sat 04/07/2020

Snow White and the Huntsman | reviews, news & interviews

Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman

Post-feminist reboot for Grimm fairytale mixes DNA from multiple sources

Well, it's one way of attacking the wrinkles: Charlize Theron's Wicked Queen takes a reviving dip

There’s no particular reason, beyond the herd instinct of producers, why films should enter the multiplex two by two. But such is the case with twin reimaginings of Snow White within a couple of months. First Mirror Mirror went all out for post-modern irony with Julia Roberts camping it up as the Wicked Queen. Now Snow White and the Huntsman imparts a heavy dose of post-feminist top spin with Charlize Theron vamping it up as the etc etc. The reboot is on the other foot.

In both cases you have to ask who the films are aimed at, because it’s certainly not the same audience snared by the 1937 Disney masterpiece down the decades. This new Snow White seems squarely directed at twilit teens with Kristen Stewart, lately wedded to RPattz, now reincarnated as the luckless heroine with an almighty stepmother problem. Sort of Snow Twilight. But this Snow White is no passive victim of evil designs. Rather than be sweetly frogmarched to her execution in the forest, Stewart's all-action fairy princess contrives to escape after seven years banged up in a bristling CGI castle by knifing her captor, plunging down a sewage vent and leaping out into the foaming main. Later on, she rides back to reclaim her crown like Boadicea, metal-breasted and heavily sworded. Not a lot of frocks to merchandise from this movie. Trenchcoats, maybe.

Snow White and the HuntsmanMeanwhile, in other deviations, the Huntsman of the title (Chris Hemsworth) doesn’t walk out of the picture after refusing to kill Snow White. Indeed his mission is not to dispatch her at all but bring her to Ravenna, as the Wicked Queen is calling herself in this version. His reward will be the revival of the dead wife whose loss has driven him to the bottle. The queen wants Snow White alive as part of a novelty skin treatment not available over the counter at Boots: she keeps herself peachy by inhaling the youth out of beautiful women (Lily Cole here gets to find out what she’ll look like at 90).

And then there are the dwarves, who number more than seven and are less dopey and sleepy than lairy and snidey. As played with digitally shortened legs by the likes of Ian McShane and Ray Winstone, Toby Jones and Nick Frost, they represent quite a casting coup and lay on whatever humour is going. (Only Bob Hoskins gets close to embarrassing himself in the thankless role of a blind seer: “She is of the blood!” he wheezes.)

But there is a more radical repositioning that kicks the fairytale into the 21st century. This time it’s not all about getting the guy. Original scripwriter Evan Daughterty (with further polishes from John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini) has chosen to ditch the romance altogether. There are two male leads are on thwacking duty – Hemsworth’s club-wielding lunk and Sam Claflin’s childhood chum, who has grown up to be quite the archer – but any notion of having them face off like rutting stags for Snow White’s affections has been timidly headed off at the pass. Indeed, the honour of titular co-billing for Hemsworth’s widowed Huntsman (pictured overleaf with the dwarves) is a red herring calculated to whip up the young male demographic this film has semi-catered for with overwrought setpiece battles and blokey punch-ups.Snow White and the Huntsman

Having dispensed with a robust original plot, the whole film feels like an extended rummage in the summer blockbuster’s back catalogue. Inspiration is found in/shameless steals are made from – off the top of one’s head - Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Indiana Jones and Robin Hood. Hemsworth is part Thor, part Shrek (being a Scottish misanthrope). An early battle sequence looks like a topographical lift from the “Unleash hell” scene in Gladiator. There’s also a random ogre apparently on secondment from Clash of the Titans, which Snow White contrives to pacify with a gentle look. But then she is a very good girl.

You hanker for more breathing time in the epic open spaces

The trace memory of foregoing multiplex hits all suggests a film that doesn’t quite know what it wants to be – perhaps no surprise given that debut director Rupert Sanders is a whizz from video games and ads. The producers were attracted, it says here, by “the depth of soul to his commercials”. Hm. (NB Joe Roth is also the producer who helped Tim Burton make a frightful horlicks of Alice in Wonderland.) Sanders delivers a competent fight sequence, and the SFX – including magic mushrooms, a gold-cloaked figure emerging from the mirror on the wall, a stag with magnificent antlers - are all perfectly serviceable. But the galloping horses (real) are much more fun, and as ever with a film shot predominantly on a soundstage, you hanker for more breathing time in the epic open spaces. Plus at two hours, it's all rather exhausting.

By rights this version of the fairytale should be called Snow White and the Wicked Queen, because that’s the not-quite-erotic girl-on-girl showdown the plot is irrevocably steering us all towards. Stewart is personable as the (for some reason) English heroine with a determined set to her jaw and just an adorable pair of upper canines. The mask slips only when she has to deliver a rousing oration which falls several leagues short of Shakespearean. But really the film belongs to Theron who, despite the odd accent slippage (“liddle”, “huntsmin”) and perhaps a tad too much shoutiness, must be commended for biting only minimal lumps out of the furniture. The script even gives her some sort of back story to explain all the villainy. But in the end this is the grim tale of a MILF who’s terrified of ageing. They just couldn’t put that on the poster.

Overleaf: watch the trailer to Snow White and the Huntsman

The film belongs to Theron who must be commended for biting only minimal lumps out of the furniture


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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Awful. Thankfully saw this as part of a goodwill campaign by NBC/Universal for free. Village of what appeared to be tough women crumpled at the sight of men ... a dark forest where everyone dies and is afraid to enter except Snow White, except her drunken chaser, except the queen's brother .. except his army - does ANYONE ever die in the dark forest (nope)? Forestland creatures surround SW but apparently are too lame to alert her when the evildoers crash the party, they don't help during the battle scenes and seem rather useless other than for show. True uselessness, however, can be found in William her childhood beau. He infiltrates the bad guys, but is awol during the scenes where he's needed the most. Why was he even in the movie - to "kind of" stand up to his Dad - but not really? UGH UGH UGH - lame lame lame

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