Movies: “Snow White and the Huntsman”
June 8th 2012 · 0 Comments
A couple of dubious but intriguing sociological studies in the past few years have posited a radical explanation for the relatively recent rise of the effeminate male sex symbol: the proliferation of hormonal contragestive birth control. This would certainly explain why movie buffs and pop culture watchdogs have observed the hairy, musclebound male figure has been gradually replaced over the past few decades by a proliferation of girly, non-threatening twinks.
Whether or not this theory holds any weight, it doesn’t explain a curious, but far less expansive trend in the opposite direction. A shift toward the popularity of plain female stars like the “Twilight” series’ Kristen Stewart. Pasty, hesitant, and perpetually-frowning, she seems to embody a counter-culture of feminine mystique against more popular and traditionally beautiful women. She in no way conforms to an accepted standard of beauty, and one might assume that her successful acting career is a result of profound talent. Unfortunately, her latest vehicle, the so-called dark fairy tale “Snow White and the Huntsman,” is an incoherent mess that manages only to showcase her shocking lack of gravitas.
This latest film rendition of the Snow White tale bills itself as dark, but anyone who is familiar with the real, un-sanitized original fairy tales will find this film suspiciously light on cruelty and bloodletting. Initially, we are subjected to a surfeit of unneeded backstory, including Snow White’s childhood as a princess, the untimely death of her mother, and her father’s remarriage to a murderous evil sorceress, Ravenna (Charlize Theron).
After Ravenna seizes the throne, she closes Snow White up in a tower for a decade or so, until the girl escapes at the precise moment that Ravenna learns that she must eat Snow White’s heart to ensure her immortality. Thus ensues a poorly-paced slog from evil forest, to makeshift riverside huts, to what looks like New Zealand à la the “Lord of the Rings” films.
Along the way, we meet the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, “Thor”), who is far less important to the plot than the film’s title would have you believe. He is enlisted by Ravenna’s troops to track down the escaped princess, but he turns on them and eventually helps her get away. For an hour or so we see the two of them travel from place to place, each time meeting a slew of new characters who are immediately and permanently dropped from the plot with no explanation.
Ninety minutes in, we’re still being introduced to these new characters, like the dwarves (unnecessarily wedged into this plot, despite their presence in many versions of the Snow White story, in apparent attempt to capitalize on the cachet of the upcoming “Hobbit” films), some fairies, and a magical white elk that embodies goodness or nature or some such thing that is never explicated.
There’s also a community of masked women archers who mutilated their faces so Ravenna wouldn’t be jealous of their beauty, a kindly but cowardly Duke living in a castle with an army that the evil queen inexplicably allowed to proliferate within her borders, and Snow White’s long-lost childhood playmate, William.
As for the performances, there are few high notes. Academy Award winner Charlize Theron tries to breathe some life into the Evil Queen (and she almost pulls it off with a few early scenes that attempt to sympathetically explain her troubled backstory and her desperate attempts to keep from growing old), but ends up as nothing more than a shrill, cartoony villain.
Theron and Hemsworth also assault the ears with dreadful, ever-shifting, faux-European accents. When it comes to the weak performances, however, Kristen Stewart stands alone. She delivers dialogue (though, admittedly, with such hokey gems as “I would rather die today than live one more day of this death,” there are few living actors who could be convincing) and occasionally attempts facial expressions, but it can scarcely be called acting.
Overall, “Snow White and the Huntsman” is an ugly, dull, messy vehicle for an untalented actress whose box office success remains inexplicable. Passable cinematography and decent production design are lost amid the aimless plot and repetitive set pieces. Twihards will probably eat this dreck right up, but all others should stay far, far away.
By Mark Ziobro