Snow White and The Huntsman- A Bullet Point List of All of the Ways This Film Went Wrong
As I vainly attempted to keep myself still in my seat during Rupert Sanders’ interminable Snow White and The Huntsman, I imagined the collapse of a major movie studio. Universal was interested in a first-time director’s joyless and dark fairy tale with a wooden leading lady and zero character development– so interested, they spent 172 million dollars on the production alone. These are the same people that spent over 200 million dollars on Battleship, released a mere month prior. While Snow White & The Huntsman has a few more ideas than Battleship, it’s nothing but ideas: all ambition and imagery, no emotional investment or fun. It’s the quintessential contemporary Hollywood summer film, in some respects, proud to do away entirely with human emotion and instead bombards you with special effects in hopes that you don’t mind. I wrote down everything I hated about the film. Here it is, in bullet point format:
– the concept fancies itself a bold new take on the classic fairy tale. However, it bends itself out of position awkwardly in order to fit the key points of the fairy tale, so how bold can it possibly be? The mirror serves no purpose outside of showing a bad golden T-1000 effect and allowing Charlize Theron to wildly ham the classic line multiple times (more on Theron later). The apple is forced in even more horribly– we see her offered an apple as a young child while playing outside one day during a montage, and then ninety minutes later, Kristen Stewart says to the original offerer, “Hey, remember this?” and bites into an apple. That is the level of ingenuity in terms of structure and dialogue we are working with here.
– Chris Hemsworth has legitimate movie star quality– he is gorgeous to look at and charismatic with every line and glance. To say that Hemsworth is given nothing to do would be the understatement of the year. He is introduced in a drunken fight, which shows us he’s tough, and he constantly references his dead wife, which shows us he’s sad. The film does not show us a romance with Show White at all, which leads you to wonder why the huntsman is a titular character. The film also makes the mistake of giving him a big axe and a bunch of small hatchets, which would lead you to believe the film is action-packed, and we are going to see scores of awesome sequences in which Hemsworth uses his considerable physical gifts and cool weapons to chop up dozens of bad guys. You’d be wrong. He is in perhaps two action scenes, three at the most.
– Rupert Sanders doesn’t seem interested in action. Of the perhaps six action sequences in a summer film over two hours long, they are shot and cut as dully as possible, resembling someone idolizing the work of Ridley Scott… not Blade Runner and Alien Ridley Scott, but Robin Hood Ridley Scott. The storming of the castle is the only set piece with an impressive build– huge walls, flaming arrows, tar, and a countless number of soldiers stand in their way– but not only is it defeated far too quickly, but it comes at least ninety minutes after the viewer has lost interest.
– He also doesn’t seem interested in fun. The visuals are for the most part dark and murky. The fight scenes are few and far between. There are only two actual “jokes” in the film. While the special effects are often impressive to behold, we’re watching bland characters with nothing we care about at stake encounter dark and murky special effects that normally don’t lead to any sort of action. Thus… what’s the point of spending all of that money on them? Speaking of money…
– … WHY WOULD YOU NOT HIRE REAL LITTLE PEOPLE? Look, I realize that Ian McShane, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, and Eddie Marsan are four of the most badass and interesting actors working today. When I saw their faces on screen, I lit up: finally, something interesting is about to happen! Instead, they get very few lines overall, the characters are undeveloped, and you wonder why they bothered spending the money to get these personalities in the first place. This seems especially mind-boggling when it appears that they used the Benjamin Button/Social Network face transplant technology, which must have cost them many many million dollars to use, even though scenes of the actors as credible dwarves are intercut with scenes in which they’re obviously just sitting down a little lower than Hemsworth or Stewart. There are plenty of talented little people working today, who have very few job opportunities, and who (no offense, little people actors) likely come at a far lesser cost than hiring name actors and spending exorbitant cash shrinking them down.
– Perhaps they did offer the jobs to little people, but then when they saw the haircuts they’d have to sport, they deemed it undignified and turned it down, forcing them to overpay Ray Winstone and Eddie Marsan to wear some of the most ridiculous haircuts I’ve ever seen in film. Marsan looks saddened the entire time by his Charlie Brown curl and painted-on eyebrows.
– No one looks sadder than Bob Hoskins, who has to play the stereotypical blind prophet, given no lines of dialogue to say other than things like “She is the one who will bring prosperity to the land!” and other such inane proclamation. While it’s good that someone is telling us why Kristen Stewart is so special since we’re not seeing it on the screen in any way, it sucks that an actor as awesome as Bob Hoskins is being paid to literally stare straight forward at all times and monotonously announce what is happening to the audience.
– Despite the fact that Ray Winstone and Eddie Marsan have utterly atrocious haircuts, no one has hair worse than the Wicked Witch’s brother. This was the first aspect of the film that I hated, and I grew angrier every time he appeared on the screen. He has some sort of medieval blonde court jester’s wig shaped, as one of my Twitter followers pointed out, exactly like the tip of a penis. It doesn’t help that this seemingly badass second-in-command is notably older than everyone else and is given nothing to do except to scream in anger when his plans don’t work out, but now he has to achieve the literally IMPOSSIBLE task of attempting to be a badass while wearing the worst wig in perhaps the history of cinema. I wouldn’t get angry at this normally, and at first I merely giggled at every attempt to be evil this old nerd was making– but then I thought harder about it. This film cost $175 million. At no point during the entire pre-production or production process for this big-budget motion picture did someone step up and say, “Hey, this wig really sucks and undercuts the character in a massive way.” Or, perhaps even worse to imagine, someone *did* step up and question the wig, and then another person in a position of power passionately defended the wig! How is this humanly possible? During the fight between this guy and Chris Hemsworth, I’m supposed to believe this absolute poindexter is beating the hell out of Thor. Could I have believed this if he had, say, a buzz cut? It might have still made me raise an eyebrow due to his age and lesser muscle development, but it would’ve been far easier to swallow than this phallically-wiggged dork.
– There isn’t a single attempt at humor outside of the wigs for the first hour and forty-five minutes of the film. Then, during the climax of the film, the dwarves are having to wade through a sewer, and Nick Frost makes a crack about being in poo. To make matters even stranger/more depressing, Ray Winstone follows that joke with a coment about how he just saw one of his poos floating past him. How are you going to go the entire film without any jokes and then have two crap jokes (literally and figuratively) back to back?
– Snow White has a childhood friend whom she is separated from at the beginning of the film. We catch up with him when he has grown into a very handsome Brit played by Sam Claflin with considerable charm. He is an expert archer and he has spent his entire life regretting not trying harder to rescue Snow White. He is also the most pointless character of 2012. He doesn’t help any plot points move forward and he doesn’t have a love story with Snow White, yet he sucks up an inordinate amount of screen time. He seems to exist for one thing only: to kiss Snow White when she’s been poisoned and have it NOT work. That way, there’s a five minute period of time where anyone unfamiliar with Snow White or stories in general might be in suspense as to whether she’s really dead. Chris Hemsworth’s kiss wakes her up… but they’re not in love either. Why have this character around at all? Why not cut him and take your film’s runtime down to an hour forty-five? He’s a cool actor and I’d love to see him as the charming cool Brit in anything else, but I struggle to understand why no one from script to screen didn’t recognize how useless his character is.
– Charlize Theron gave me some serious hope for this film. Her intensely hammy performance was a great deal of fun for the first twenty minutes or so– she’s a terrifically talented actress, and watching her chew scenery so viciously and bulge her eyes out in fury has its pleasures. However, the film gives her nothing new to do as the movie progresses, so unlike good hammy villain performances which evolve and spiral into further chapters of madness, the script mandates that Theron merely yell “GIVE ME HER HEEEEEEART!” over and over again for the two hour period, which, combined with the joylessness of the other scenes, isn’t nearly as fun as it may sound.
– Finally, we reach Kristen Stewart. You can’t blame Stewart for what a mess this film is– you really can’t. It’s tempting to blame her, because the chief problem in the story is the complete lack of interest her character generates in the audience. It’s tempting to say a more charming actress, albeit one with a lesser box office draw, could have come in and “saved” (relative term) this film. Sadly, I’m not sure this is the case, because Snow White, as she exists on the screen in this film, has maybe fifteen to twenty lines and smiles maybe once in the entire film. If your character isn’t speaking and isn’t emoting, it is exceedingly difficult to care. I have seen Stewart give a strong performance (see Adventureland if you haven’t), and I do not believe she is only capable of wooden and lifeless performances such as this one. However, one has to wonder if they filmed her with more dialogue, saw it wasn’t working out since the lines that are in the film are charmless and unconvincing, and decided to make her more of an introspective hero a la Drive (Drive’s writer, Hossein Amini, was a contributor to this script). One has to believe Snow White spoke more at some point during this script’s existence– there are multiple scenes in which a character says something to Snow White and they cut to her simply staring back with no clear emotion registered. When Chris Hemsworth tells her she looks fetching, her response back is totally blank. Where was the editor that needed to step up and say, “Can we use a take in which she responds in some way?” Where were the people that needed to take a stand and reveal what everyone must have been thinking?
There are some good visuals in the film– one would hope with this budget– and it’s not a film completely without imagination. However, so many decisions were made that undercut the positive attributes the film possesses that it never had much of a chance at being anything other than dreadfully boring and dreary. It’s the perfect summer blockbuster for people who enjoy not having fun. It opened to over 55 million dollars this weekend, so thank you to American audiences for proving once again that when it comes to what gets you to purchase a movie ticket, character and story are completely optional.