I have this theory that one of the reasons Hollywood likes fairytale reboots so much – aside from their built-in brand recognition – is because it gives them an excuse to cast movies without any of those pesky brown people. Snow White and the Huntsman is set in medieval times! So it’s totally not racist that it’s populated exclusively with white faces! Right?!
Anyway. I didn’t really have high hopes for this, and it more or less met my expectations. It’s not a bad movie. It’s just… blah. It’s nothing-y. It never sinks into awfulness but it never rises into anything much, either. Think Lord of the Rings without the bonds between the characters, or Game of Thrones minus the political intrigue.
Snow White and the Huntsman is visually pretty terrific, but its problems lie with the limp story (oh, wow. A Hollywood movie with a shitty script. Big surprise), which tosses some grit and some feminism into the familiar fairytale but forgets to add any actual human emotion. Example: the love story between the title characters. I say “love story”, but Snow White (Kristen Stewart) and the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) have less chemistry than water stirred into milk. I think I actually yawned at the bit where he resurrects her with true’s love kiss, or whatever, because there’s no sense of any actual true love – or even any one-night-stand-see-you-later love. The kind-of-wimpy Sam Clafin plays a duke’s son who’s sort of the huntsman’s romantic rival, but he doesn’t share a spark with Snow White either.
(Spoiler alert: The film ends without Snow White winding up with either the huntsman or the duke’s son, which feels kind of… weird. I’m sure some viewers will be all, “She doesn’t choose either of them because she’s a strong woman, and feminism!” But I suspect the real reason for Snow’s lack of choice is so that the love triangle can be dragged out in potential sequels, Twilight-style.)
Incidentally, if you’re wondering why it’s called Snow White and the Huntsman and not Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, it’s because said little people basically have nothing to do with the core storyline. They’re there (played by several well-known actors, whose heads were controversially grafted on to dwarf bodies or something), but they’re just shoehorned in. You could cut out all their scenes without affecting the main storyline any. (And Snow White doesn’t have a convincing bond with any of them, either.)
Much is made of Stewart’s acting talent, or lack thereof – I saw a lot of people groaning when she was deemed the year’s highest paid actress. Honestly, I don’t think she’s terrible. Sure, she relies too much on the same old tics – the lip chewing, the blinking, the doe eyes. But there’s some weird inverse charisma to her: You can basically project any emotion on to her blank face and (almost) believe she’s actually emoting. (The same trick makes her so perfect at playing Twilight‘s personality-void heroine.)
Hemsworth is fine, even if did seem to pick up his (Scottish? Scottish-ish?) accent from watching Shrek a bunch of times. The best of the cast is easily Charlize Theron, as the corrupted wicked queen. She’s over-the-top, she’s melodramatic, she’s ridiculous (and at times her dinner theatre English accent sounds dangerously reminiscent of the mentally retarded character she played in Arrested Development, who was also a Brit). But boy, she throws herself right into it. If Snow White and the Huntsman is remembered for anything, it’ll be her.
For the record: Of this year’s two Snow White movies, I’m giving this one the edge over the boneheaded Mirror Mirror.