Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Snow White And The Huntsman (2012)

Director: Rupert Sanders
Notable Cast: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron

As a proposed introduction to a film trilogy, "Snow White And The Huntsman" does an admirable job at doing just that. It creates its setting, that being a realistically drawn fairy tale if you will, and it sets up its characters. Of course there are many loose ends left dangling on the film that were more frustrating than not and the movie seems to find its focus wandering a bit much, but "Bella And The Thor" does succeed in many ways that were unexpected - including on a visual side and with its actors. It's far from being a great film, but its quite enjoyable and definitely seems like the start of something bigger and better.

When an evil queen (Theron) usurps the strong and valiant King of a large kingdom bringing with her death and generally icky evil, his daughter Snow White (Stewart) is imprisoned for a future reason that the queen's dark magic can see. This doesn't stop the elusive Snow White from taking advantage of opportunity and busting her butt out to make her way to the exiled Duke's castle to rally troops. The queen quickly sends out a drunken and broken hearted huntsman (Hemsworth) to get her back, but its not long before the two team up to get the princess to her destination.

When talking about "Snow White And The Huntsman" the most obvious of its quirky and impressive traits rears up in the form of its visual style and smooth effects. It's quite obvious that first time feature length director Rupert Sanders has a style for commercialized pizzazz. He throws in all kinds of kitschy camera angles and soaring camera shots to really establish the setting while he distinctly blends the fantasy and realistic moments with smooth transitions. This is highlighted by the film's high gloss CGI effects that work for some pretty stellar moments in the form of a forest troll attack and the various black magic tricks that Evil Queen Theron throws out. Even the costuming and set design are of the highest quality (I foresee this film winning an Academy Award for costume design just for the awesome raven feather outfits for our villain) and any fan of the artistic design side of film making is going to want to see it all in its glory.

"My name comes AFTER Kristin Stewart?!?!"
Even outside of its visual flair, "Snow White" has some solidarity in its execution. It's focus pulls away from the main female character (despite being the main protagonist that truly drives the action) and it gives some great motivations and depth to the overlooked characters of lore. The huntsman and the evil queen both get some much needed character arcs and give the film its own take on the classic tale and both easily become highlights.

Now that I've briefly evaluated what made "Snow White And The Huntsman" a fun and artful film, it's time to really dig into why this film falters overall. Firstly, despite some of the fun that it has taking the focus away from Snow White and placing it on her guardian and the villain - the film feels like it tries to cover way too much in way too little time. The huntsman gets the shaft as a character in the third act (despite another charming performance from Hemsworth who trades in his Thor hammer for a huntsman ax) while the dwarves and the childhood boyfriend William feel like misguided after thoughts of dangling threads for characters. It's quite obvious that many of these elements are to be tied up and strengthened in the upcoming sequels...but that doesn't mean that the lacking touches of detail don't irritate for this film.

"Where's my mighty hammer? Oh sorry. Wrong character."
Secondly, "Snow White And The Huntsman" has this weird middle portion of the film that both drags and confuses. It has this strong narration to kick off the film and rather epically built finale, but there is this 45 minutes in the center of the film that seemingly bottoms out. It has a rather out of place and very fantasy driven epiphany sequence with fairies(?!), one eyed mushrooms (?!?!) and a giant tree elk (?!?!?!) that drastically feels out of sync with the realistic tone of the first and last acts. It also tends to really kick through the classic 'apple' scene that seems forced despite its wonderfully artful setting.

Paint primer. Does wonders for the skin.
Thirdly, the acting of the film is significantly hit or miss. Both Hemsworth and Theron simply own their roles to give the film depth and substance. The rest? Meh. Kristin Stewart remains her hefty breathing self, gawking open mouthed as she runs around for most of the film looking confused. I know Stewart is a draw due to the "Twilight" crowd and the film is PG-13 (another little thing that seemed to hinder its true potential), but she draws nothing close to an emotion from me. To top it off, the stunningly well cast dwarves are massively underused. Seriously go find the casting for the elves on IMDB and tell me that they shouldn't have stolen this movie with every one of their scenes. It's almost an atrocity that such great actors would be given so little to truly work with.

In the end, I have a love/hate relationship for "Snow White And The Huntsman". I loved the style of the film with its realistic tones and darkness that envelopes its classic story. The depth added to the huntsman and the evil queen earn it at least some respect for taking it in new directions too. It's unfortunate that so many elements were left undisclosed and untapped (for the sake of making sequels) and that the overall execution and flow of the film seem hit or miss. Otherwise, this might have been the big surprise film of the year. As is I'll definitely see the upcoming sequels for its story and style, but my hopes won't be up for great films.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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