April 15, 2013
Many a dollar was spent on this dark re-imagining of the classic fairy tale; and while entertaining to a point (love the CGI), ultimately the film is hampered by the fact that, well, it's a fairy tale.
The concept here is solid, taking the fairy tale and attempting to give it mo... re heft by introducing more modern motivations. However the script and dialog are atrocious and the acting, particularly that of Kristen Stewart as the title character leaves much to be desired. I feel Stewart was a poor casting choice, as was Chris Hemsworth as the other title character as his thick accent is at times unintelligible (and unfortunately he is the "narrator" of the early parts of the film).
The film starts earnestly enough, and the introduction of the evil queen (in an oddly over the top, almost Bondsian villain type performance by Charlize Theron who certainly has the presence for the role) is first rate, but then the film begins to slide. It seems Theron has "man issues", complaining that men just use women for their folly and then caste them aside. OK, so she woos the king, Snow's father and after marrying him, shoves a knife in his chest, while at the same time having her legions of warriors attack the castle, thus ensuring her ascent to power. However, for no discernable reason, she spares the life of Snow, and instead of killing her, locks her in a dank tower. Let me repeat, there is no reason for her to do this, and really no need for the script to go there either, as the whole "mirror, mirror" thing hasn't happened yet.
The film then borrows heavily from the Arthurian legend wherein the state of the land is directly tied to the spirit of the king. Since Theron is evil, the land suffers under her rule. We then later discover that Snow is goodness incarnate, the antithesis of Theron - a fact driven home as Snow mumbles the lord's prayer (and what a mistake that bit of script is, as there is absolutely NO indication of the Church being present in this mythical realm). This further echoes the Arthurian legend, as the Church was introduced via the search for salvation via the holy relic The Grail.
I found it interesting that much later in the film, under a bit of religious zeal, Snow becomes a warrior for "good" (and you can read whatever you want into that one - pagan cult meets Christianity for starters) - so you can infer that the message is that it's ok to fight for what's right (even if "right" like "truth" is subjective - you can quote Pontius Pilot on that one). Somehow I'm reminded of the convenience of the Qoran, wherein the Prophet states that it is a sin to kill, especially another muslim - but once a fatwa has been declared, all bets are off.
Thus far I've spent a great deal of ink informing you what is wrong with this film, and to be fair, far too little about what's right. I should mention that the cinematography and CGI on display here are first rate. So many very powerful images, especially concerning the queen, but also the seamless CGI of the dwarves - making the John Ryse Davies dwarf in the ring trilogy look amateurish by comparison. Here we have a trio of great Brit actors playing 3 of the 7 dwarves - Ian McShane, Ray Winstone and particularly Bob Hoskins, who is so very sincere as the blind, seer dwarf. Otherwise, it is nice to see these Brit lions, but really, they aren't given much to do dramatically. And yet, the scenes in the fairy forest (and in truth the fairies themselves) are magical - if only the same could be said for the balance of the action (though I wonder why it was required for the dwarves to twice break into song - some odd kind of homage to Disney? Hi Ho - I don't think so!!!).
But, back to the missteps - why oh why do these types of films insist that the villains all take time out to gloat over their supremacy - thus giving the opposition the opportunity to turn the tables? When the queen's brother has been charged to find Snow and bring her back, he inexplicably looses sight of the goal and goes off the rails in some unexplained vendetta against the Huntsman. The same goes for queeny - she has what she wants in her grasp, and yet decides to toy with Snow - once again showing the dangers of extreme hubris; but her actions make no sense - nor does the final bit where Theron brags that she cannot be defeated - and that she has lived a dozen lifetimes and ruled as many countries.... Ok, if she is that powerful (and the cool CGI would indicate that yep, she's got the goods), then why is she not still ruling those many countries?
In closing I'd like to mention that while Theron is screaming this bit of braggadocio, she is standing within a fire that, while raging all around her, does not burn. I was immediately reminded of the Ursula Andress film from the 60's called She - if you've seen that film then you know what I mean.
The film closes with a bit of pomp and circumstance as Snow is crowned queen - in the back of the room, the huntsman gives her a knowing look... which conveys what??? Who knows?