So, if you’ve been following the latest wave in movie merchandise tie-ins, you’d know that apparently this Snow White and the Huntsman movie has been positioned by Universal Pictures to be a major event in its summer film calendar. But let’s look beyond the makeup kits and the Home Shopping Network jewelry line: is the film itself actually any good? Warning, heavy spoilers ahead…
The main thing I took from this visual extravaganza: Kristen Stewart still can’t act, big surprise. In the future, when this comes out on DVD, take a shot of a spirit of your choice every time she’s framed in a scene with her mouth hanging slightly open. You won’t be able to do it and you know why? You’ll probably get through the entire bottle before the end of the first half. Girlfriend needs to find a way to portray a few more emotions than “befuddled” and “perplexed”. Just give us two more expressions. Come on, you can do that.
Chris Hemsworth isn’t much better in this either. We know he’s capable of a lot more; after all, he brought a lot of lighthearted likability to Thor, a character that had a bit of a rep in comics for being kind of stiff in the wrong hands. He also wasn’t half bad for his time in Cabin in the Woods. I’m going to attribute this bad turn to wonky direction and script and leave it at that. You get one more try before you’re relegated to the Taylor Kitsch pile of uninspiring heroic leads, Hemsworth.
And then of course, some scenes I could have sworn were lifted straight out of other movies in the genre. The White Hart scene in particular was just so Princess Mononoke with the setup and framing that I’ll be really surprised if Rupert Sanders didn’t sit down and actually watch that movie before filming. Then you get the seriously Lord of the Rings-esque hiking scenes (just, thank God Viggo Mortensen dropped out as the Huntsman, it would have been like watching Aragorn pt. 2) And is it just me, or was the gratuitous troll near the beginning uncannily Pan’s Labyrinth in design? The effect is a bit like watching a mashup of the best fantasy movie scenes ever, reconstituted into an entirely new story. Hell, is there more of a fantasy cliche way to establish a character is a bit of a bad guy than by heavily implying he’s a rapist? Because they take that tired old device about as far as it can go in this story.
That’s not to say the movie’s entirely terrible. Charlize Theron completely rocks it as Queen Ravenna, the Baddie of the Hour. Superficially, Ravenna is your typical megalomaniacal fantasy villain, complete with the histrionic fits and suspect relationship with family. And when you’re watching the character from the outset, you’re definitely going to feel like you’ve seen this character before. However, the background of a woman fighting back against being a pawn in a medieval man’s world made her quite a bit more nuanced than you’d normally expect from the genre. I feel like this character was almost too good for this particular movie.
Also, despite the flaws in the story, it definitely has to be said that the costuming and set design in this film is top-notch and worth the price of admission alone. Ravenna’s death-themed dresses in particular are works of art – how creepy is the skeleton cage mantle on her wedding dress? You can completely tell this is the same team behind that limp Alice in Wonderland reboot a while ago; some similar themes run through the set design.
That said, I have no idea what this movie was actually trying to accomplish. It’s like it didn’t have enough romance to be in the teen girl demographic, and yet had a few too many teen girl flourishes to be expressly aimed at 20+ male action fans. It’s just a movie that no one really asked for. But hey, pretty clothes.