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Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

June 2, 2012

MY CALL:  Bored.  I can’t remember waiting for a movie to end for so long.  There was disappointment, but mostly boredom.  Might I add that there is little less credible in the world than Kristen Stewart’s armored Snow White wielding sword.  WHAT TO WATCH INSTEAD:  I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say that The Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) accomplished what this film was trying to.  Not your style?  Then I’d wind back the clock for some nostalgic darker fantasy fun.  How about Legend (1985), Willow (1988), Labyrinth (1986), The Dark Crystal (1982), Wizards (1977), The Last Unicorn (1982), The Whiz (1978) or Return to Oz (1985).  Too old for you?  Then why not just aim for LOTR or The Brothers Grimm (2005).

Another misleading trailer. I thought I was in for a contemporary fairy tale with epic action. Instead I yawned my way through two hours as Kristin the one-look-Zoolander Stewart sulked her way through another over-produced, underwritten movie with an emotionally bewildered expression which begs the question…

Did somebody just fart?

I think that the Legally Blonde girlfriends of America have formed a united front to get their boyfriends to suffer through this well- wardrobed fairy tale.  I was horrified to see that Amazon’s first five reviews averaged 4/5 stars.  Blonde espionage at work—doubtless!  Meanwhile, I think the evil queen’s soul-sucking aim is a little off because Kristen Stewart is still alive and I feel like I’ve been drained of all vigor.  [End rant]

This really could have been epic.  Many snippets, scenes and concepts/ideas were excellent; it’s just that many others were not.  The opening winter scene was stark, but oh so powerful (most memorable of the movie, I’d say).  But then it was largely followed by scenes shot too close up to enjoy the storybook grandeur.  However it wasn’t all bleakly shot.  Formidable castlescapes impressed and the brilliant enchanted forest reminded me that there was some insight behind this film’s production while also breaking the lowlight gray color palate of the scenes from The Dark Forest and the dungeon-like castle.  The fairy forest was like Ferngully meets Pandora, filled with all manner of enamoring CGI flora and fauna.  Conversely, the fairies seemed like something out of a Saturday morning children’s show as if they were thrown together at the last minute before the movie’s release.  These are but few examples of the inconsistent quality throughout the film.

I thought this would be an action/adventure movie.  But it didn’t feel like one.  The chthonic troll was my favorite critter.  But the action (i.e., between the troll and the huntsman) was brief, ill-imagined and ultimately anticlimactic.  The queen’s glasswork soldiers are cool early in the movie as they shatter in slo-mo on the battlefield, but the scene is all about the effects and not about action.  During the finale, these minions are animated semi-humanoid blobs of glass shards which move so fast you can’t tell what they’re doing.  I wish I could unsee that scene.  In general, the action in this movie was like poor quality background noise.  It was never the focus of anyone one scene, but it was always too distracting to ignore.  Anyone expecting Lord of the Rings quality sword fights or man-versus-creature bouts would likely be disappointed.

For whatever reason, the King never questions why his foes just “shattered” into black glass shards or where they came from.  He just marries their prisoner hottie the next day and gets black widowed.  Good call, King!

Really, Charlize Theron’s queen made for the best moods and moments.  Her wardrobe was creatively architected to look both painfully donned and elegant while royal with trappings of the macabre.  At times her acting may come off as a bit extreme, but hey—she is playing an evil aging witch queen obsessed with youth and power.  You could feel her desperation, pain, flagging sanity…oh yeah, and evil.  The best effects were cast on the queen’s sorcery as she shifts form.

Like a Goth prom queen, claw-ring and all.

I expect an Oscar nomination for costume designer Colleen Atwood.

Got milk?

I wonder if she even knows how much a gallon of milk costs.  The price of beauty, right?

Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers’ Thor, The Cabin in the Woods) portrayed the right character the right way, but with the wrong lines, weak character development and no heroic scenes.  His action scenes either focus little on his character (rather the whole battle or situation) or result in him getting his butt kicked.  They also made the huntsman a depressed alcoholic widower, but offer little to justify his convenient noble transformation throughout the movie.

So they gave Hemsworth a Scottish accent and a big axe.  This was a failed attempt at keeping us from thinking of him as the Norwegian hammer-wielding Thor.

The dwarves, who in three minutes quickly shift from murderous mercenaries to stalwart allies, were really only as interesting as the actors you recognized behind the odd haircuts and facial prosthetics—namely Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane (Jack the Giant Killer), Nick Frost (Paul) and Toby Jones (The Hunger Games, Your Highness).  They offer little to lighten the mood, in fact often distracting from the tone with too many weak lines, frequent and ineffective attempts at comic relief, and way too much screen time. Oh, right, and the “Prince” guy (William) felt like a completely needless character.

Just like LOTR‘s Gimley; another failed attempt at fantasy dwarves by Hollywood.  Just cast real dwarves for God’s sake!  Game of Thrones‘ Peter Dinklage and Willow‘s Warwick Davis would make a good start, right?

Stacked upon all this is that a lot of things go unexplained.  Just because you can get away with that in a kid’s fairy tale doesn’t mean you can do that with the adult contemporary version.  I’m complaining a lot here, but the movie isn’t necessarily to be skipped.  Many of the effects and scenes would be far more enjoyable on the big screen (or at least a large HDTV) and surround sound.  Just don’t make a Friday night event out of it—save it for a rainy Sunday afternoon.  A portion of these scenes, effects and ideas are why I say this movie could have been epic.  The skill set was there.  But the writing wasn’t—in terms of story fluidity above dialogue.  But hey, this was director Rupert Sanders’ first film.  For a first job, and one of such magnitude, he showed some serious imaginative chops…he just didn’t do so consistently.  Keep an eye out for him in the future.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. Sweet Sugar permalink
    June 2, 2012 7:24 pm

    Great review. You made me want to watch this movie as much as I want to see Freddy Got Fingered again. No-go on seeing the skiddish housecat in armor.

    • johnleavengood permalink
      June 3, 2012 12:15 pm

      Actually you might enjoy watching it just to witness the inconsistency in film production. I found myself imagining how, with the same set of tools, the same director could have made this soooo much better.

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