The Princess Bride again.

Rating 2.5/5


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