Sometimes everyone in Hollywood is struck by inspiration for the same subjects at the same time. It doesn’t mean anyone copied someone’s idea, it just means that two studios attempted to helm films based on the same topics. Whether this involves volcanoes (Dante’s Peak vs. Volcano), asteroids headed toward Earth (Deep Impact vs. Armageddon), or Truman Capote (Capote vs. Infamous), without fail the two compete to see which can finish production first and hit theaters before the other, in the hopes that they will be viewed as the true original and the second will be looked upon as an imitator.
This year Hollywood fell in love with the concept of updating the story of Snow White. I’m guessing everyone saw the business that Twilight was doing and wanted a ready-made female driven story without all of the heavy lifting that coming up with an original idea requires. Relativity Media hit first a few months back with Mirror Mirror, starring Julia Roberts as the Queen and bushy-browed Lily Collins (daughter of Phil) as Ms. White. The most fascinating aspect of Mirror Mirror was the fact that Tarsem, the visionary director of The Cell and Immortals, was helming this tale. Once the film was released it appeared in Relativity’s haste they forgot to ask Tarsem to add some of his usual flair to the production, because not only was the film a dud at the box office, but visually the film was a dud on the screen as well.
That leaves us with Universal’s Snow White and the Huntsman bringing up the rear. Starring the cipher of the Twilight franchise, living definition of mope, Kristen Stewart as Snow White, not to mention Norse god Chris Hemsworth (Thor) as the titular hunter, this is poised to take the #1 spot at the box office this weekend. The question, however, is whether you should throw your precious dollars onto the pile, or spend it on something more useful, like a funnel cake maker.
When Snow opens, we are shown the old story of a young girl named Snow White, who was princess of a land ruled by her father, the King. Her mother dies after a long illness, and before you know it the King has proposed to a mysterious blond that he meets after battling a magical army of invaders. This blond, Ravenna (Charlize Theron), murders the King on their wedding night and takes over the kingdom after a bloody siege. We’ve all been there, right fellas?
Ravenna locks Snow in the tallest tower in the castle for ten or so years, watching her frown the whole time. It’s never mentioned why Ravenna imprisoned Snow instead of either just murdering her or banishing her, but I long ago stopped being astonished about plot holes in major studio flicks. Snow escapes from the castle in a variation of the Shawshank Redemption plan, and manages to hide from her captives in the Dark Woods. The Dark Woods appears to hold nothing more magical than psychedelic mushrooms and the stray troll here and there, but everyone is butt hurt over the idea of capturing this 20 year old frump that trips over her own feet every 30 seconds, so Ravenna calls in a huntsman (Hemsworth) familiar with the area to get the job done. Hijinks ensue.
For all of my cheap digs at this film, the one thing that it has going for it is the directing style of Rupert Sanders. Sanders, here making his directorial debut, shows a real talent for dark-hued flair. If I didn’t know any better I would have sworn that this was the film that Tarsem directed, as its visuals are much better than the more cartoony Mirror, and allow us to enter a world that changes from unique locales seemingly every 15 minutes.
That isn’t to say that Sanders manages to wrangle legendary performances out of his cast. Stewart is given a role that for once doesn’t require her to sit helplessly and watch monsters do all of the heavy lifting around her, and she fails to rise to the occasion. We are to believe that Snow has become an almost Joan of Arc type character by the end of the film, while watching it is hard to buy Stewart being able to ride a horse. Hemsworth, who has shown he is capable of better in Cabin in the Woods, again leans on his Thor-ish tendencies to yell every line and seems to think that every emotion equals anger. Theron…well, let’s just say that her performance here as the evil Queen has shown her to be well on the road to Pacino levels of overacting.
With Snow White and the Huntsman, we are once again handed a film that, while not bad enough to flat out recommend that everyone avoid, is also not quite good enough to recommend to view. It seems the type of film where everyone that liked the trailer made up their minds a long time ago to watch the movie regardless of what anyone says. If you find yourself in front of a big screen playing this flick this weekend I recommend you try to enjoy Theron’s bogeywoman portrayal and the arrival of a new directing talent. Other than that, hit the Disney vault and watch the original.