Zac: Snow White and the Huntsman (#SWATH, love that hashtag) is the second take on the classic Grimm fairy tale to be released this year and it is a visual feast that could have used a bit more plot and character development.
Everyone knows the story of Snow White and this new film starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, and Charlize Theron attempts a darker and more magical take on the cute and cuddly incarnation that the character has evolved into in modern culture. I say the film attempts to do this, but it succeeds overwhelmingly at creating a dark take on this tale that is almost devoid of lightheartedness and humor.
The film gets us up to speed on the world this film exists in with a lengthy prologue where we see the Evil Queen gain the throne and lock up Snow White for years. Eventually the rightful princess makes a daring escape and is aimlessly on the run for a safe haven. The Queen hires a drunken huntsman to track Snow White down and our story is finally on its way.
What sucks is that this is about all the plot the film has in it for the rest of its runtime till a rushed and truncated third act. That doesn’t mean the film isn’t engaging, awe inspiring, and gorgeous along the way, but it certainly feels like we needed more to do over the course of this film.
Lauren: Whoa, whoa, whoa, Zac; let’s not show all our cards too soon. You angry with this one or something, buddy?
Cuz I am! That’s right. All this time I have been gleefully laughing at those silly Mirror, Mirror trailers because I knew that Snow White and the Huntsman was right around the corner, and I’m afraid that I built up this movie to only let me down, which unfortunately, it does. But before I eat that poisoned apple and spew my acidic thoughts, I will further the compliment that Zac started.
For whatever flaws there are, occasionally you will lose yourself to the world created. Somewhere between the realms of magic and reality we find Snow White; like The Lord of the Rings, but with more human looking people. Sprawling hillsides of deadened green play off of the decay of the land caused by the Queen’s evil sway, but occasionally as Snow White is being chased we do happen upon some amazing visuals that scream “You’re in a fairytale!” Dark or not, it does really look amazing, and I will say that I was truly lost in it for the first 30 or so minutes. The film starts off fancifully as a beautiful accent tells the tale of a young princess living somewhere within a captivating perfume ad, which comes to an end with an evil witch of a woman. Next thing you know we move past Leonardo’s waters off the shore of Inception, to a dark forest of creative nightmares, ending with a troll that I will make mine. After this is where the problems started for me. I’m looking at you, pacing.
Zac: I will further compliment the effects, they are stunning, and the art direction and creature design is something to be seen. I especially want to know how they did the dwarves as they made the actors appear to actually have dwarfism. Was it padding, make up, digital effects? Whatever it was, it looked great, and it was awesome to see all those great character actors play the classic dwarves.
The film’s pacing is a bit of a problem, as you mentioned, and this two-hour movie feels way longer. The characters have nothing to do with no goals; we just wander aimlessly through the beautiful locales. To use LOTR as a reference, as the film most certainly did (helicopter shots anyone?), those films were able to make walking for over 12 hours enjoyable because there were things to do and find along the way. Here we are just walking towards a castle full of people we don’t really know, with the same group of enemies attacking our heroes out of nowhere, and then when we finally get to our destination we race right back to the start. Everything is pretty, but where is the substance? Where is the character development?
Lauren: Agreed. As Snow White and her changing band of protectors move through the land, the story doesn’t change like the locales. The whole time they are being chased down by the same people, recycling the simple plot points of: find new locale, get attacked, find new locale, get attacked, and on and on. The story completely stunts the film, and the writing isn’t that better off.
When magic and CGI comes into play it’s ok to have people be as normal as possible, but the level of emotion from these characters made them completely comical. Stewart is always tearing up as this innocent girl attuned to the world around her, “the prince” character is emphatic in his need to save and protect her, and Theron’s Queen is a force of cringe worthy screaming. The only character that seemed somewhat grounded was Hemsworth’s huntsman, possibly because the level of booze in his system stunted his lust for melodramatic acting. In the addition to better-written dialog, this film would have benefitted greatly from more character development, especially on the queen’s part in order to create more than just a simple evil character. There are hints that the creators wanted to make her more sympathetic, especially considering her brief backstory and the way in which Theron and Stewart interact in the final scenes, but this gets lost elsewhere in the film.
Zac: Agreed, Hemsworth is best as The Huntsman, but I don’t think Theron is “cringe worthy” by any means. She is certainly over the top, but I think she makes the most of what she is given to work with. The part easily could have rolled over into ridiculousness, but I think Theron makes it work. Stewart is also not given any favors by the writing and I think she does a solid job; and I didn’t notice the crying as excessive.
Lauren: I didn’t mean to imply their acting was excessive because of bad, or overdramatic, choices made on their part. Like you say, I’m sure they did what was asked of them; which is what I take issue with. And if looking back the only image I can muster of Theron’s performance are frames that can have ‘I SHALL HAVE YOUR HEART, SNOW WHITE!” captioning it, that’s a problem. Give me a gentler evil; give me Serenity’s Operative.
Even more so, give me a heroine that I can put my faith in. She brings faith to people not necessarily through her actions, and I really doubt her battle cry could really do it (I will not be your brother, Snow White!) but through what is expected of her. They have faith because of what they heard, or because the blades of grass lean to get a better look at her as she passes. I want more proof before I bet on anyone, dwarf blessing or not.
Zac: Problems and all I would still recommend you experience Snow White on the big screen as the visual spectacle demands to be seen in the theater. Always visually interesting, and probably appropriate for most audiences, I can see younger viewers eating this up. For the grown ups, one might get a bit antsy and wish the visual flourishes had a bit more substance, but check it out if the look of the film has won you over.
Lauren: Yes, the film is pretty, but it is not the fairest of them all (Insert drum sting).
Zac: That was ridiculous.
Zac & Lauren’s Final Grade: C+