Snow White and the Huntsman is like the bitchy girl in high school. She's attractive, sexy and stylish, but cold and hollow underneath. She may be worth a ride or two around the block, but she's never going to meet the parents. She's nice to look at, even entertaining, but leaves you wanting more.
Snow White and the Huntsman is the essence of superficial, and I kind of like it. I kind of hate it, too. I can't take my eyes off it. Universal Pictures' claim that it's a "reimagining" of the classic tale is a lie; it's the same story, just painted with glamorous special effects and stuffed with vapid characters and unnecessary and at times nonsensical plot points. I want to love it, but deep down I know I never can.
The movie is from first-time director Rupert Sanders, who proves he has a knack for visuals and for ripping off other movies. Snow White and the Huntsman is one of the most beautiful movies you'll see all year, with dark, alluring graphics and visual effects that are so good they keep you intrigued, even as a pile of red flags continues to mount. In this regard, the movie is what it is, a big, almost-not-dumb-but-still-really-dumb summer movie that takes its material seriously.
Too seriously, unfortunately.
I love grit. I love serious movies. I love what Sanders and his screenwriting crew of John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side), Hossein Amini (Drive) and Evan Daugherty (nothing you've ever heard of) tried to do. They just don't succeed. The movie is dark, moody and creepy, but it's so deathly serious that the movie-going experience begins to parallel what has happened to Snow White's kingdom: all life has been sucked away. A few jokes, or even a few strange characters, would have worked wonders.
There are moments where you can see the filmmakers took a stab at humor. Chris Hemsworth's introduction as The Huntsman should have been funny, but wasn't. The movie lightens when the eight dwarves (not seven, oh my god the revelations!) appear as loyal companions, but their humor is muted and buried under the seriousness of their world.
Beyond a lack of humor, the characters are underdeveloped, further contributing to the sense that this horrible world lacks real life. I am a Kristen Stewart fan and believe she is a good actress when given the right material, but we're supposed to believe that she's this beautiful, caring leader of men even though the filmmakers do very little to support this notion. Snow White wins over a violent bridge troll simply with her charm, and she approaches a giant rodent with tree branches for antlers that is supposed to represent Mother Earth or something like that, but both these story elements are inserted simply because they are pretty. When it comes to asserting herself as a leader that will lead an army into battle against the Evil Queen (despite having been locked in a tower since she was a child), she spouts out some cliché speech, ignoring the fact that she has completely relied on handsome men to save her repeatedly over the last hour and a half.
Hemsworth does a good job as the other title character, or as good of a job as one could do when given a flat back story and very little to do. He's supposed to develop feelings for Snow White, but when he kisses her for the first and only time it comes from nowhere, because not once did the screenwriters attempt to develop even a flirtatious relationship between the two - another approach that would have breathed life into the story. They do, however, introduce another character named William (Sam Claflin), who is completely useless and a waste of screen time.
The one true saving grace is Charlize Theron. Sure, her performance is over the top and in the third act especially her character flat lines (literally and figuratively), but she is evil incarnate and embraces the role wholeheartedly with emotional, angry and vain outbursts. Yes, the character is ripped from Stardust (a much better fantasy adventure movie) and the filmmakers' attempt to explain why she is the way she is comes off as pathetic, but Theron steals every scene she's in.
Snow White and the Huntsman has plenty of plot holes and sequences that are included just because they look cool (why does Theron take a milk bath, exactly, aside from the obvious?), but I can get over those (let me remind you that Theron takes a milk bath). But the film is overlong. Would anyone have cared had the poison apple plot point been removed entirely, saving us from ten minutes of pointless "Oh no she's going to die! Oh no she's dead! Oh Snow White I love you so I'm going to kiss your rotting dead corpse! Oh my God Snow White you're alive just because but I'm not going to kiss you again now that you're alive!" meandering.
Deep down, Snow White and the Huntsman is not a good movie. But it's summer, and if you can be shallow and lust after that bitchy hot girl anyway because she's hot, then there's enough here to justify one viewing. The movie is unintentionally silly and poorly written (especially at the end, where it appears the filmmakers gave up and decide to end the movie with Kristen Stewart throwing Hemsworth an awkward look rather than actually saying anything), but it is so damn sexy in appearance I can get over it. I can put up with it. Not for the length of a relationship, but for at least one night. And I won't feel guilty in the morning.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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