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Black As Raven, Dumb As Bricks

Monday, June 4, 2012

I don't know what the whole Snow White craze in Hollywood is all about. Between this and Mirror Mirror, we're getting more than our fair share of the "fairest of them all". Maybe the gods of showbiz are aware of some growing trend, but whatever. I have no stomach for speculation. All I know is that if this trend continues, we are in for some dire circumstances. Though it has good ideas, boasts spiffy visuals, and has one hell of a villain, Snow White and the Huntsman is a pretty terrible movie, with an awful screenplay, undeveloped heroes and predictable plotting. It's all dirt and grime and loud noises, and while I think it's a great move taking something as kiddy as Snow White and making it hyper dark, this is not the way to do it.

I'm the God of Thunder. You love vampires. This will never work!

Years ago, the incredibly vain Ravenna took control of a magical kingdom, taking the princess Snow White hostage. Snow White is said to be the most beautiful woman in all the land, and the only one who can challenge Ravenna, cuz apparently, if you're pretty, you can overthrow a monarchy. Snow White escapes one day and retreats into the twisted dark forest. Since she can't have her one weakness running away on her, the queen dispatches Thor a huntsman to find her. And then there's a prince who is looking for her. And there's a rebellion brewing. And there's some dwarves.

This is a busy movie. There's a lot going on, and yet, nothing really seems to be going on. Wait, that doesn't make a lick of sense. Hold on. Let me rephrase.

Nothing interesting happens here. There we go. Everything happens exactly when you expect it to. Snow White escapes that the fifteen minute mark. Check. There's an obligatory fight scene where a sympathetic character dies at the end of the second act. Check. The final battle proceeds and your heroes seem to be completely invulnerable. Check. It's nothing we haven't seen before, story wise, which is a real tragedy. We haven't seen a version of Snow White before. Usually, the ivory princess is an innocent girl who doesn't really do much in the way of taking charge. But here, we see a Snow White that is as much warrior as she is little girl. Well, that's what was promised. In reality, Snow White isn't all that interesting of a character. Neither is the Huntsman. Neither are the dwarves. Really, the only character that seems to have meat behind her is the evil queen. A good villain goes a long way, but it can't be the only thing you have working for you.

And the whole thing just meanders. It's doesn't really ever focus on a direction. Like, why does there have to be a prince in this thing? Oh right, cuz love triangles are such a necessary aspect to films like these now. Ok, fine, but nothing is done to resolve that. Does Snow White love the prince, or does she love the Huntsman? We never know, and the movie doesn't care enough to tell us.

Also, the dwarves. They serve absolutely no purpose, other than some painful attempts at humor.

Fucking Hell, Kristen Stewart!!! Make up your mind! Do you want to be remembered as a talented young actress who does great work, or do you want to be remember as Bella Swan? Because that's the road your heading down. Ok, fine! Snow White is a slightly better character. Slightly! Yes, there is some more grit than that vampire loving excuse for an independent woman, but not much! Though she does do some of the ass kicking herself, for the most part, she is just the same helpless waif, completely reliant on everyone else to rescue her. And Stewart doesn't do anything to elevate the material. She does the same thing she does with Bella. And she's just as infuriating.

Chris Hemsworth is Thor the Hunstman. And he is even more one note than Snow White. Yes, there's this thing about him being a widow, but it's handled in the most simple minded way. Of course he's going to fall in love with Snow White, and of course it's going to be because Snow White reminds him of his dearly dead beloved. Oh come on. That's not a spoiler. You knew it was going to happen. Hemsworth does fine, but you can tell he's just doing this to ride the wave of popularity that comes from being a member of The Avengers.

My name is Charlize Theron, and I'm the best thing in this movie!

And everyone else is pretty much the same. No one is really trying here. Well, except Charlize Theron, who is fantastic as the evil Ravenna. She shows no shame at all in this thing, running about her halls, screaming her head off. It's completely over the top and ridiculous. It's also chilling, ruthless, and compelling. You actually feel some sort of sympathy for Ravenna as she goes about wreaking havoc on civilization, because Theron is just that good. Though she is often shoehorned into roles that exemplify her stunning beauty, she excels at playing mean, sometimes evil women. So it's great that she's in a role where she can fulfill both parameters.

Fledgling director Rurpert Sanders knows how to stage a sequence. There is some marvelous visual trickery on display here. From the opening battle with the dark army, to the horrors unleashed by the dark forest, to the lush foliage and fairies in Sanctuary. And the action is pretty good too. Sure, the finale is all jumpy camera and a never ending cacophony of steel on steel, but the sequences before hand are pretty good.

But the thing about the visuals that is so good is how clever they are. The marketing campaign has been focusing on how the minions of the queen look like they are made of black glass, and justifiably so. Those shots of the glass flying everywhere are awesome! But it doesn't stop there. The costumes, especially those of Ravenna, are all exquisite. The sweeping landscapes that are necessary for an epic such as this look spectacular. And the forest, well, let's just say that the things Snow White sees there would send Hunter S. Thompson into fits of existential mayhem.

But Sanders is lost in everything else. The movie only has a pulse when Theron is on screen, and when she's not, the thing is barely worth watching. Sanders does nothing to imbue the film with any sort of humanity. When a a character dies, it's meant to be heartbreaking. It wasn't. It was actually pretty funny.

You know, that's how it was with all the heavy hitting "dramatic" moments in this thing. They are meant to be moving and touching, but I was just laughing my ass off! Now, I can't be sure, but I don't think that was the desired effect.

Snow White and the Huntsman is a squandered opportunity. I highly doubt it is the worst interpretation of this tale to come out this year. There's no way it could be worse than the god-awful looking Mirror Mirror, but as it stands, there are good things in Snow White and the Huntsman, but not enough is done to capitalize or take advantage of those good things. Instead the film gets trapped in the same pit that all others of its ilk do. It's a wasted opportunity, and one that will soon be forgotten. And believe me, you'll be thankful when it is.

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