Snow White and the Huntsman
Snow White goes to the dark side.
Is it zeitgeist, collective consciousness or simply Hollywood’s lack of imagination that sees two, admittedly diverse, Snow White movies appear in cinemas in as many months, over seven decades after Disney brought the story to life in his first animated feature? Snow is also a major character in the TV series Once Upon a Time, so she is certainly putting herself about at the moment, so to speak.
For most people, the enduring memory is of Disney’s Snow, whistling happy tunes and looking after the vertically-challenged miners with poor domestic habits. And yet, amongst all the songs and happy forest creatures there are some truly dark moments that have disturbed several generations of young viewers - except, maybe, the modern ones brought up on Eastenders.
Where Tarsem’s Mirror, Mirror was much more family focussed, with post-modern, pop-culture humour, Snow White and the Huntsman goes to the dark side, taking a gothic path for which Kristen Stewart is much better suited, even though she was a contender for same role in Tarsem’s version. Lily Collins may not have been the greatest actress (something else she has in common with Stewart), but at least she could manage an engaging smile and a sense of fun.
Apart from Twihards and fans of Chris Hemsworth (who seems to be this year’s Jessica Chastain, in terms of cinema saturation, only bigger, buffer, butcher and blonder), who is this movie aimed at? It is too scary for kids and probably too childish for most fantasy fans; or if not childish, then at least too po-faced. While its intention is to go back to the darker origins of the Brothers Grimm story, it actually overlooks many of the elements and makes the queen more conniving and her magic blacker as she tries to stop herself aging.
There is no doubt that as the Queen, Charlize Theron is the most beautiful in the land, and as an actress she has the chops for big dramatic roles, but the screenplay’s bad-Shakespeare dialogue and theatrics make it hard to be taken as seriously as it should be, which goes for all the characters. Julia Roberts’ bitchy Queen was definitely more fun to watch, as her tongue was sharper than Theron’s talons.
The only bit of relief from all the doom and gloom comes when the dwarfs turn up, initially from the surprise of seeing a coterie of well-known British actors that are down-sized for the parts - although this soon becomes more disturbing than amusing. One wonders if Tarsem had nabbed all the good dwarf actors first, leaving this production to go down the CG route. The Miyazaki-esque fairy world into which they retreat is certainly a welcome relief from grim world they have escaped from.
In fact, the film’s saving grace is its special effects, which are spectacular at times, but these are never a good reason alone to see a film. On other occasions there is an air of familiarity about the effects-driven characters. The mirror seems to be Terminator 2’s T-1000 attending a Star Wars cosplay as the Emperor, and the mystical forest creature was straight out of Princess Mononoke, as played by Aslan disguised as Harry Potter’s patronus. There’s even a troll that will make you want to shout out TROLL!!
While this movie tries to bring something new to the story, which it does, do we really want to see such a dark version of a classic fairytale? At no point do we believe that Kristen Stewart is more beautiful than Charlize Theron (except when the Queen loses all her magic), the Huntsman is heroic, but a bit thick (Hemsworth is the only redeeming factor, in spite of his wavering, generic celtic accent), and the love-interest prince is too wishy-washy (not the Aladdin pantomime character) to care about.
Tarsem’s almost pantomime take on the story is supremely more entertaining and family oriented, and for those of us who want dark adult-oriented fantasy there is Game of Thrones, which has everything you could possibly want from the genre, including superb acting.
Snow White and the Huntsman is in cinemas from May 28.