Snow White and the Huntsman.
I remember seeing the first trailer for this movie and I became so excited because it looked genius. It looked epic and had some of the most engaging and innovative spins on the fantasy genre that I’ve seen since Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth. Well, to put it succinctly, the movie failed to live up to my expectations.
Here’s the gist. A piece of cardboard stars as Snow White, who is imprisoned by the evil queen (Charlize Theron) because she’s “too beautiful.” Chris Hemsworth stars as the nameless “Huntsman” who gets charged with tracking down Snow White after she escapes into the “dark forest.” Pretty straight-forward.
Like I said, there are some incredibly cool and unique ideas at play here. Instead of a face appearing when the Queen asks the mirror a question, the mirror flows onto the ground like melting wax and forms the shape of a person who then answers her. The dark forest is made up of trolls made of tree bark and harpies that look more bat than human. The evil queen summons an army of warriors made of black glass that seems unstoppable. There are a thousand cool images at work here. The downside is that they all appear in the trailer, save for a few cool spins towards the end.
Chris Hemsworth was exactly what he needed to be, though the character is pretty Thor-like in most of his demeanor and there are going to be obvious comparisons. But in this movie, it works. And Charlize Theron is pretty terrifying as the Queen, but her British accent just reminds me of her role as the mentally challenged girlfriend of Jason Bateman on Arrested Development.
Overall, it was a cool version of the old Snow White story and I can definitely see what newcomer director Rupert Sanders was going for, but did it pay off?
What didn’t work?
It seems like the crew came up with 1,000 cool ideas in a brainstorming session and then gave up completely. “So… these guys are made of glass. And then a monster shows up. And then the Queen bathes in milk, yeah, that’ll look cool.” The storyline is pretty straight-forward but, in retrospect, there were many unnecessary plotpoints which looked cool but contributed zero to the story (ie, a moment with a giant white stag who somehow symbolizes life and nature, but is quickly forgotten). This movie’s sum doesn’t equal its parts. I think it makes a better trailer than a film.
And then there’s Kristen Stewart who was pretty much a non-entity. Why do producers keep casting her as the “most beautiful girl ever.” Are they oblivious to the fact that her only emotion she can portray is opening her mouth and exhaling? If a stronger and more personable woman were cast here, I might have believed that men would fight and die over her.
I also don’t often complain about the music, but here it feels like they missed a thousand opportunities. The score of a film can set the entire scene but here it was underused and misused in parts. The final climactic battle should have been a heart-pounding heavy anthem but instead I noticed that it was quite subdued.
Let’s look at director Rupert Sanders. This is his first big Hollywood outing and it felt like he missed the mark. If he were showcasing a series of concept art, I would have loved it, too, if I were a studio exec. As moments, they are amazing. There’s a fight-scene with a giant troll that is pretty incredible but it lacked a final punch and the characters immediately forgot about it. There’s a hero in the story that has spent his whole life looking for Snow White and when he finds her, there is no momentous reunion. This movie has great moments but they don’t capitalize on (or even create a sense of) momentum. Ironically, it felt like the movie lackedheart.
One cause of that might be that the movie tried to be two different things. It could be a dark and macabre re-telling which focused on the twisted motives of the Queen or it could be a fun and flighty fantasy film which revolved around wise-cracking dwarves and helpful little fairies that would always show up in the nick of time. Well, it tried to be both and it felt divided. After some jokes with the dwarves, it’s hard to take the Queen seriously (regardless of the accent). The movie was trying to be too many things and didn’t succeed at either.
Overall. Now, I may have bashed on the movie a lot in that last section but don’t confuse my frustration with distaste. I’m frustrated because it felt like the movie was so close to being something amazing. Maybe Sanders just wasn’t sure how to connect all those moments. It’s an entertaining movie and surely has some cool moments but don’t expect it to be the definitive version of the Snow White tale for years after this. It’s a fun ride but they failed to capitalize on its potential.