Monday, June 11, 2012

Movie Review: Snow White & The Huntsman (2012)

We were all there for the Queen. We sat in the darkened room, enraptured by her flawlessness, rooting for her to defeat Snow White and become a revisionist fairy tale villain triumph. We sent Care Bear stares of love and good will into her perfect eyes. And then she opened her mouth and crushed our dreams, and not in a good way.

Dialogue turns out to be the main weakness and the greatest strength of Snow White & the Huntsman, Hollywood's latest gritty interpretation of the Grimm Brothers' fairy tale. Charlize Theron plays Queen Ravena, whose mandatory giant mirror is pimped out with a spectral golden figure that gives her beauty advice (of the "Eat her heart, never use foundation again!" variety). She's a career evil queen who travels, kills kings, takes over their kingdoms, and destroys the land itself, presumably by yelling. Charlize shouted so hard during filming that she pulled a stomach muscle, true story. That's role dedication right there. The best part is she wanted to lie and say it was from doing "a bad-ass stunt." No, Charlize, you yelled too loud and hurt yourself. There is much honor in that, spear-sister.

Anyway, the problem is that Queen Ravena has a one-track mind. She's on a beauty train, and the railroad is made of crazy. The woman wants revenge for what happened to her, and her face is her weapon. Since no one is powerful enough to challenge her, her warped viewpoint just keeps getting validated. So she goes onnnn and onnnnn about how her beauty is super important and she's gonna destroy everything and blah blah blah. Fortunately, even if her whine-bellow gets tiresome, her costumes are always fabulous! Just tune her out and marvel at Colleen Atwood's costume designs. I had no idea evil crowns came in such an assortment of shapes, sizes, and colors!

Meanwhile, in brunette land, Kristen Stewart plays Snow White, who is gifted with princess-ness, basic human decency (the first thing she does after her jailbreak is try to free the other prisoner), and (this is key) not very many speaking lines. For example, a moment comes when the epic music swells, and everyone looks all shiny and brave and determined, and Snow White is exchanging emotion-laden glances with her hunky dreamboat hunter-man, and she...just smiles. Nothing about loving him, or promising to win, or any other deadly dull cliché. Her constipated smile says it all: I'm in full armor and I'm gonna kill an Academy Award winner and I need a sandwich!

Where Snowy had the best non-lines, the dwarves had the best lines. They were cool and competent and funny, and Snowy's damn lucky to have them.

The other two standouts in this film are the soundtrack (check out this moody ending theme), and the special effects. Honestly, it should be called Snow White & the Mushrooms, with all the LSD imagery going on. Some seemed derivative, though. The Dark Forest reminded me of Pan's Labyrinth, and there was a bit in the Forest of Fairies that came straight out of Princess Mononoke. Also: very lovely cinematography and set designs!

Props to this film for being dark, refreshing, and having a great ending. The showdown girl-fight scene was especially awesome, with Snowy being hopelessly outmatch at first and just grimly trying and trying until...well, I shan't spoil it. And in the end, at her obligatory sunny coronation, did she say one word? No. No, she did not. Long live the queen! 

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