Sunday, June 10, 2012

Snow White and The Huntsman (2012)

Can one single aspect of a film ruin the entire experience? Is it possible to have one thing, one element of a movie be so bad, so truly retched, and so foul that nothing you can think of can justify its disregard?

I mean, Jar Jar Binks was bad, but can you in all honesty tell me that "Star Wars: Episode I" would have been any better without his inclusion? Well, the answer is "yes," but that doesn't mean that by excluding him, the movie would have suddenly become good as opposed to horrifying me to the very core of my soul. Would "Highlander 2" really have been saved after they took out "Zeist?" The Renegade Cut of the film showed us, "Of course not, you dolt." And Skids and Mudflap weren't in "Transformers 3," and that movie still sucked like a puncture wound to the lung. So it would seem that there's usually a bit more to it than just one thing.

But what insanity could possibly afflict a piece of cinema so completely, so fully, and in such an all-encompassing fashion as to be without hope?

 Oh. Oh god.

You know, I don't even know if I should even start with this. The fact that Kristen Stewart is a bad actress is fairly well done to death, and there's little that can be added to the argument. She's like moldy bread in that aspect. Everyone is pretty much in agreement that it sucks, and is something that should be promptly thrown away. However, there is a inexplicably large fan base of moldy bread enthusiasts who say that it's delicious and totally awesome and underrated.

I don't know why these people like moldy bread, but I have two theories that I'm working on. The first is that they were told by the writers of their favorite baked goods style fiction that moldy bread is totally awesome, and since they are such big fans of baked goods style fiction, they eat up whatever is given to them and say "yum." The second theory I have is that they are stupid.

However, there is a third possibility that there is some kind of benefit to moldy bread I have not discovered yet. I have a plan to test this theory, however. I think we should lock Kristen Stewart in a warm, moist cabinet somewhere until her desiccated remains produce penicillin.

This. This expression is the one she wears every. single. frame. of this film.

Upon seeing the trailer, "Snow White & The Huntsman" looked interesting to me at first. Although I'm a little tired of everything getting a "gritty" makeover lately, it seemed like a cool take on the classic fairy tale. And then Kristen Stewart's vacant, baggy-eyed, blank slate of a face showed up on screen to make me groan and instantly fear seeing it. But, the rest of the cast was made up of some pretty intense talent, so I figured that it was worth giving a shot.

What I ended up getting was an interesting conundrum that was pretty much exactly was I figured was going to happen. The movie was actually pretty good. In fact, everything about it was enjoyable, so much so that I would call it kind of awesome...

That is, everything except the main character.

This is the most egregious example I've seen of a movie with a lead character so wretched that they nearly bring the whole production down around them like a ruptured dam. Kristen Stewart gives a performance so wooden, so lifeless, and so uninterested that it becomes almost unwatchable any time she is on screen. She is a thumbtack in the tasty soup that is "Snow White & The Huntsman." She is the rat poison topping on the films otherwise delectable pizza. She is really is the worst actress in recent memory that I can think of, at least in mainstream Hollywood.

She just threw up in her mouth. She'll use that to convey emotion. She's not sure which one though, so she'll use it to convey ALL OF THEM.

But it wasn't only Stewart's terrible performance that I took issue with. My big issue was the character of Snow White herself, whom I will get to later.

"Snow White & The Huntsman" follows the classic story in a very loose fashion. Many of the basic ideas are still there, with an evil queen taking over the kingdom, and the princess Snow White is the only person who can stop her (more on THAT later). She escapes into exile and is helped by the 7 dwarfs, who join her in her fight to overthrow the queen. The Huntsman is a guy sent by the Queen to bring Snow White to her, but of course he betrays the Queen instantly because he can tell she's probably not the most scrupulous of people. Being an evil overlord of a country tends to lower the chances that people will trust you, after all.

The Queen is played by Charlize Theron, and my goodness, she is amazing. True, she acts hammier than a pig wrapped in bacon performing a Nicolas Cage monologue from "Deadfall," but there is something so intensely scary about her in this movie that she is probably the thing that people are going to remember most about it. One scene in particular that will serve for me as the quintessential moment for her character is the prerequisite monologue she gives during the final confrontation. As she is reviling in her own wickedness, she walks through a fire which begins burning her flesh, only to have it heal as she steps out again, like she's freaking Wolverine or something. It's an awesome effect in a movie with a lot of really good effects.

And mixed with the very well done backstory for the Queen, I had more emotional connection with her than I did for the blank slate that was Snow White.

Speaking of scary, Ian McShane, who is one of my favorite actors is also in "Snow White & The Huntsman," playing one of the dwarfs. I suppose he would be "Doc," although none of them have their old names. I honestly couldn't tell what any of their names were, however, since all of them were speaking in nearly undecipherable Scottish accents. There is a huge amount of talent among them, though. Aside from Ian McShane, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, and the great Bob Hoskins, another one of my favorites, Nick Frost make up the cast of the dwarfs.

The effects used to make the dwarfs seem smaller also deserves mentioning as it was well done. I don't know if they used actually small people as stand ins or used CG to put the actor's faces over top of them, but it was all quite convincing. I was on the fence about the 7 dwarfs when I heard they were in this, but they ended up being the most enjoyable part of them film aside from Charlize Theron.

That is, until they gave Nick Frost and Ray Winstone a poop joke. Because that's dignified, especially during the climatic final battle scene. Nice timing there, movie.

Chris Hemsworth is also pretty sweet as the Huntsman, doing his best to channel his inner Colin Farrell. So overall the main cast is all quite good, of course with the exception of Stewart, and one other guy who deserves mentioning: Sam Spruell as Finn, the Queen's brother. Now, it's not that Spruell is necessarily bad, so to speak, it's just that...well, there's really no gentle way to say this so I guess I'm just going to have to come out and say it. He looks like Gary Busey dressed up as the Berries 'n Cream Lad.

Seriously, this is distracting.

With the cast being as overall strong as it is, the effects being quite well done, and the story being interesting and generally exciting, "Snow White & The Huntsman" is a pretty fun time, and it's really worth seeing just to see how much the movie does right. But that being said, now is the time I once again talk about the main character, and for once, I'm not going to talk about Kristen Stewart. This is talking about Snow White, and why I couldn't stand her as a character.

The problem with Snow White is that she is only exceptional because the story says she is exceptional. In this story, she is The Chosen One. She is the Kwisatz Haderach. She is Neo. She is any kind of messiah character you want to name. But the thing is, there is nothing exceptional about her besides that fact. And it's quite telling in the fact that she doesn't do one single solitary thing that any normal person couldn't have done (with one rather meaningless exception).

Most of the movie is simply Snow White being dragged around like a cardboard cutout or any kind of trophy you can name, while people struggle and fight and die around her, just so that she can make it. Her ascent to power is done on the backs of other people, without her doing much of anything besides showing up and going along for the ride.

And it's not like the movie didn't give them opportunity. I mentioned earlier the pointless scene were she does something special. It involves her going all Crocodile Dundee on a troll, because for some reason, possibly because it was in the Disney version, she has this spooky connection with animals. Now, do they actually do anything useful with that? Well, for that scene, yes, because she saves Chris Hemsworth's life, but at no point does that come back later. Why couldn't she have called on her animal friends to help in the final battle? A troll would have been a nice addition to their forces. But they don't do anything with the animals, which essentially makes that whole animal thing pointless.

 Hey, maybe you could use one of these things to fight for you. Just saying...

A perfect example of what I'm talking about is a scene early in the movie where a common peasant is captured and brought before the Queen. He manages to stab her in the stomach with a dagger, which she pulls out with no blood spilling from her wound. She is unharmed. Now spoiler alert here, but guess how Snow White kills the Queen? Take a guess.

She stabs her in the stomach with a dagger. Only this time, it works and she dies, simply because of the fact that it was Snow White that did it. This literally is the most significant thing that Snow White does in the entirety of the film, and some muddy backwoods hick did it an hour and a half earlier in the film. Only I guess he wasn't good enough for the movie.

This whole fatalistic view of the characters really rubs me the wrong way. It's so boring, and it's such a cop-out unless there is a character produced that is worthy of that predetermined destiny of "savior." It would be one thing if you told me that John McClane was destined to defeat Hans Gruber at Nakatomi Tower. It would be one thing if you told me that Conan was blessed by Crom to avenge himself against Tulsa Doom. Paul Atreides, Luke Skywalker, and even Harry Potter had a prophecy attached to them. And they all DID SOMETHING TO FULFILL IT.

Snow White just goes along for the ride and takes what everyone else says she should have. Just because the movie says she deserves it. What a crock of exceptionalist crap.


THE BOTTOM LINE - "Snow White & The Huntsman" is not a bad movie, despite my complains about protagonists being worthy of the title of "main character." There is a lot in here to enjoy, and what it does well, it does very well. But be warned, if you can't stand Kristen Stewart, and recognize her for the blight on acting that she is, this will do nothing to change your mind about her. She nearly ruins the entire film. Nearly. It just goes to show how good the rest of it is when it manages to save itself from her awfulness. Recommended.


  1. Love this review. First off, I agree with you, Ms. Queen scares the living crap out of me just in the picture you posted. Really glad to hear of the supporting cast in the dwarves... and as a woman... well... Chris Hemsworth.

    Aside from that, I have to bring up a point. If you ever read the tale of Snow White, she doesn't have much of anything in there either. The only thing that is even hinted at is that she is born with flawless pale white skin (which Stewart is lacking) that makes her incredibly beautiful (once again, Stewart? Are you frickin kidding me?!) to the point that people instantly love her, and that she is just like every other fairytale princess in that she is super kind and because of this, it also leads into people (and animals) loving her. I find it hard to believe that Ms. Stewart could even remotely portray that and this is why I was concerned about this movie. I can't think of a single actress in Hollywood that could accomplish such a character without taking my childhood outback and bending it over. I mean seriously, just to get the face of such a character right would be hard, let alone to portray that level of innocence and good in an industry that is riddled with more blow than a brothel at sundown isn't easy or probably even possible.

    Couple all of that with the fact that even when faced with adversity, where does such a good creature, such as Snow White, develop the sudden sense to STAB SOMEBODY?!!! I mean seriously, who the hell wrote this? Did you purely go off the Disney version and try to just roll it in some dirt for effect? It certainly comes off as that, because the story that I know and loved as a child looks at this, gives it the finger, and walks out the door.

    Keep up the reviews man. Can't wait for the next one.

  2. Pure awesomeness. I love it. It sums it up beautifully. I honestly can not think of anything else to add.
    And you are right. If it werent for the other exceptional actors and the fact that KS says a lot less then she does in those damn twilight movies, this movie would have been doomed.