Thursday, May 31, 2012
Review of SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (2012)
- Rated PG13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sensuality.
- Starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Sam Clafin, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Sam Spruell
- Written by Evan Dougherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini
- Directed by Rupert Sanders
- Running time: 2hrs 7min
It was just over 2 months ago that MIRROR MIRROR with Julia Roberts came out to the theater. That was a lighthearted take on the Snow White story, while this movie is a lot darker and aimed at older teens and fantasy loving adults. I didn't hate MIRROR MIRROR, though it had problems. I liked the look and some of the tone, but it wasn't as focused as it should have been. After seeing many trailers for SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTMAN, I began getting pretty pumped as it looked bad ass.
If you know the traditional story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, forget it. This is quite different. The movie begins with the origins of the evil Queen (Theron). She seduces the king of a mighty kingdom, and then marries him before brutally stabbing him in their bed. Fearing that the King's daughter, Snow White (Stewart), will take revenge, she locks her in one of the castle towers. Over the years, the kingdom has fallen apart. The queen is growing older but the magic mirror tells her that if she has Snow White's heart, she will become immortal. The queen's brother attempts to kill her, but she escapes.
Meanwhile, there's a gruff but handsome looking huntsman (Hemsworth) who is a drunkard because his wife passed away. The queen hires him to find Snow White, but of course that's not how it all goes down. The huntsman eventually helps the princess. They meet a band of dwarf thieves who decide to help out as well. There's also a prince charming story line involving Snow White's childhood pal thrown in cause I guess there wasn't enough plot to begin with. Everyone joins up to destroy the evil queen and to put Snow White on the throne where she rightfully belongs.
The look of this film is pretty cool. It's evident that a lot of time, effort, and imagination went into this. The concept of a darker, more violent Snow White story is something to get excited about. However, the execution is not. I really wanted to like this one guys. Sorry. It starts out promising, with the shocking murder of the King (this PG13 movie doesn't cut away from the violence), but then it takes awhile for it to get going. I found the pacing rather sluggish, as every scene felt like it could have been cut down by 15 or 20 seconds. It also struggles to find the right balance in which to juggle it's many characters. Prince William seems like an interesting character, but then the movie forgets about him. I guess he's just not as popular as Thor, huh?
The second half is definitely better and more exciting. Once the Dwarfs arrive, life is finally injected into the story, though the way they're used is pretty much ripped off from LORD OF THE RINGS (even the way they filmed them was the same, by having normal sized actors made to look short with special effects). Their interaction is a lot of fun and that's when the movie also has it's share of some (not a lot) of humor. Too bad this film wasn't just about them. The queen was all over the first half, but she's hardly in the second when the focus switches to Snow White. This approach doesn't allow the character to be fully realized and developed. Most of the time she's just reacting to creatures and people trying to attack her as the Huntsman and Dwarfs save her. Then, in the supposedly big epic battle at the finale, she puts on armor and becomes a full fledged hero, leading her people to victory. There was absolutely no transition! When did she get the confidence? When did she learn to sword fight? When did she become the main character? Whatever. Oh yeah, and they try to shoe-in a love triangle that doesn't feel warranted. It just felt the filmmakers wanted audiences to choose between team Huntsman or team Charming. It was pretty pointless.
The acting is kind of all of the place. Kristen Stewart has gotten a lot of shit for her portrayal as Bella, and this won't change people's minds about her. I personally didn't think she was awful here, but her character is such a blank slate. There's nothing there. Hemsworth is fine as the huntsman, but again, the character isn't developed. Charlize Theron gives an unrestrained performance as the Queen that is wildly inconsistent. Sometimes she is quietly menacing, but when she shrieks and her eyes get as wild as silver dollars, it's unintentionally funny. Probably my favorite performance was that of Sam Spurell as the Queen's brother. He has a bowl cut that would make Jim Carrey's character from DUMB AND DUMBER jealous, but he portrays the part with terrific menace. His confrontation with the huntsman was a highlight of the film. The dwarfs were mostly good all around. Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, and Toby Jones deliver fun performances. Bob Hoskins is the only one who I found to be a bit flat. He just looked like he was up for three weeks straight and wanted to take a nap.
The effects are great. The sets and art direction, though not very original, look fantastic. There were some nice creative flourishes here. There was a troll who attacks Snow White that was super cool looking. There were some demons made out of glass that I thought was incredibly imaginative. The scene in the dark forest when people hallucinate nightmarish images was horrific fun. My favorite moment (and my daughter's) was the scene when the dwarfs take Snow White to a place of sanctuary, which was inhabited with all kinds of fantastic creatures, like mushrooms with eyeballs, sprites, fairies, and other magical beings.
But the movie is only as strong as it's story, and that's where the movie falters. First time director Rupert Sanders seems to have taken on more than he can handle. He's fine when helming scenes of wonder and amazement. But his action scenes are just so-so, edited in a very standard, generic fashion. Even though building up to them was exciting, the actual fights and battles were kind of dull. If a true visionary director (like Peter Jackson, Brian De Palma, Martin Scorsese) would have been handling this, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTMAN could have been something really special.
Though there are moments that are visually interesting to gaze at, the characters are severely underdeveloped, the direction generic, and the pacing kind of slow. It's frustrating, cause this had all the ingredients to be a classic fantasy/adventure. But it tries way too hard to be like LORD OF THE RINGS, and it pales in comparison. My daughter liked it a bit more than me, but not much. This isn't a disaster, but I never thought I would've rated this lower than MIRROR MIRROR.
** (out of ****)