Saturday, June 2, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman Review

What is up Interwebs?  It seems that, for decades, Hollywood has been in a perpetual cycle; someone begins developing a project and then someone else begins developing a project that has the same premise or story.  This year's examples are the competing Snow White films.  Early this year saw the release of Tarsem Singh's Mirror Mirror - a film that I thought looked not even the least bit worth my time and avoided like the plague.  Its competitor, Snow White and the Huntsman (SWATH) took a much more realistic, gritty approach to the material.  I really dug the Lord of the Rings vibe that was present in the trailers and was quite looking forward to seeing it.  Unfortunately I came away from it with quite a few mixed feelings.

I'll start off with what I enjoyed about the film: the characters, imagery, narrative, and tone.  Overall, the acting in this film is quite good.  There really isn't a weak link the bunch, and that's including Kristen Stewart.  Everyone loves to hate on her for her bland portrayal of Bella in the Twilight franchise...and you all know how I feel about that.  I actually have no problem with her outside of Twilight and she's pretty good in SWATH.  Then again, when you surround yourself with incredibly high-caliber actors it helps to bring up your game.  Charlize Theron is fantastic as the beauty-obsessed Queen Ravenna.  Chris Hemsworth, in my opinion, needed more screen time.  I know that's odd to say considering he's with Snow White for almost the entire film, but I loved his character, The Huntsman, and in particular his comedic entrance to the film.  For me, the true standouts were the collection of incredibly-well cast dwarfs: Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost(!!), Eddie Marsan, and Toby Jones.  I had no idea going into the film that the dwarfs would be populated with so many amazing character actors.  I kinda wish we had gotten an entire film just about the dwarfs.  They added just enough comic relief to break up the tension in this incredibly serious film.

The imagery in SWATH is astounding at times.  A lot of what I'm thinking of can be witnessed in the trailers: the slick design for Ravenna's mirror, the white liquidy stuff that Ravenna bathes in, the designs for the various monsters, specifically the bridge troll, and even Ravenna's magical army.  The visual effects, on the whole, were pretty good with only a few shots here and there that didn't quite look right.  Whatever visual tricks Rupert Sanders employed on the dwarfs worked to great effect; its hard to believe, after seeing this film, that none of the actors playing them are not little people.  Going along with the serious visuals is the narrative; SWATH is a very serious film.  There is very little humor present at all.  As previously mentioned, the dwarfs add a bit of welcome comedic relief, as does the Huntsman (at least in his introduction).

While I enjoyed almost all of the individual parts of this film, including the serious tone, something just didn't click for me.  And I honestly cannot put my finger on it.  When the credits rolled I kind of just went "okay, that happened."  Its incredibly frustrating that I cannot place what doesn't raise this from a film I enjoyed to a film I loved.  And all the pieces are there.  I suppose the biggest thing holding this film back are, in fact, the little things.  For instance, we don't get any explanations whatsoever regarding Ravenna's magical mirror or where it came from and how she knew to use it.  The aforementioned white-liquid bath she takes...there's no point or purpose whatsoever.  Out of almost nowhere we cut to her watching people outside the castle trying to collect some of this "water" in buckets...and then she takes off her robe and dips in the stuff.  Why?  What was the purpose?  Just to look cool?  If that's the only reason for this scene then they succeeded because the imagery is indeed cool.  But other than that there's no point whatsoever.  There are also a few jumps in logic that we are asked to make that I just couldn't.  The most glaring to me is that a journey that takes our heroes probably several days, if not weeks, to make is made by someone else in what seems like minutes.  And perhaps that's just poor editing.

What's most disappointing to me is the lost theme of beauty and how men take advantage of women.  Early in the film Ravenna gives a small speech to her new husband about how she was once married to a king and he probably would've discarded her in her old age - she goes on about how men want women when they're beautiful and fall out of love when they age.  Its quite an interesting notion and something I didn't think a film of this type would explore.  And I was right.  After she brings this up its never mentioned again, outside of her wanting to remain youthful for eternity.  I just thought it was an incredibly interesting concept that could've been explored quite a bit more than it actually was.

Perhaps I need to see this film again.  I enjoyed bits and pieces but the film as a whole didn't gel for me.  Maybe my hopes were too high?  Maybe its because I was a bit tired when I saw it?  I'm definitely willing to give it a second chance - there is enough that I liked about it to warrant another viewing.  If you're into fantasy/action films this will probably suit you well enough; it doesn't do anything quite spectacular but adds some cool new things to the story we've all heard time and time again over the years.

Snow White and the Huntsman is a fairly decent fantasy film that just didn't quite connect for me.

The Bearded Bullet.

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