"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

A couple of months ago, I reviewed the other Snow White film, Mirror Mirror which after viewing this film seems like child’s play even though it was directed by Tarsem Singh Dhandwar whose previous film was the very bloody Immortals.  While Mirror Mirror looked beautiful with its outlandish costumes by the late Eiko Ishioka, Snow White and the Huntsman has much going for it with its spectacular effects and the much dark tone of the film than sanitized Disney version that remains foremost in people’s minds.

Even though it's all over the place, I definitely enjoyed this take on classic fairy tale that featured the other two important characters in the tale, the Queen who wants Snow White dead and the Huntsman who spares her life.  Since the story from the viewpoint of Snow White has been done to death, it's refreshing to see the focus on the other characters.  I loved Charlize Theron as the evil Queen Ravenna and in the war of the evil Queens, she wins all rounds against Mirror Mirror's Julia Roberts.

No turning subservient servants into cockroaches for this Queen as Ravenna sucks out the beauty from young girls and eats the hearts of birds.  Oh, she also like bathing in milk.  Charlize Theron thoroughly commits to the role and I wished there was more of her backstory as to why she became the person who has to rely on spells to maintain her youthful looks.

But we mustn't forget that Snow White (Kristen Stewart) too is in the film.  Locked away in a tower for several years, she manages to escape her imminent death and runs into the forbidden woods where the Huntsman is sent to capture her for the Queen.  The forest which causes one to have fearful hallucinations is where they manage to escape the Queen's brother Finn (Sam Spruell) and his men.  Snow White and her reluctant bodyguard journey towards the only men who are still loyal to the slain King Magnus, including her childhood friend William (Sam Claflin).

After meeting up with the eighth dwarfs (yes, like ABC’s Once Upon a Time), the Huntsman, William and Snow White hide out in a part of the forest dominated by fairies.  I loved these sequences.  They were so wonderfully imaginative.  The fairies look like little imps and become part of the forest, part of the creatures that inhabit it.  And then mysteriously Snow White meets this white stag who blesses her and declares her as the savior of the people against the Queen.  It was all very Miyazaki-ish. Which was  completely different from the angsty first part of the film.

But also like Once Upon a Time, the eighth dwarf Gus (an unrecognizable Brendan Gleeson) is killed and the dwarfs vow to be on Snow’s side forever. The decision to use normal-sized actors instead of actual dwarves initially met with criticism but I feel it completely works here when the actors playing the dwarves are Bob Hoskins (in his last film role now), Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones who give the film some more respectability.

So in the second half Snow White is not a damsel in distress can gathers up the remaining subjects from her father’s time and lead them into battle in mail chain.  And prevails in the end in the fight against Ravenna.  Which was to be expected.  But the transformation from former prisoner to leader of a kingdom was very fast and even though I saw the extended edition and I didn't feel there was much connection between Snow White and the Huntsman which is my gripe with the film.

Chris Hemsworth has had solid hits in the past few months with Thor, Cabin in the Woods and The Avengers and I guess I was expecting more for him here.  Kristen Stewart definitely looks the part of Snow White but she is saddled with impossibly lame dialogue.  I wanted to see the fire that was promised in the posters and trailer when they showed Stewart all decked out in battle gear.  And once again, she's placed into an awkward triangle with William and the Huntsman but thank God, they didn't make it the focus of the film.

If you hated the cutesy Mirror Mirror, you'll prefer Snow White and the Huntsman which has great sequences of promise but will leave you wanting more.  Good thing then that a sequel will likely tie up those loose ends.  A truly imaginative fairy tale!

Directed by Rupert Sanders; Written by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini; Cinematography by Greig Fraser; Edited by Conrad Buff IV and Neil Smith; Music by James Newton Howard


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