(NOTE: this is a continuation of my Snow White series, which includes the history, different versions, and a Scripture meditation).
As an avid movie-goer, I’m all about the trailers. Usually, they match the tone of the movie. In the case of Snow White and the Huntsman, that means the marketers were clearly a little confused: two musicals (polar opposites: Les Miserables & Rock of Ages), the Pixar movie Brave, a horror movie, a bubbly advertisement for Katy Perry in 3-D, and finally, the newest Jason Bourne action thriller.
I’m guessing this means the publicity team expects the following demographics in the audience: the Disney-princess types hoping for a romantic drama, their action-oriented friends/significant others hoping for some serious fighting, and us geeky fairy tale/fantasy folk who are hoping Kristen Stewart acts a bit more and Charlize Theron doesn’t overact too much.
The Answer? Less romance, a lot more action, and as for the acting? Although this movie is called Snow White and the Huntsman, the real star is definitely the queen.
In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.
The movie follows the classic fairy tale pretty well. Snow White’s mother dies, her father makes a really poor choice in his second wife, and the new queen proceeds to suck the life out of the entire kingdom (literally). Flash forward ten years, and Snow White is on her usual madcap run through the forest, away from the queen’s minions who want her dead (and her heart, still beating, for the queen’s supper). Only this time, instead of just letting her go, the huntsman comes along on the merry little adventure with dwarfs, friendly forest creatures, and of course, that pesky little apple.
And yes, there is a kiss or two–but their results are less than swoon-worthy. Romance? Forget about it. The “prince” (in this case, an exiled duke’s son) and the huntsman are far too busy ensuring Snow White’s safety to spare more than a thought about softer subjects. After all, there’s a kingdom to reclaim, and the Queen isn’t going down without one heck of a fight. In this respect, Snow White is a lot more like Joan of Arc than a singing, dancing princess. She’s a pale waif with hidden strength and a divine destiny to rule.
This is even seen in the lyrics to the end credit song Breath of Life (Florence + the Machine):
I was looking for a breath of life; / A little touch of heavenly light / But all the choirs in my head sang “no”
To get a dream of life again / A little of vision of the start and the end / But all the choirs in my head sang “no”.
Is Kristen Stewart up to the challenge of a spiritual leader? Well, her performance is a step above Twilight, which would make her fairly adequate for the role of a half-starved princess who has no idea of her true destiny. However, she pales in comparison to Charlize Theron as the Queen.
Theron transforms this everyday evil role into a compelling study of a woman gone mad with insecurity, hatred, and power. She eschews the scarred, victimized vulnerability that underlies the Evil Queen of Once Upon A Time
and instead goes full-on for absolute malice and destructive self-love.
Final Verdict? A decent edition to the Snow White movie canon, with good action scenes, and strong performances by the queen and the huntsman. Be forewarned: there are plenty of scenes of what I call “Grimm fairy tale icky-ness” including poisonous gas, scary apparitions, and things melting that naturally do NOT melt (in other words, if you’re looking for something more family-friendly, check out Mirror, Mirror or pull out the Disney cartoon).,
Yet, there are also scenes of unexpected beauty. This poster is a taste of one scene (though why Snow White looks ready to take down a fairy is beyond me):