Thursday, April 11, 2013

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

2 Nominations, 0 Wins

Nomination: Best Costume Design - Colleen Atwood
Nomination: Best Visual Effects - Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Phil Brennan, Neil Corbould, and Michael Dawson

The only thing more overexposed these days than brightly colored skinny jeans is the fairy tale.  For whatever reason, Hollywood has collectively decided that what the world needs is an endless procession of modern adaptations of fairy tales: Jack the Giant Slayer, Mirror Mirror, Red Riding Hood, as well as TV shows Grimm and Once Upon a Time.  One or two have connected with audiences - I remain tenuously interested in Once Upon a Time - but for the large part viewers have collectively yawned.  Snow White has been of particular interest to this wave of filmmakers, with Snow White and the Huntsman one of several attempts to tell the tale of Snow White and her Prince Charming in a way that would appeal to modern sensibilities.

Chris Hemsworth protecting Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth
Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures
Snow White and the Huntsman tells a modified, and often confused, version of the classic Snow White story.  Snow's father remarries the wicked stepmother (Charlize Theron), who kills the king and banishes Snow to prison.  After reaching adulthood and posing a threat to the queen's beauty, the stepmother tries to have Snow killed, but when Snow escapes the prison, a huntsman is hired to capture Snow.  The huntsman quickly and without much conflict joins Snow in her quest to find the exiles from what was once her kingdom, as they plan to reclaim the kingdom.

The film has enough twists from the classic story to make the story at least somewhat unpredictable, and Theron is solid if unspectacular as the wicked queen.  The highlight of the film is the casting of the seven dwarfs, a group of some of the finest of Britain's character actors: Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, and Toby Jones leading the pack.  

The film's pair of nominations were for the costume design and visual effects.  Neither was anywhere close to my favorite of the year in their respective categories, but I can't argue with their nominations.  

Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna in Snow White and the Huntsman
Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman
Photo Courtesy of Universal Pictures
The film suffers from two major problems.  The first is the most easily addressed: casting.  Chris Hemsworth isn't terrible as the Huntsman, but neither does he bring anything interesting to the film.  When I saw him in Thor, I thought his monotonous, booming delivery of lines was chosen because of the godly nature of his character.  However, this voice also inhabits his Huntsman, and it appears to be the only way he is capable of speaking in character.  Far worse, however, is Kristen Stewart as Snow White.  A film about Snow White succeeds or fails largely due to the casting of the fairest princess, and though Stewart certainly looks the part, she brings no charm, sweetness, ferocity, mirth, or any characteristic that would make her Snow White even mildly interesting.  This lacking is made all the more evident by the fact that every week I see Ginnifer Goodwin do all of this and more in her performance as Snow on Once Upon a Time.  I find it hard to believe that anyone would feel compelled to offer their loyalty and life to such a dud of a personality.

The larger problem I had was with the concept of the film itself.  The idea of an adult version of a fairy tale isn't a bad one, but this film has been stripped of any sense of fun or joy.  Despite the changes made to the story, the tale of Snow White is one for children, and thus it doesn't have enough depth when told for an adult audience.  Perhaps the film could have benefited if it allowed more room for humor; had Charlize Theron been allowed to really run wild as the wicked stepmother (something similar to her character in Young Adult could have been a good starting point) instead of playing it entirely straight would have surely made the film more fun, and the presence of actors like Hoskins, Winstone, and Frost would have been even more enjoyable.  I understand the intent was to make an adult drama out of a fairy tale, but as the old saying goes, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Remaining: 3153 films, 872 Oscars, 5413 nominations

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