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October 7, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

by Franz Patrick


Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
★★ / ★★★★

After the death of Snow White’s mother, King Magnus (Noah Huntley) went to war against an army that consisted of soldiers whose bodies shattered like glass when struck with appropriate force. Claiming a swift victory, the king found a prisoner, Ravenna (Charlize Theron), in one of the carriages and was so struck with her beauty, he decided to marry her the next day. Ravenna proved to be a traitor when she poisoned and pierced the king’s heart with a dagger just when they were about to consummate their marriage. As queen, Ravenna imprisoned Snow White indefinitely just in case she’d be of some use in the future. “Snow White and the Huntsman,” based on the screenplay by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, and Hossein Amini, showed magnificent promise as we plunged into a medieval world tarnished by dark magic and other curiosities, but it was ultimately unable to sustain its exciting momentum, weighed down by its middle section so bloated and soporific, it was like a poison apple to an otherwise thrilling action-fantasy. Casting Theron to play the evil queen was an excellent decision because she was able to deliver stunning beauty juxtaposed with an intensely ugly shrillness when things didn’t go her way. Theron completely embodied the queen’s desperation, from her intense glares to her branch-like fingers, to capture Snow White (Kristen Stewart) who successfully escaped from the castle. According to the mirror, eating the heart of the fairest in the land would provide Ravenna immortality–forever beautiful and powerful. Less effective were the title characters, especially Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman. While it was fun to watch his physicality in terms of killing and knocking bad guys unconscious, the more sensitive moments, such as the backstory involving his deceased wife, not only felt like footnotes but they felt so muted, I didn’t feel like I knew the character well enough. Halfway through, I found myself expecting him to get killed because his use surpassed its expiration date. On the other hand, while Stewart did an adequate job as Snow White, looking very beautiful and tortured, it was unfortunate that her character was not given enough dimension for us to be convinced that she was a complex character worth rooting for no matter what. Because of this, her so-called moments of valor felt forced which began in the final act when she had to deliver a speech as to why they should lead an assault to her father’s former castle. Furthermore, the picture went overboard with its special and visual effects. At its best, the effects successfully placed us into the mind of Snow White. There was a real sense of dread when our heroine entered the enchanted Dark Forest for the first time and experienced horrific hallucinations. However, the effects eventually took center stage as it introduced fairies, trolls, and the like. While the film had a magical element to it, the introduction of the creatures felt more like empty visual candy–distractions–than tools of progressing the story forward. Lastly, I found the dwarves to be very dull which was a mistake because they are a staple to the mythology. If they had to be introduced, at least the writers ought to have done them the honor of making them memorable. Directed by Rupert Sanders, “Snow White and the Huntsman” had some entertaining action sequences but it needed to have the fat of its middle portion trimmed to make it feel more compact. Waiting for something to happen combined with inadequately established protagonists does not equal escapism.

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