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Snow White is Beautiful, but so Dreary

June 2, 2012 by Kiersi

Snow White & the Huntsman movie

This movie gets: ♥♥♥ out of 5

Rarely do I cough up the cash to see a movie in the big theater–I’m simply too spoiled by the $3 local haunts, where you can score cheap pizza and a beverage to go along with your flick, to bother.

Two things convinced me to drop the buck for Snow White and the Huntsman: a crush on Chris Hemsworth the size of our national debt, and a tiny spark of hope that Kristen Stewart could still act after the Twilight movies seemed to have sucked out her soul.

Perhaps Charlize Theron’s immortal Queen character had already gotten to her before filming started.

In the crafting of the brilliant visual artwork of Snow White, the story and screenplay were, unfortunately, left undeveloped. I could go on and on about the textures, the color themes, the keen costumes, the visual metaphors–but does any of that stuff really matter when the dialogue falls flat? When most of the main characters’ lines sound rehearsed, forced, and joyless?

It’s as if the actors had no fun at all making this movie.

Like most other Grimm stories, the tale of Snow White is rather, erm, grim. The dreadful events that lead up to the plot of Snow White are played out well: a queen dies, leaving behind a grieving king and his beautiful daughter, Snow White. The king remarries to a gorgeous stranger (played by Theron), who murders him on their wedding night and then lets in an army that takes over and crowns her the new Queen.

Introduce Kristen Stewart as the now grown-up Snow White: starved, lonely, and imprisoned in a cold, high tower. Stewart masters this part of her role. She is a Cinderella type, charming and still full of innocent spirit despite her circumstances; unfortunately, it wears off, and by the time she’s escaped the tower and made it to the aptly-named Dark Woods, she’s about as dry and dark as her backdrop. I can’t decide if the problem’s in the script, Rupert Sanders’s lackluster direction, or Stewart’s inability to portray any emotion except “I just stuck a lime wedge in my mouth,” but something was missing. That lime-wedge expression was on her face all through the Twilight movies. At the time, I thought Stewart had simply grown bored with her role as Bella and didn’t know what else to do with her eyebrows and lips. Maybe they’re just stuck that way now.

Kristen Stewart as Snow White

As the premise goes, Snow White is supposed to be some embodiment of hope. Halfway through the movie, a white stag with unnaturally spiderweb-like antlers appears, (like some kind of Princess Mononoke Lite) and after an awkward and symbolic pat on the nose, a dwarf declares that Stewart is “the one.” How he knows this is anyone’s guess, or even what “the one” is supposed to mean, but I think we can interpret that Snow White is going to save everyone. And yet, never once does she act even remotely like a ray of hope. Okay, so she’s charming, sweet Cinderella when she’s locked up in that dark tower, but she gets out in the sun for the first time in ten years and suddenly, not even the handsome Chris Hemsworth can bring a smile to her face.

How does this whole falling in love thing happen?

To try to convince me of the “love story” thing, the writers of Snow White threw in an aristocratic-looking character named William (played by barely-pubescent Sam Claflin), the son of some duke who is important. I imagine the goal was to generate drama with love triangle intrigue, but with a pouty (yet, still handsome) Huntsman on one side and a courtesan with scrub tree facial hair on the other, I just didn’t feel torn. Honestly, without all the gorgeous camerawork and top-notch effects, Snow White didn’t have much of an emotional draw.

The real star of the show is Theron’s Ravenna, the queen who usurps Snow White’s crown. She gets all the visuals, all the stunning effects, and does a really excellent wild-eyed mad sorceress thing. Unfortunately, the Queen receives about the same treatment as Snow White: just when I thought she was about to get interesting, to have a little depth to her character, she flattened. Or maybe Sanders flattened her. Who knows.

Though, mad props to her for slithering out of a pile of bird gore and feathers with an awesome costume on. Even in the direst of circumstances, that woman never forgets to conjure up a giant feather collar or a dangly chain headdress thing.

There were definitely some great things about this movie, and they make it worth seeing. The dwarves are, though a bit trite, still charming and their costumes are a nice nod to the Disney classic–not to mention some star appearances by Nick Frost of Hot Fuzz fame and Bob Hoskins, a.k.a. “Smee.” The fairy landscape (and the character designs in it) gave me a childish joy to behold. But it just seemed that even in this sparkly nice world, surrounded by cute animals and totally adorable flying mushrooms, there was no spark at all in Snow White or her Huntsman, as much as I wanted it. I wanted so badly to love Hemsworth’s battle-hardened drunkard, but the dialogue he’d been given was too weak for any charm to shine through.

Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman

Now, there is an epic battle, and it’s almost worth the price I paid to see this movie. I think Stewart works much better as a Joan of Arc-type character than a Snow White, especially with her hair pulled back like that and wearing some flashy armor. Of course, it’s Hollywood’s usual over-the-top epic-ness, which works more as a style (like film noir is a style) than good filmmaking. I’ve gotten comfortable with that over the years and I simply brush it off like that oh-so-perfect first kiss cliché.

As with most modern retellings of classic fairytales, there are some clichés to be expected; and if you can set aside the less-than-lustrous dialogue and a couple of plot holes, you’ll enjoy the action and the seriously fabulous special effects.


8 Comments »

  1. This line: “Stewart’s inability to portray any emotion except “I just stuck a lime wedge in my mouth,” made me laugh out loud when i read it. I’ll probably never go see this, but now I know a little something about it.

  2. I’m not a Kristen Stewart fan. I kind of think her best performance was in Panic Room. After that, she became rather one-dimensional to me. When I saw her in the previews for this movie, I felt like it was to prove she could be more than Bella Swan. I give her credit for taking on the role, but she’s not a name that would draw me to the theater. I’ll wait for this to be played on TV.

  3. I’d like to see this in the theater, I like the morose take on the fairy tale. Thanks for a great review; it’s disappointing when the story doesn’t gel with all the cool effects and style of the film, but it sounds like this is still worth seeing.

  4. Carol Apple says:

    This is a fabulously written review and really appreciate the honesty and thoroughness. Is sounds like it lacks warmth and humanity. I would pay money to see warmth, humanity and great dialogue without a single special effect before I would pay to see spectacular special effects without those elements. I will probably wait to see this one at home.

    • Kiersi says:

      Thank you, Carol! It’ll be worth catching on the Red Box or Netflix if only for the classic Grimm tale elements.

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