Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

 

snow-white-and-the-huntsman-poster

“The Fairy Tale is Over” (possibly; it doesn’t seem to appear on any posters)

Directed by Rupert Sanders,
Starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron and Sam Claflin

A beautiful queen wishes for a beautiful daughter, but the queen dies, the king remarries, and the new Queen (Theron) carries the kingdom in a coup d’etat, locking the princess – Snow White (Stewart, eventually), whom everyone adores for her beauty, dauntless spirit and pathological kindness to vermin – in a tower because reasons. Ten years later, the Queen’s powers – which appear to be fuelled by either youth or beauty, depending on whom you ask and when – are waning, and only Snow White’s oh so fucking perfect heart can save her.

Snow escapes, and is later aided by the Huntsman (Hemsworth), her childhood chum William (Claflin) and a band of semi-mystical British character actors CGId onto the bodies of little people, as well as a village of Amazon archers, and a horde of faeries who will basically never show up again after a scene apiece. Returning to the castle, Snow leads a bloody stupid charge that somehow works, kills the Queen and saves the world.

Hoorah!

What’s wrong with it?

Snow White and the Huntsman is a film that is replete with symbolism, but doesn’t actually seem to know what much of it means, or which bits of it are important beyond the visual moment. Snow White is purity, she is life, she is fire; she is innocence, she is inspiration, she is a warrior, she is a weapon. She is almost worn down with despair when her horse is pulled into the Swamp of Sadness (in a blatant knock-off of The Neverending Story). She is kissed by both of her love interests when ‘dead’, but neither is given any symbolic weight in her waking, instead being pointless gestures kept in because the film doesn’t seem to realise that they don’t matter without that weighting.

It also doesn’t seem to know how to build to a climax. It foreshadows the village of self-scarred bow-women, the faeries and the trolls, hinting at a climactic battle in which all of those whose lives have been touched by Snow will come together and defeat the Queen’s army together, but in the end that doesn’t happen at all. The archers who could have been so useful on the cliffs above the castle? Not there. The trolls that could have smashed the gates while the dwarves took on the catapults? Nowhere to be seen. After pitching Snow as a pseudo-mystical force of supernatural vitality, her gambit for the final battle was commando dwarves opening the gates for a cavalry charge against a defended fortress across more than a mile of open beach into a surrounded courtyard.

Kristen Stewart is not a terrible actress, but she is utterly incapable of delivering the sort of stirring speech she is given in this film.

William is entirely pointless, and basically seems to be present to fulfill some contractual  obligation that Stewart must have a love triangle.

The actors seem to be being whipped into some manner of frenzy by the director, and the end result is an almost theatrical over-exaggeration of facial expressions. Theron is the worst, apparently trying to swallow the world with every line. Meanwhile the Queen’s brother (Sam Spruell) just looks completely baffled by her choice of outfits.

The dwarves in this film (who caused upset among the pressure group Little People of America for the casting of full-sized, British actors) are quasi-magical healers from an otherworldly place, which in this instance appears to have been a much less po-faced film, with a rough, scatological approach to humour.

What’s right with it?

As you’d expect from a film on this level, the production values are top notch, and the design – especially of the Dark Forest and the Sanctuary – is impeccable.

Chris Hemsworth has tortured soul down to a tee, even with that accent he’s doing, and underused as he is, Claflin plays his role – essentially a poor man’s Legolas – to the hilt.

How bad is it really?

Oh boy, is it bad; laughably. In a cheaper, more cheerful movie a lot of its flaws could be forgiven, but this stinkburger cost real money and involved some pretty serious talent.

Speaking of cheaper, more cheerful movies, this came out around the same time as Mirror, Mirror, another Snow White movie which featured broad comedy throughout and ended on a Bollywood-style dance number. From the trailers, it looked as though Snow White and the Huntsman would be the better movie, but Mirror, Mirror is the one without a review here.

Best bit (if such there is)?

The Sanctuary scene is almost mesmerisingly beautiful, although it loses some impact on the smaller screen.

What’s up with…?

  • The eye-shrooms of Sanctuary? For the magical land of lovely, they’re actually kind of creepy. Mind you, so are the fairies who meld into the flesh of animals and control them like puppets, even if you don’t stop to realise that they were guiding poor Atax II into the Swamp of Sadness.
  • Stewart’s final expression? Seriously, is she trying to look like a woman who has just figured out that power is fun? When she looks in the mirror a scene earlier, is she supposed to be being tempted? Is this a downer ending? Actually, that might be much better…
  • The source of Queen Ravenna’s power? Is it youth? Beauty? She talks about stealing youth, but the Amazon village scar their daughters to protect them and it seems to have worked.
  • The whole ‘she is life’ bit? Whatever became of the faeries after that?
  • The glass warriors? This would make way more sense if the mirror were glass instead of burnished bronze.
  • Snow White’s inspirational speech? The whole thing is basically a meaningless jumble of words and trite aphorisms which sounds like the kind of thing someone might offer as an inspirational speech if they were really, really high. I like to imagine that the word ‘like’ or ‘man’ is inserted into every sentence.
  • Geography and travel in this land? It takes days to get Snow to Duke Hammond’s castle, but William can apparently flit across the land as if by magic.

Ratings

Production values – I can’t take this one away from them, it is pretty beautiful. 5
Dialogue and performances –  Note for future reference: Kristen Stewart should not be given inspiring speeches, and Charlize Theron needs to turn it down a notch. The rest turn in solid performances, but the script is doing them no favours. 14
Plot and execution – Convoluted, weighed down with symbolic scenes which have no pay-off or purpose beyond being there, the plot is also heavily dependent on expounded backstory rather than what we actually see on the screen. 17
Randomness – Random Amazons, random faeries, random dwarfish poo jokes. 15
Waste of potential – So much money, so much talent, so much waste! Lighten up, for crying out loud; it’s a fairy tale picture16

Overall 67%

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