Saturday, June 30, 2012
Belated Snow White and the Huntsman Review
This is the second Snow White movie this year. The first was that Mirror, Mirror thing, which looked really awful to me. The only reason I ever considered going to see it was that it was directed by Tarsem Singh; The Fall is one of my favorite films period.. But I didn't care for Immortals, and the trailers for Mirror, Mirror made it look just dreadful, campy comic garbage. The trailers for Snow White and the Huntsman looked cool to me, but a lot of the reviews were sorta lukewarm...just goes to show you, you can't trust reviewers, and you can take my opinion for whatever you think it's worth.
Anyway, in case you haven't heard, Snow White's take on the Grimm Brothers is very different from Mirror Mirror's. It's basically a dead-serious heroic fantasy with extremely strong horror elements. A lot of it really stretches the PG-13 rating, and the imagery is frequently quite nasty in a nifty sort of way. There's a whole lot of emphasis on atmosphere, and it takes its time fleshing out the source material and setting things up. The writing, by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, and Hossein Amin, is, on the whole, unusually literate. The screenplay retains a good deal of the fairy tale and builds on it. You've got the evil queen, the mirror, Snow White in the forest, a huntsman ordered to kill her, seven dwarves, our heroine eating a poison apple and going cataleptic, then getting awakened by true love's kiss...etc. True, thing is souped up with battle sequences and a ton of excellent CGI...the movie looks like it had a very healthy budget. But There's a lot more to it than the visuals. The characters are well drawn, and the acting is, overall, excellent.
The film's single stongest element is Charlize Theron's evil queen, Ravenna. Charlize looks awesome (she's way more beautiful than poor Snow White, at least when she's not aging hideously,) and she's absolutely terrifying, much scarier than she was in Prometheus, and she was pretty scary in that. She is, as a matter of fact, one of the very best heavies in recent films, and one of the coolest cinematic evil queens ever...yep, she's at least as good as Disney's Maleficent. She's ambitious, she's got a program, a backstory that's actually interesting. All of her trappings and minions are fabulous, and she comes out with lines like, "I'm going to give this wretched world the queen it deserves!" The movie's worth seeing just for her...although it's also worth seeing just for the special effects, and the dwarves, and the Miyazaki-like fairy stuff....getting ahead of myself here.
As I said, Kristen Stewart's Snow White doesn't measure up, I'm afraid. She doesn't spoil the movie or anything, but given the all the biz about being the fairest of them all, etc., well...she's got great big buck teeth and constantly showing them off in a variety of strange expressions. On the other hand, Chris Hemsworth's Huntsman works just fine...I hope the guy becomes a major star...I think he's way too good to get stuck as Thor, for example. He does have the movie ripped out from underneath him by the Dwarves, but, they're so good that you don't mind at all. Takes rather too long for them to show up, but when they do, they're super. Again, this is one of those flicks that gets a huge amount of mileage out of good Brit character actors, and the whole dwarf thing is rendered utterly jaw-dropping by the visual FX. Very different approach from Gimli in Jackson's LOTR...Here you have the actors' heads superimposed on sawed off bodies, and it's completely convincing. Unbelievable motion control. It makes that head superimposition stuff in Captain America look lousy by comparison. I mean, you know perfectly well that in Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Toby Jones, etc., are normal sized...well, maybe not Toby Jones. But you wouldn't have a clue from looking at this movie. I kept leaning over to my wife and saying, "That's amazing," over and over again.
Let's see, what else. The Mirror is extremely scary...Charlize taking her evil milk bath is most unsettling; when, at another point, she strikes the floor in an oily splat of melting ravens, it's even moreso. Monstrous apparitions in the dark forest were very satisfactory...the aforementioned Miyazaki-ish forest sprites and animals (my favorite was a tortoise covered in moss) click like crazy. Grade A Marchen material....I kept thinking of On Fairy Stories, by Tolkien...I suspect the grumpy old bastards might even have liked large segments of this film. It does seem to address a lot of his criticisms of the Disney version, and the tone is frequently sort of Tolkien-like, more Beren and Luthien than LOTR, perhaps.
The movie looks good; fine locations; moody well-composed cinematography by Greig Fraser. Loved the production design and costumes...things look fantastic, yet plausible. James Newton Howard's score is appropriately foreboding. Oh yeah, there's a poisoned apple which sprouts grey hair after Snow White takes her bite...amazingly disgusting. I laughed out loud. Seriously, you should check this flick out. Yeah, I know, this must be towards the end of its theatrical run, but you should rent it on pay-per view. As usual, you don't have to bother with the 3D.
I hope, by the way, that someone makes a movie of one of my books and advertises it as being in 2D, and gives you glasses that are just clear plastic and don't do anything....