Revisionist fairly tales seem to be all the rage these days, what with popular TV series “Once Upon a Time” and the recent cinematic flop MIRROR MIRROR. After the insipid disappointment that was MIRROR MIRROR, I was hoping SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN would make a grand coup of the fad and produce a Snow White worth cheering for. Kristen Stewart was going to redeem herself of TWILIGHT patheticness and lead us into battle against the dastardly queen. But alas, it wasn’t to be. Yet again have my hopes for a better future been cruelly dashed into oblivion.
When the princess Snow White’s father is murdered by his new bride, the witch queen Ravenna, Snow White is locked away in a tower while Ravenna brings ruin and starvation to the kingdom. The day the magic mirror portends Snow White’s beauty as surpassing the queen’s, Ravenna orders her death. Snow White escapes into the dark forest where she is pursued by the queen’s huntsman. The huntsman is a depressed drunkard who has given up on life because his wife was killed by the queen’s men. He blames himself for ever letting her out of his sight and not protecting her (I’m gonna puke). He and Snow White team up with a bunch of ragamuffin dwarves who are far from the kind little caricatures we’re used to . Most all of them are grumpy and suspicious except for the random blind one (Bob Hoskins) and the nice happy ginger one. Then Snow White is tricked by the queen and eats an apple that puts her under a spell, blah blah blah. But this time, when Snow White is awakened by true love’s first kiss (???), she leads a band of escaped vigilantes into battle against the evil queen.
|Bob Hoskins is second from the right.|
There is no doubt that SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN excels in the arena of special effects. Some of the visual masterwork in this film is so stunning, it took my breath away. Unfortunately, the valiant success of one of the film’s components cannot atone for every other missed mark in the project.
|Kristen Stewart as Snow White
As much as I’d like to blame Kristen Stewart for the whole failure of this movie, I have to attribute some of it to the fact the pat is in itself completely rotten. But we’ll lambaste Stewart first. She walks through this movie with a poker-stiff clumsiness that fails to inspire the smallest ounce of confidence in her ability to lead an army of men into battle. And yet again, as in Twilight, her face is twisted into that heavy-lidded sneer that makes her appear in a constant state of constipation. If any part of the Snow White character could have been salvaged by acting, Stewart was unable to do so.
|What a sparkling personality!|
Bad acting apart, the Snow White figure is nothing, I repeat NOTHING, more than a tabula rasa upon which the male characters can project their voyeuristic ideals of femininity. She comes to embody such grotesquely stereotypical female qualities as “life itself,” purity, healing, and peace without ever actually generating such sentiments with her personality or actions! Her personality is a void of such magnitude that she makes Disney’s Snow White (1937) come across as a ball-busting, bra-burning feminista, because at least she had more than half a dozen lines in the film, and she has a personality, and dreams, and hopes, and a set of standards!
|Ooh! I’m so NOT scared!
Charlize Theron as Ravenna
Charlize Theron is also a bit of a let-down as the evil queen Ravenna. Without a doubt, her part has a lot of the depth and complexity the Snow White character lacks, but Theron’s over-acting prevents the audience from really accepting her dastardliness. She is surrounded by a special effects team that’s definitely got it going on, but I just never reached a point where I felt like she was really cruel. Again, the Disney villainesses, notoriously more awesome than their princesses, take the cake again. Ravenna’s fiercness pales when compared to Maleficent or Ursula or Cruella de Ville.
I left the theatre this weekend feeling angry and discouraged. Discouraged that Hollywood seems so totally incapable of producing a viable female hero. I have to keep reminding myself of Katniss Everdeen and THE HUNGER GAMES. That film gives me so much hope because I know it can be done! But how they can come so close with a concept like SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN and still fall into every cliched trap that keeps the female protagonist from becoming a truly great, well-rounded heroin? And just forget about the Bechdel Test in this one, folks. I could go into more detail about how the film is entirely based on the premise of female physical beauty, that the two female characters are necessarily rivals, one of them inherently evil and the other an ideal of the most unrealistic proportions, etc. etc. – but I’m just too tired and sick of it all to think about it any more.