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June 2, 2012

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Capsule Movie Review – Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

by HELEN GEIB

Snow White and the Huntsman is a movie in search of a story. It flirts with a half dozen possibilities: traditional fairy tale re-imagined; earth healing, Princess Mononoke style; Joan of Arc re-imagined; cage match pitting the feminist icon of today’s teenage girl against her mom’s; succubus serial killer; medieval Roman Holiday. This is storytelling by committee out of focus group. Simply identifying the story models imposes a clarity the film sorely lacks. In conception and execution, Kristen Stewart’s Snow White is too much a slip of a girl adrift in the big bad world to pull the pieces together by force of personality. Costumes, production design, and sound design are all predictably good, but no flashes of magic in the visuals can distract from the slack pacing. The movie flickers to life in occasional scenes owned by Charlize Theron as the evil queen or Chris Hemsworth as the huntsman, and in the few scenes enlivened by the dwarves (played by actors who should never have so little screen time: Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan). Snow White’s contest with the queen and her romance with the huntsman are the story’s primary dramatic elements; both suffer from remarkably unsatisfying resolutions.

1 1/2 stars

One thing I liked and one thing I didn’t like In appearance, with her coloring and slightly gaunt features, Stewart is the perfect choice to play a Snow White who’s spent the last 10 years locked in a turret dungeon. Her overnight transformation into Woman Warrior was laughable.


13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jun 2 2012

    I don’t understand how the Hollywood that was has become the Hollywood that is. There was a time, back when they were all studio run, that there was a ridiculously large amount attractive and proficient actors, both male and female. And ticket sales weren’t the most important aspect of filmmaking because with the talent that they had the studios always made money, to one degree or another. I love the studio system that most people refer to as a terrible system.

    Nowadays, we need ticket sales to keep studios open so we look at who’s the hottest actor or *shudders* celebrity, let alone who can act, who can deliver the most colourful or impressive special effects driven film, and who can make the next Dark Knight, Avatar, or Avengers.

    Here’ proof that something rotten in the state of Hollywood: James Cameron, who gives every Canadian a bad name, has disavowed working on anything ever again for the rest of his life unless it’s his Avatar series or underwater documentaries. He actually stated that he’ll never work with anyone else’s material or come up with anything new that’s not Avatar. It’s Avatar until the day that he dies.

    I’ve been complaining about Hollywood for years but there’s no one to complain to because even if I had pull in the industry, it wouldn’t change the fact that ticket sales are everything.

    And how did this film’s casting director not notice that Kristen Stewart can’t act?

    Lastly, Helen, I’m saddened that you’re watching all (or most) the film that come to theatres, whether they’re good or bad because 90% of Hollywood sucks until November.

  2. Jun 3 2012

    That’s sweet of you but there’s no need to be concerned. :-) For starters, I don’t see anything like most or all Hollywood releases in a year. Closer to 25%. Consider that I hardly see any comedies, romantic comedies, or horror films and that knocks out a major part of the annual output right there.

    Second I seldom regret having seen a movie. There’s the social aspect, as most of my theater visits are with family or friends. I would really miss the post-movie conversations. Also, I like to keep up the moviegoing habit. The best way to miss out on a lot of good movies is to stop taking chances on the ones that aren’t a sure thing- which is almost all of them after all. And, just because a movie isn’t good doesn’t mean it’s worthless. This one couldn’t manage to tell a coherent story but there were good things about it too.

    Third I like a lot more movies than you do. ^_^

    As a classic movie lover I will add that your view of old Hollywood is much too rosy. The studios churned out PLENTY of bad, indifferent, and pointless movies in the good old days- and plenty of those were the bread and butter of ticket sales (which were more, not less important in the days before TV rights, home video, toy merchandising etc. etc.). Untalented yet popular and/or prolific actors and actresses are nothing new either. I’m not remotely happy with contemporary Hollywood and its apparent inability to tell a good story, but look at any year in Hollywood’s distant or recent past and you’ll find both good and bad movies in the mix.

  3. Jun 3 2012

    There’s no denying that. But the general roster for the talent in current Hollywood so far too small compared to what it used to be, and I’m mainly referring to the ’20s-’60s. :O)

    And yes, most people in the world like more movies than I do. That’s the side effect of having done to film school. :O)

    Also, you know how when I watch a film that I deem bad or terrible, in a future state I rewatch it in order to reassess my thought on it? Well, I’ve done it before with Reservoir Dogs, in which I still think that it’s a lousy film, and with another film that currently slips my mind. So, two days ago I’ve decided to tackle the LOTR trilogy, which I greatly dislike, but not from an adaptation point of view; it’s from a technical point of view.

    So two days ago I watched The Fellowship of the Rings and because not much happens in the film I’ve managed to remember the film quite well; same goes for the book that I read in the late ’90s. So I watched the Blu-ray version and experienced the film for the second time in my life since it came out 11 years ago, and I don’t hate it but I just plain don’t like much of it.

    From a cinematography point of view, the only competent and meaningful shots are the aerial helicopter shots. Peter Jackson uses far too many close ups throughout, instead of relying on good old fashion camera movements that accentuate to the audience the emotions (or lack of) that actors are delivering.

    The look of the film (on Blu-ray), colour and texture-wise is very soft. There’s a large amount of grey to the textures and pink to the faces and there’s no texture to be found in terms of HD detail. Everything’s too soft and shiny. All the actors throughout the film are way too back-lit and so every time that there’s a green screen shot, which is terrifyingly frequent, I can see its outlines around them. It’s as if Jackson was afraid that they wouldn’t blend well with the backgrounds when in fact they stick out like sore thumbs.

    Plus, it was a sluggish 3 hours… Now, I’m not complaining about it being slow so much because it’s really a minor gripe and I really hate the second and third films. I’m going to rewatch them in the following week and report back, somewhere online. :O)

    I apologize for another rant.

  4. Aaron Ploof
    Jun 4 2012

    Nir, there’s more to a movie than Cinematography.

    There are some pretty good actors in LOTR, and the story is good. Can’t we recognize those facts?

  5. Aaron Ploof
    Jun 4 2012

    Helen-

    I wish people would stop making movies with Kristen Stewart. I’m a better actor than she is, and she’s not attractive.

  6. Jun 4 2012

    @Aaron: You’ll get no argument from me on that one. She doesn’t have the dramatic presence to carry a movie (not this movie at least- I’m happy to say I’ve avoided the Twilight franchise) and the starved model look has never been my ideal of beauty.

    @Nir: I think Jackson relies too heavily on close-ups too, but that’s a tiny flaw in a superb film. This isn’t the comment thread to hash out our differences on LOTR.

  7. Jun 4 2012

    I apologize and Aaron, I mentioned at the start of my [unintentional] above that I rewatched the film in regards to cinematography. I know the story and I hate that Jackson left a lot of it out of his film (no I haven’t watched the extended cuts). But I’m not here to complain. I just said that I have rewatched a film that I originally greatly disliked and now I don’t dislike it; in fact, Fellowship is the only LOTR film that I like because, even though it’s rater long and, ironically can’t be made shorter or longer, it’s still more interesting than the proceeding films.

    But enough of that! Aaron, kill Kristen Stewart and take her place! It doesn’t matter than you look different, Hollywood will appreciate the new talent that is genuine. :O)

  8. Ken
    Jun 4 2012

    I’m sad to read this. I’d heard some positive vibe and was thinking about catching this. I’ll save my money now.

    I can’t disagree with most of the comments, especially about casting choices. Casting starved waifs as kickass warrior princesses (I’m looking at you KING ARTHUR!), is getting old.

    I’ll spend this week waiting to see PROMETHEUS. I’ve heard good vibes on that one too. Like Helen I usually enjoy about any theater visit, give me some company and popcorn and I’m a happy guy. Only a few movies have made me question my philosophy on this.

  9. Jun 4 2012

    @Ken: I’m sorry I couldn’t like it because the visuals are good and I enjoy the genre. I can ignore incoherence in an action movie but not in a story grasping at high drama.

    Good call on the “King Arthur” comparison. “The Messenger” also comes to mind.

  10. Jun 4 2012

    I absolutely hated the Clive Owen “King Arthur” version; it was appalling and condescendingly stupid.

    And as for casting starved waifs, re-read the first paragraph of my first post up there. That’s what I’m talking about when it comes to new Hollywood. Some people say that the old Hollywood is not better than the current Hollywood because they’re two different breeds of animal and can not be compared because change is imminently going to happens and that we must live in the now. I call BS and say that yes, old Hollywood was better than current Hollywood and still is specifically because I mostly detest the inbred species that is today’s Hollywood. It borrows from all the wrong sources and doesn’t care much for what the end result will be.

    I hear that many people have enjoyed the visual of SWATH and the fact that the film goes for drama rather than a cutesy fairytale so much that they immediately overlook the rest of the film and like it for what it is: LOTR light. But on the other end of the spectrum most people seem to complain about Stewart’s lack of personality in every film that she’s appeared in and yet they blame it here on the writers not giving her any interesting material to play with. I say, the actress can’t act so don’t hire her anymore and stop coming up with excuses.

    Helen, were the visuals in SWATH really not impressive enough to warrant even a matinee viewing? I recommended Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland solely on the fact that the special effects were better than Avatar’s. lol

  11. Jun 5 2012

    @Nir: Here’s the thing: The visuals are good from scene to scene but suffer from the same incoherence as the story. The visual aesthetic ricochets back and forth between gritty Medieval realism and sword and sorcery fantasy, with some other influences popping up here and there for good measure. One minute we’re meeting the huntsman in a realistic village setting of grim poverty and the next thing you know, Snow White is staring down a troll. Then there’s a weird scene with creepy tiny fairies and an animal spirit refugee from anime. Then over to the queen making like Morgan Le Fay. And so on. It’s not an integrated or, again, coherent vision.

  12. Jun 5 2012

    Huh. Then I will wait for the Blu-ray. :O)

    Can’t believe I’m going to watch another Kristen Stewart film…

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