Friday, July 13, 2012

Snow White Gets Muddy

As a gritty re-imagining of a classic children's story, Snow White & The Huntsman puts the fair in fairy tale. 

Arth Vader (AV): I must say this movie was a strange one for me, Pontificator. Re-imagining the Snow White fairy tale is a major undertaking and I must say, while the story varies significantly from the Disney-esque idyllic children's story, the movie was dark, gritty and complex. The characters had little dimensionality and very little detail was shared with the viewer regarding where, when, why or how. But if you can suspend your disbelief, it's not altogether bad. I almost wished for more of a fairy-tale vibe to the story but certainly not a bad effort overall.
THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): Snow White is best known to me from the Disney film “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.” Imagine my surprise to learn it was originally a German fairytale written in 1857. Since this is the first telling of the story, continuity comparison must come from here... and the current movie diverges greatly with the details after the Queen becomes jealous of Snow White. There have been many renditions of the story since the original telling, and this film is just another one instead of the original story being brought to the silver screen. Core elements of the Queen, Huntsman, seven dwarves, magic mirror, Prince and poison apple remain... but the similarities end there.
AV: I've got a furrowed brow on this one, Ponty. I know the casting of Twilight mega star, Kristen Stewart will bring fantasy fans–especially female ones–to the cinema. But the girl just wasn't right for this role. Snow White is supposed to be an earthy, captivating beauty, which Stewart is not (sorry Kristen). As for Thor-turned-drunken-dissident, Chris Helsworth's Huntsman character was well-realized but a bit dis-enfranchised from the heart of the story. Lastly, though a bit off-putting, the evil queen played by the stunning Charlize Theron was hauntingly on-key for her role.  
The cinematography was beautiful, though I found the film's lighting odd. The dark (light) wasn't as dark as it could have been and the bright light (namely the forrest scenes) felt heavy-handed. Almost as though the movie tried too hard to make the lighting an experience vs. being a part of the film.

TP: I’m a bit more forgiving here Vader. Casting for this film couldn’t have been a terribly hard task given the nature of the material. Kristen Stewart didn’t seem out of place in the role of Snow White. Chris Hemsworth was a superb Huntsman, but this is a given after his superb performance as “Thor.” He is obviously a natural for these types of roles. I’m not a huge Charlize Theron fan, but she certainly delivered a fantastic performance as the Quenn, Ravenna. After this role and her performance in “Prometheus,” I’m beginning to think she has a calling for playing evil characters.
AV: Overall this film got high marks for its look, cinematography and effects shots. Ponty, I thought the 'Mirror-mirror on the wall' bit and the army of black magic minions were well done. Wasn't a big fan of the fairy sequence but the Troll and the final battle scenes were all masterfully handled. Many of the effects shots were understated and that was to the credit of the SFX imagineers. And while all these were great effects shots, by far the dwarves were the effects highlight of the film. Re-proportioning the likenesses of full-grown actors into the miniaturized forms were spectacular–even worthy of some of WETA's effects shots in Peter Jackson's Lord of The Rings Trilogy. Oh, and yet another noteworthy effect shot was the back-and-forth aging of the Theron's Evil Queen. Brilliant. 
TP: I must diverge again Vader. The special effects were unremarkable as far as modern movies go. There was nothing ground breaking, new.... or even noteworthy in the film to write about in this section of our review... that, as you pointed out, we haven’t already seen before. Not only have we seen it before, but done better the first time we saw it.
AV: The movie and it's overall look was impressive but there is always a yin to the yang. This movie falters in several key areas which stops it from approaching greatness. The story pacing was a mess. The dialogue was murky and often poorly delivered. The characterizations were odd and at times almost uncomfortable to watch. This may be due to the actors not connecting with the their onscreen personas but the movie's acting was just flat for me. Pontificator, I had a hard time with the movie's presentation of relatable characters and scenarios. All of the above was handled rather poorly as far as I am concerned. 
TP: Despite some of the good acting (some more yin and yang Vader), this film never got off the ground for me and failed to really capture my interest... even with the easily recognizable material. There seemed to be something missing. Perhaps it was the lack of any epic action sequences... or the lack of dazzling special effects? Perhaps it was the direction of the film as it seemed to slow to a crawl midway through? I certainly was unhappy with the ending as the obvious loose end of the relationship between the Huntsman and Snow White wasn’t resolved. With the possibility of exploring a love triangle by adding the Prince in the mix, there was room to at least satiate the romantic in me. With nothing to laugh at, the drama far from serious... and the mundane action, this film had tons of room to go deeper and be something memorable.
AV:  Pontificator, I feel this is only the beginning. Not of the Snow White story but of a whole series of movies that re-imagine Grimm and Mother Goose fairy tales. Capturing the family movie market has always been a lucrative venture for Hollywood and these movies have all the earmarks of family-scale blockbusters. Movies like Mirror Mirror and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland have capitalized on the darker perspective but I suspect more are on the way. History will prove whether or not this is a good track to take but this, by no means, will be the last. 
TP: Oh... I so hope you’re wrong Vader. I suppose the loose end of the romantic triangle could be an angle to explore... but a Snow White part two based on just this would be worse than the original. The fairytale ends when the Queen is killed... so it’s best to let this one end as well since any chance to salvage this film has also been killed.
Arth Vader Rates Snow White and the Huntsman: A swing and a miss. With deceptively beautiful trailers (a poisoned apple to the audiences if you will), this movie looks good but with little real substance, an odd viewing experience and a dejected A-list cast of actors, this movie did not have a happily ever after for me. If you want a good rental-to-be, this movie is it. Unfortunately, other summer blockbusters will dwarf (sorry) this movie. As I bite into the bitter apple that is Snow White and The Huntsman, I am remiss to cough up only five busted blocks.  
THE PONTIFICATOR Rates Snow White and the Huntsman: With all the potential to be something spectacular wasted, I longed for the Disney cartoon version the whole time as I painfully watched this film barely bust five blocks.

Snow White and The Huntsman: 5/10 Busted Blocks

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