Title: Snow White and the Huntsman
Watched: June 6, 2012
Summary: Surprisingly excellent (9/10)
I have to admit that the trailer for this film had me cautiously excited. It exhibits a certain style of fantasy storytelling that appeared cool and unique. Serious, yet referential to the source material. Visually original, but not silly. Still, I was worried. The bit about “from the producer of Alice in Wonderland” did nothing to reassure. That movie was so wretched I turned it off during the mind numbing final battle.
Oh, and despite my distaste for Twilight (I cover all four films and novels in detail) I’m actually a non-so-closeted Kristen Stewart fan. In fact, she’s the only thing that makes the sparkly vampires and talking wolves bearable. Plus, her work in the excellent and underrated Adventureland is top notch.
Snow White isn’t a perfect film, but it is a damn good one with a lot going for it. While the movie is a special effects showcase, the writing is fundamentally story and character driven. It has one of those flashback beginnings like the far inferior Dark Shadows (2012). This part of the film probably could have been cut and replaced with a few quick flashbacks, but once we’re into the present day it’s highly engaging.
The weird mythology and power of the wicked queen is complex and well developed. Visually she’s very effective even if Charlize Theron does deliver some of the cheesiest lines in the film. She looks great but her dialog is hit or miss. Some are great like the “mirror mirror” conversations. Her character is megalomaniacal to the extreme and lends toward overacting.
K. Stew employs her trademark naive and self-depreciating boldness. It works for me as it always does. Hemsworth is big, confident, and evocative of young Sean Bean in his comfortable portrayal of the Huntsman. The Queen’s brother is creepy. The dwarves surprisingly effective (who doesn’t love Ian McShane?).
This film could have easily gone bad in a number of ways. It could have been an incomprehensible and undeveloped special effects fest. We could have had a 45 minute all-CGI all-boring final battle. We don’t. We have a final battle, but it centers around Snow White and the Queen and the mutual nemesis factor. The film takes itself very seriously, yet is full of totally weird mythology. It could have descended into total camp or the incomprehensible. It doesn’t. Snow White strikes a balance between character, action, mythology and the like.
On an effects note, there is some really stunning work here. For all the over-the-top graphics, some of it is very understated. For example, the eight (soon seven) dwarves all have the faces of well known actors like Ian McShane and Bob Hoskins. I don’t know if they filmed real little people and then grafted on filmed faces or formed incredibly realistic computer models of each actor to composite in, but it looks great. Unfortunately, this does have the effect of putting short but talented actors (like the amazing Peter Dinklage) out of a job. Some of the made up sets like the fairy enchanted forest also have a fey quality, somewhat reminiscent of Pan’s Labyrinth or Hellboy II, that frankly took my breath away. Yeah, I’m a Dark Crystal kind of guy, but it’s good stuff.
Overall, it’s nice to have more well done serious fantasy. Bravo.