Monday, June 4, 2012

Review of Snow White and the Huntsman


Photo by Gage Skidmore

Lips red as blood. Hair black as night. Bring me your heart my dear, dear Snow White.

When her father the king is assassinated and the kingdom taken over by an evil witch (Charlize Theron), Princess Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is imprisoned in a tower for years.  The witch has become queen and maintains her youth by forcefully inhaling the life force from young victims, but a magic mirror informs the queen that the princess has come of age, and is the only threat to the queen.  When her cell is opened, the princess seizes her chance and escapes to the Dark Forest.  The queen hires a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to chase down the princess, but when he finds her, will he turn her over to the queen’s forces, or help her stay free? 

Kristen Stewart at the Academy Awards
for some vampire movie

WARNING:  SPOILERS

I was fearful I wouldn’t like Snow White and the Huntsman, since for some weeks Comcast has been showing free behind-the-scenes “making of” featurettes, which either meant they knew it would be a great movie, or that it would be lousy and they desperately had to amp up interest.  But it’s neither great nor lousy.  I rather liked this dark, gritty version of the tale. 

The current buzz among critics is that Charlize Theron is great as the evil queen, but Kristen Stewart is too inexpressive as Snow White.  (For my post on how Charlize is my favorite African-American actress, click here.)  But for me, Charlize Theron was pretty much just standing around in the castle plotting . . . well, evil.  Kristen Stewart was much more interesting as she flees the queen’s forces through the countryside and reluctantly decides to rouse the kingdom against the queen, and I thought her more reserved, realistic style of acting was just right.  I at first questioned whether someone imprisoned in a tower for so long could jump and swim so athletically, but when a number of mysterious actions happen along the way, I just accepted it as a fairytale, and had no objections of a practical nature. 

Snow White does have problems in terms of interesting plot developments that are dropped, with no resolution.  At one point, a very short person declares that the princess is “life,” and we see her meet an ethereally beautiful deer with wondrous antlers.  One doesn’t have to be familiar with the works of C.S. Lewis to see the deer as a Christ figure, especially since Snow White is going eastward to meet it—the direction is obvious because of the thick growth of moss on the north side of a great tree dominating the background, and eastward is a primary symbolic direction in the Bible.  This links up with Snow White saying the Lord’s Prayer towards the start of the movie.  But all this potentially Christian symbolism is just dropped. 

From a more psychological angle, the supposedly magical nature of the bronze mirror is never resolved.  It is rimmed with impressive runes, and a hooded bronze figure emerges from the mirror in a real icky way to talk to the queen more than once.  But during one of these encounters, the queen’s brother peeks in and sees the queen talking to herself—no hooded bronze figure.  This recalls the moment in Hamlet, when that melancholy Dane sees his father’s ghost, but his mother cannot, and so decides her son is insane.  Is the queen insane, or is the mirror really magical?  We’re never told for sure. 

There are a few more truncated plot elements like this, but overall the movie is a sumptuous treat.  At one point, the queen’s gown is rimmed with birds’ skulls around the throat.  The dwarves that Snow White encounters seem like members of a real tribe with their own customs, a la The Lord of the Rings.  And when Snow White dons armor and leads her people to overthrow the queen in the castle, all I can say is Kristen Stewart looks good in plate armor.  And I suppose the female part of the audience will enjoy Chris Hemsworth as the huntsman.  This is well worth two hours of your time.  

4 comments:

Lynda R Young said...

I read up to and including the first paragraph after you warned for spoilers because I haven't seen it yet. It's enough for me know you liked the movie :)

LTM said...

ew! I sneaked out and saw this last night, and I have to say your review is exactly right! I felt the same way about the acting--LOVE CT, but she just kind of stalked around making faces and screaming. KS, who I typically dislike, seemed to come out in this film. Her call to war was especially impressive from the girl w/no emotions. :D

All of your plot problems I caught as well--what about that "Sanctuary"? What about that bronze plate? What about her being able to run, knowing where to go, etc., if she's been in that teeny tower all her life...

Yep, it's not great, but it's not bad. (Actually, I thought it was just a big long, but no worries! :o) Great review!

Rachel Morgan said...

I haven't watched this yet, so I stopped reading when I got to the spoiler warning! I've heard it isn't AMAZING, so perhaps if I go in with low expectations I'll enjoy it :-)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I haven't seen the movie so I jumped down to your last two lines. Yep, Chris is why I want to see the movie. :D

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