Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Snow White & The Huntsman: Dark Kitsch

Directed by: Rupert Sanders


I am here today, ready to review a film I have been looking forward to for months. Snow White & the Huntsman has finally arrived in theaters to surprisingly good reviews.

It has been a breath of fresh air the past couple years seeing kick ass action films starring girls. Some of the noteworthy films include Hanna, Sucker Punch, The Hunger Games, Salt, Coloumbiana, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,  and even the underrated hit, Haywire. I am also looking forward to Pixar's new girl power film, Brave, which will no doubt be a massive box office hit.

All these film belong to a group that is growing into a genera all its own. The best way to describe it, would be as a watered down, Americanized version of the Japanese 'girls-with-guns' genera that features young women as strong willed, fight to the death, protagonists. Snow White & the Huntsman fits comfortably in this category, and it is actually pretty good. But, be warned, it's no masterpiece.

The film is directed by freshman director Rupert Sanders, and it shows. And while I personally enjoyed the visual element,  this film fails in many other areas. The biggest problem is the story. They rely too heavily on the classical tale that we all remember and don't do enough to define their own ideas.

The film starts out with the young princess Snow White, played by Raffey Cassidy, living a happy life with her parents, the King and Queen of a magical kingdom. All is well until the death of the queen, and the king's grief stricken decision to marry Ravenna (Charlize Theron). Soon after, Ravenna shows her true colors as an evil witch. She murders the king, forcibly takes the throne and locks Snow White up in the tallest tower.

The film, up to this point is pretty solid, but I was rather underwhelmed  with Theron as the evil queen. Don't get me wrong, Charlize Throrne is one of the great actresses working today, and she certainly looks the part. But her performance was flat. I hesitate to blame her for this, as the fault rests with Sanders and his inability to inspire great acting. Most of her scenes involve her yelling at people, and I didn't find it particularly inspiring.

As the film continues, the story becomes really hard to follow, but there are some story element that are quite compelling, like the Evil Queen's obsession with beauty and youth and the way the filmmakers interpreted the magic mirror. I wont spoil the surprise, since the mirror's reveal is the single greatest moment in the film.

It is the magic mirror that sets the action of the film in motion. It tells the queen the only way she can stay young forever is if she consumes Snow White's heart. This promps the Evil Queen to send guards to the tallest tower to retrieve the now grown Snow White, played by Kirsten Stewart. However, Snow White escapes the grasp of her captors and disappears into the dark forest.

Kirsten Stewart gets a bad rap, people say she can't act and only has one facial expression. I get it. I see it. But I still like her. Luckily she chooses roles that don't necessarily require a wide range of emotions. I think the stoic, unemotional way she portrayed Snow White worked well. I don't think it was anything groundbreaking, but it's certainly watchable.

So, the Evil Queen enlists the help of local drunk and sympathetic beef cake, The Huntsman played by Chris Hemsworth, to find Snow White in the woods, in exchange for the life of his dead wife. But for a film titled Snow White and the Huntsmen, there is a real lack of emphasis on the Huntsman and makes him rather forgettable. His whole story is antiquated and lacks any sense of originality. (sarcasm) "Oh my wife is dead, I'm a drunk, but then I met this HPOA*, fell in love and changed my ways"  Ugh, spare me. From here the film slowly trudges towards a anti-climactic ending in which Snow White and the Huntsman team up to defeat the evil queen. However, at a certain point you are just waiting for the film to end.

But as I stated earlier, there is a real magical quality to the imagery in this film.When you take the poor acting, lack of plot, and hit-or-miss direction out of the equation, you are left with quite a stunning picture. The high contrast, and saturated colors really appeals to me. D.P Greig Fraser is a relative new comer to the scene, but I was very impressed. It's safe to say that this film would have been rather unwatchable with out him.

Also, I can't do a review of this film with out talking about the costumes. Snow White's costumes are wonderful, but the real story here is Ravenna's costumes. They are amazingly beautiful and are true show stoppers. The hard, metallic design really compliments the character, and does more to define Ravenna as a cold, superficial woman than the story does.  Costume designer, Colleen Atwood is a giant in the industry and she was the biggest asset to this film

Overall, I liked this film. It appeals to my sensibility in many ways, but I desperately wanted it to  be better. I think the filmmakers missed too many opportunities to make this film worth seeing twice. But, if you like cool imagery, then it's definitely worth seeing once.

C+: Lovely cinematography, great costumes, but confusing story and inconsistent direction.

images off of google.

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