Monday, June 4, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

     Somewhere, there are people who would just assume end all association with me forever because I made the effort to see Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) but I could not be bothered to go see The Avengers (2012).  I'm not sure why having more interest in fantasy – faerie tale or not – than superhero stories is somehow a disqualifier for contemporary American manhood.  For the record, I'm a little surprised that I haven't seen The Avengers, but now that I have to choose between seeing it in 3D at matinee prices or paying full freight for a 2D ticket I'm not sure I will see it before it jumps to the home market.  I'm sure that I'll be entertained by it whenever I see it, but I have taken to watching how much I'm willing to spend just to see a movie sooner rather than later.
     Anyway, I didn't know what to expect from Snow White and the Huntsman.  I've seen quite a few awful movies of late – I imagine at least two of them will be discussed here this week – and figured there was a chance that this re-imagining of the fairytale would do everything in its power to hit the wrong notes (at least for me).  And as I was sitting next to a small child (I would guess that he was nine or ten), I had an idea that I was decidedly not the target audience.  Well, the trailer for the Katy Perry movie let me know that straight out.  But I had paid my $4.50, so I was in for the duration.
     Though it started slowly, intermixing laborious narration with character development, Snow White and the Huntsman started moving right along once they managed to get the titular princess out of the castle.  From that point on it is more of a small scale travelogue, with a hallucination-inducing forest, a fishing village, and an enchanted glen on the way to the necessary rallying of the troops.  The effects are better than I expected, hampered only by director Rupert Sanders aversion to focus (or deep focus in scenes that practically call out for it).
     I am positive that there will be legions who savage Kristen Stewart for her performance here, but I found that she showed some restraint in a film where most everyone was overacting at the audience.  Sure, that is quite fitting for a fairy tale, but I want my hero and/or heroine to be something more than a caricature of an archetype.  Sanders could have helped Stewart out by giving her better direction on how to interact with the not-there-yet CGI creatures (Stewart's eyes darted back and forth, a cross between showing that she is engaged in the scene and that she doesn't know where to look).  Sam Spruell, playing the evil Queen's brother/lackey, could have used a character who didn't slowly build into being a force to be reckoned with because it makes most of his early scenes contradictory to his ultimate character.
     What I liked the most was how the movie evoked the feel of a 1st Edition AD&D adventure.  That is in part due to the fact the the two badasses on the side of good are in the Ranger-mold (William uses a bow in melee combat, I'm calling that more AD&D Ranger than Fighter).  As every LoTR fan knows, Rangers are the guys who kick evil's ass; the other character accomplishes the main goal only because it would make the rest of us feel inadequate forever if the Ranger does that, too.  No, the good forest and creatures had such a classic feel that it dragged me right back to how I felt with AD&D leading me into fantasy stories and artwork.
     Having said that, I have a feeling that this isn't going to rank as one of the new classic films.  Because it moves along so quickly (once it gets going), the story does not seem as epic as it could have been.  There was also a missed chance in making more out of Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and her complicated backstory.  It was nice to have the story couched in the dangers of a world where men can – and do – take what they want from women and dispose of them when the interest fades, but I think it didn't dig deep enough into that metaphor.  Maybe that was to avoid upsetting the littler ones seeing it.  Maybe it was because if it came off as man-hating, the audience would quickly shrink.
     Whatever.  I would have preferred bolder, but I liked it.  I think that if one can accept that Stewart is not acting as the same intensity (or at the audience), there won't be any problems with her performance.  It certainly is a more interesting take on the tale than the one Disney did, and it almost looks as good.  I say give it chance...probably at home.

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