Saturday, June 2, 2012

Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

About ten minutes into Snow White and the Huntsman, it became abundantly clear the movie was going to fail. But I'd gone into that theater looking to be entertained - let the record reflect that - and I was going to give it every chance. Sure, it was clearly going to be a bad movie, but maybe, I allowed myself to hope, it was going to be gloriously bad. It clearly wasn't going to be Chronicles of Riddick, but maybe it could still turn around and match Underworld: Rise of the Lycans or Dungeons and Dragons. But it soon became apparent this was less Dungeons & Dragons and more Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of the Dragon God. In the end, a handful of interesting moments - almost all of which were in the trailer - kept it more interesting than last summer's dreadful Robin Hood... but not by much.

The movie had several major flaws, but the central was lack of energy. There was nothing driving this forward or pulling the audience in, nothing to keep us engaged or amused. Now I'm going to say something controversial, something that will shock many of you.

I don't think it was Kristen Stewart's fault.

Don't get me wrong: she was miscast and didn't add much, but she actually manages a passable accent (unlike, say, Taylor Kitsch in John Carter). Yes, Stewart lacks range, but she has so little to play with here, it doesn't matter. Hell, her constant underacting was far less distracting than Theron's overacting: at least Stewart was consistent.

The real culprit behind the movie's failure is the screenplay, which makes no goddamn sense on any level. I'm not sure how many drafts they went through before filming, but I'm betting quite a few. There's garbage in the script that feels like it was written for entirely different movies. During the obligatory - not to mention painfully drawn out - sequence following the poisoned apple incident, the huntsman goes to fawn over the body of Snow White. He tells her that he keeps expecting her to get up and give him more "grief". That would be fine, except it didn't remotely fit their (mostly non-existent) relationship. The movie's full of random cliches like that. It's feels like someone cut up random scripts and pasted them together. The lines mostly work in a trailer capacity, but nothing really makes any sense in context. The "I've seen what she sees. I can kill her" line from the trailer is a perfect example. In the trailer, you understand this completely: it's clearly referencing the fact that the Queen and Snow White share some sort of psychic bond, like Harry and Voldemort. The only problem is that no one bothered to include anything like that in the movie: at no point in this film does Snow White see what she saw. THAT DOESN'T HAPPEN.

I don't want to make anyone think this was a one-time error. I'm describing nearly every line of dialogue in the film. Most Youtube mashup videos have more cohesion than this thing.

It's kind of fitting then that the director omitted any internal consistency. Snow White (lacking any martial training or ability) leads an army consisting entirely of calvary across a battle field. Next scene, she's fighting alongside her infantry. Where'd it come from? How did it get there? Who cares: Snow White's got a shield bearing the crest of Gondor.

On every level, this thing's a disjointed mess. Is it a dark retelling of a fairy tale or a fantasy movie loosely tied to an old story? I didn't get the impression the director would even understand that question, let alone be able to answer it.

Yeah, there are a few cool effects in this, but nowhere near as many as you'd expect from watching the trailer. That troll? Way cooler in the trailer - the CG's pretty crappy on the big screen. That weird nazgul/bat-creature? That's a hallucination: you've already seen every second of screen time they give it. The mirror soldiers? Again, the trailers pretty much give everything away. Same goes for the milk-bath and the golden guy who comes out of the mirror: nothing else to see here. The raven-transformation?

Actually, there's a pretty cool sequence where the queen turns back that wasn't in the trailers. You know what? Look it up on Youtube in six months if you still care.

Sure, there's some stuff that wasn't in the trailers, included what may be remembered as the worst version of fairies ever put on film. Also, there's a stag that wandered in from Princess Mononoke that turns into butterflies. I'm not entirely sure why.

In case you skipped down to this point just to get a summary, I'll make this clear: Avengers is still in the theaters, so there's no reason anyone should be wasting their time or money on this tripe. I don't care how many times you've already seen Avengers: you're far better off going again. Or, if you simply must watch a dark retelling of Snow White, there's a version from 1997 with Sigourney Weaver as the queen streaming on Netflix and Amazon Instant Video (it's labeled "Snow White: a Tale of Terror", in a bizarre attempt to sound intense or extreme or something, but the movie's actually just called "Snow White"). It's seriously flawed, but it's about a billion times more engaging than Snow White and the Huntsman. And it's free if you've got Netflix or Amazon Prime.

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