It is quite easy to like a film that promises to stay a bit farther off the original icky-sweet plot of the fairytale on which it is based. The 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland is a testimony to this. Such movies give you the impression–and the satisfaction–that fairytales can indeed grow up. And that their stories can be told another way without losing its general plot.
This might be, I was really not that sure, the same ground on which Snow White and the Huntsman was anchored on. In this so-called dark and twisted version of the originally bright fairytale, we were made to watch the princess literally battle against the evil queen.
Snow White was still the beautiful and pure princess of Tabor. Her skin as white as snow and her lips as red as blood, she had a happy life as a child. But things changed when her mother died and her father decided to save an equally beautiful woman named Ravenna from the Dark Army. Ravenna, though, did not have the heart as beautiful as her face. She killed the king on the very night of their wedding and took over the whole Tabor. The kingdom instantly died, poisoned by their new queen’s ruling. Powerful as she was, Ravenna and her brother Finn sapped the kingdom and its pretty women of their beauty and youth. Snow White was locked away at a secluded tower of the castle for years.
There was only one threat to the Queen’s reign–Snow White herself who managed to escape the castle. The one face fairer than the Majesty, Snow White’s heart was what the queen’s Mirror spoke of as the regimen Ravenna needed to be immortally young and beautiful. It was on this objective that Eric the Huntsman was sent to find the escaped princess.
What followed was a series of chase scenes when Eric decided to deflect the Queen when he learned that the other could not actually keep her side of the deal (which was to bring back Eric’s dead wife). Over different lands and so many other people, Snow White was chased until finally the Queen, disguised as Snow White’s childhood friend William, caught up with the princess and imposed the famous apple-biting scene.
Of course, as the story had it, Snow White was revived. Although, it was not by a Prince Charming but by the Huntsman himself! With her renewed life and strength, Snow White led her father’s people to a battle against Ravenna’s army. The battle ensued with an epic touch like any other ancient wars until at the end of the film, it was still a happy ending.
The cinematography managed not to be lackluster. There were scenes and graphics that were neat enough to carry a picturesque film. It was, after all, a fairytale so the scenes had to look and feel magical even if you erase the castles and the gowns.
Capturing of certain parts of the movie was also beautifully and artfully done. To cite, there was the great shot of Ravenna sinking below a pool of what looked like milk. Focus was important in the scenes and it was given a good tap by the crew.
Although and definitely a bit lacking in color, the movie was able to capture what it meant: dark and twisted. The general atmosphere was hard to miss: this is a fairytale but there is something wrong in here, yes. It highlighted well how the kingdom was drained of life because of Ravenna and the battle scenes were effectively shown.
I also liked how the basic elements of the original fairytale were still there, if only to remind us that what we were watching was actually lifted from the same story our mothers read us at bedtime when we were younger. In fact, the film started with almost the same premise as the fairytale did. The dwarves were still there as well, finding Snow White and providing her happy times against the Queen’s wrath.
The famous “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?” was not left out, too, which might be because of its important role in the unfolding of the story. How the mirror was also depicted was quite cool as well. It was not comical and definitely not the talking mirrors other Snow White shows had.
It was just as good that the depictions in this film were wholly different from, say, the picture books and cartoon shows of the same tale. We had Snow White in a different and ultimately more disenchanting gown that made her character as strong as she was supposed to be. Even Ravenna’s ensemble was not as sickeningly imperial and villainous. At the very least, the movie tried its best to divert from the fairytale from its story down to its portrayal.
And What’s Not
There were several problems one as a viewer could experience while watching the movie. For one, cuts were not fluidly made. One scene changes into another and you would hardly understand why. It was saved time and again by the chase scenes but if one would delete one or two of those, you would realize that some cuts were better not done at all.
Another seeming problem with the film was how much it tends to tell when there should really be one solid plot. Understandably, there had to be a different focus of conflict (or conflicts) because the movie aimed to deviate from the usual. But putting together character development stories, a general chase plot, and a tinge of love story was not a very good idea for this film.
It might have something to do with the storytelling but a lot of the movie’s parts were not fully developed. They seemed to have happened out of nowhere, no foreshadowing and definitely no reason behind them. This was evident in the kissing scene of Snow White and the disguised William as well as in the development of the Huntsman’s back story.
Finally, character delivery was also unstable. There were characters with so much gusto that their delivery was superb and powerful. Others, on the contrary, were a bit laidback if not at all forgettable. These contrasting factors made the film keel dangerously sideways that by the end of the movie, you would not really remember anybody at all except for the three main characters:
Charlize Theron, Queen Ravenna
Queen Ravenna made Hollywood. Yes, it was Charlize’s Evil Queen. She was less menacing and more commercial in the way she portrayed her character. It was not as brilliant as, say, Helena Bonham-Carter. But for a movie villain, it did not at all defer too low from the usual.
It was then a good thing that Charlize had the looks of a Queen. True, she also had the regal stance and the plausible accent of a royal. At least, she had enough of the facial expression to convey her feelings. This meant that she did not rely on the way she delivered her lines–because she had a tendency to shout when she meant to be scary.
Chris Hemsworth, Eric the Huntsman
You be hunted by this man here and you really would be dead scared. Crazy Chris Hemsworth seemed to have overdone his being a huntsman a bit but you could say he really was into the part.
I just did not like his slurred lines but overall, Chris had it in himself to be more than just a fully physical action man. He was dirty as he should be. He ran well, sturdy and fast. And best of all, his Thor-self made him the great fighter that he was in this film.
Kristen Stewart, Snow White
Seriously, Kristen as a princess? Kristen? That big-voiced, heavy-stepping, sturdy girl? A princess?
Well, yes. The movie’s greatest defiance of the sweet and princess-y tale that is Snow White came in the form of their lead actress. Kristen was not known for her soft antics or girly acts. She did not even have the sweet voice of a princess. And this was just the right mix for the battling princess that the film aimed to show.
The only problem with Kristen’s portrayal was (and because I could not phrase it any other way): she had so much Bella Swan in her! I know it would sound rude to compare how she acted Bella and Snow White because the two had so much differences. But it was so difficult to separate the two especially if you see the same old expressions. The way she acted when she bit the poisonous apple was quite the same way she did when she was bitten by a vampire in the Twilight. Even the delivery of her lines was like deja vu.
Oh well, you could only hope so much.
Overall, Snow White and the Huntsman was not a bad choice if you wanted a film that deviates from its own norms. But maybe, just maybe, you could do with lesser expectations so that you would not have the tendency to look for things that are not–and would never be–there.