Director: Rupert Sanders
Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan and Bob Hoskins
Sound familiar? Yeah, the story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” has been around for awhile (1812, to be exact). But judging by the amount of studio attention the German fairytale by the brothers Grimm has been getting recently, you'd think Snow White had just been released for the first time as a Young Adult novel by Stephanie Meyer. This year alone has seen the release of two films based on the classic tale: auteur director Tarsem's “Mirror Mirror” (starring: Julia Roberts, Lily Collins and Armie Hammer) and commercial director Rupert Sanders' “Snow White & the Huntsman”.
Last year, when all people knew about the two adaptations of the Snow White property was which directors were hired, it seemed like they might clash at the box-office would have to fight to find an audience. Now, however, the mere notion seems ridiculous. “Mirror Mirror”, it's release date pushed forward by distributor Relativity Media, came out in March to mixed reviews (50% on RT) and a somewhat solid box-office performance ($63 mil.). The film turned out to be a family-friendly treatment of the source material and succeed in conveying this through its wacky, slapstick-heavy trailers and simple marketing campaign. This paved the way for Universal's “Snow White & the Huntsman”, a seemingly darker and grittier take on the same property.
You might think you know the rest, but you don't, because that's where the script kicks in. Or, at least it should. But more on that later.
The film opened to strong box-office numbers ($56 mil. in its opening weekend) and so-so reviews. As an action-orientated fantasy film, “Snow White & the Huntsman” automatically aspired to reach the much coveted “Lord of the Rings” fanbase. Ticket returns seem to argue that Universal Studios found a way to tap into that genre-loving group and actually convinced audiences that Snow White, the ultimate Disney princess, could kick some ass. From the get-go, Universal put an emphasis on the “Huntsman” in their marketing campaign, only mentioning Snow White briefly. Obviously, the aim was to convert the Chris Hemsworth crowd (Thor, The Avengers) into paying for their ticket. Executives probably assumed that Stewart's (Twilight) predominately female fanbase would automatically flock to see the film. Their gamble paid off.
The question that remains now, commercial aspects aside, is whether or not “Huntsman” manages to capture the same kind of magic that made people fall in love with the “Lord of the Rings” films.
First of all, Universal threw everything into this. The epicness is palpable: There's sprawling landscapes, a great soundtrack, plenty of fighting and Ray Winstone. Costumes and sets are taken straight from the “Lord of the Rings” productions and the visual effects are plenty.
So, then why is it that I felt nothing whilst watching this? Why don't I care for Snow White the same way I cared for Aragorn or Frodo?The answer, in truth, is quite simple: I didn't care, if Snow White lived or died. I was honestly rooting for Theron's deliciously evil queen to win the final fight, as hopeless as I knew that was. It has become a bit of a commonness to rant about Kristen Stewart's wooden performances, however, I just have to point out that she is a truly awful lead actress. Her screen presence is non-existent. The script doesn't do her any favours though, as she is constantly being dragged along by Hemsworth's surprisingly Scottish, but generally entertaining, Huntsman. There are vague feminist themes of female empowerment introduced towards the end, but they are few and far apart. In the end, the character of Snow White seems as unfamiliar as at the beginning of the film. Stewart is to blame for this, but so is director Rupert Sanders.
On that note, it is worth mentioning again that previous to this, Sanders had only directed commercials and not done any feature film work. It's apparent why Universal chose to hire him, as his showreel (www.rupertsanders.com) perfectly highlights his sense of style and spectacle. And in that sense, he does a good job: The film looks great.
He doesn't, however, manage to deal with the problems in the script. Three people are credited as writers, which probably a dozen or more uncredited “script-doctors” involved as well. Ultimately, none of these writers manages to introduce anything original to the story, and therefore the plot treads familiar ground, the characters fail to inspire and the ending is downright laughable.
I fear this review is getting too negative, for I did actually enjoy a lot of the film, despite its major, major flaws in the plot-department. As I said before, it looks really good. There are magical beings and dark creatures. The dwarves, played by veteran British actors, are nice, although underused. And, predictably so, Charlize Theron's Queen steals the movie with her slightly camp portrayal of an otherwise two-dimensional villainess.
By Movie Parliament Minister for History,
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