It’s been a while, but I managed to drag myself to the cinema (not to see Prometheus, unfortunately, because I’ve promised the Certain Someone that I’d wait). I had a rather dark yet disney-esque experience with Snow White and the Huntsman.
The plot does not resemble the Disney version we know best, but it does include several similar elements: an evil queen, the mirror, dwarfs, weird animals (Kristen Stewart thankfully doesn’t sing to them) and the apple. Instead of dancing and sing-alongs, however, we get battles and death, and Chris Hemsworth covered in manly dirt and occasionally remembering to speak with a Scottish accent.
The first thing that struck me was the effects, both special and otherwise. There were several scenes were I simply sat back and enjoyed the visual experience. When the Evil Queen (Charlize Theron) magically retreats to her tower, she lies broken in a pit of black goo that makes it look like she’s been tarred and feathered. It’s a truly disgusting scene, but its also pretty awesome. The best scenes for Snow White (Kristen Stewart) are also thanks to effects: when she runs away into the Dark Forest, she hallucinates grotesque creatures that actually made shivers run down my spine.
The world is very “dark fairytale”, and even when we reach the good places filled with elves and nice animals, it sort of works. Except for one little thing: the recitation of the Lord’s prayer by Snow White at the start of the film. I know it’s a small point to argue, but I’m going to anyway because it really bothered me. For me, when a world is filled with so much magic in plain view of everyone (the people all know the Evil Queen has powers), the mention to our specific form of Christianity pulls me out of the illusion. Do they have a Bible, I find myself asking, and does it say to kill witches? The only other mention of religion comes when the Huntsman references angels. He’s in a church, or so we assume, even though we never see a cross. Why couldn’t Snow White have simply prayed to a nonspecific God? Why recite such a well-known prayer, thus pulling us all out of the world of Snow White and slapping us into our seats? It’s just such a small detail I found incredibly unnecessary.
Back to more important things: the acting. Everyone I talked to before I saw the film questioned whether Kristen Stewart would be up to the task, post-Twilight. She still occasionally sports that slack-jawed look of vampire-induced love, but she nails a lot of her lines as well. I think the main problem is that everyone around her all shine so brightly in their roles, that even Snow White slips into the background. The dwarfs, after you get over the well-known faces on short bodies, are just the right blend of fun and an air of nobility.
Chris Hemsworth really surprised me by the end. At first, you think he’s basically playing a mortal version of a drunken Thor, but it quickly becomes apparent that the character is much more tormented. I know I can’t wait for him to play Thor many more times (both in Thor 2 and the next Avengers installments), but this role has really made me watch out for his other projects.
Another review mentioned that Charlize Theron overacts the entire movie, but I actually thought it was an interesting choice. She is the most Disney-esque character in the story, but of course still a very dark version. Her theatrical performance felt right, combined with the brother’s creepy devotion. Some might be put off by it, but it’s very clearly a madness, and when an already mad person gets absolute power, one can only imagine the corruption that follows. Theron still manages to convey the pain that caused the madness, however. Perhaps she only seems so very over-the-top contrasted with Stewart’s low-key performance.
It’s not a great film. There are long sections that could be streamlined, particularly the opening twenty minutes, and a few awful cuts that really jarred me. Most notably, how the entire cavalry disappears once they storm through the castle gates. The experience was still enjoyable, though I have to mention that I wished they’d cut the very last scene.
If you cringe at the thought of Disney’s Snow White, rest assured this isn’t anything like that, but it does have enough elements to make those who only want pure gritty remakes turn away. We might get blood and sword fighting, but the elves and dwarfs haven’t gone anywhere.
Dice roll: 4