Considering how much was done right in this film, the few things that were mishandled, poorly written, or ill-executed really hurt my ability to recommend “Snow White & the Huntsman.” At times, one could argue that more could have been accomplished if they dropped the “Snow White” angle in the title and really went out there to create something new and special in the “Good-vs.-Evil-Kings-and-Princesses” genre”, especially considering how much artistic license was already taken to change many things. Despite these liberties, certain elements of the original Snow White tale were forced into this film to the overall detriment of the viewing experience, like pushing a square block through a circular hole.
To begin, this movie had quantitatively more strengths than weakness. The setting, dialogue, acting, costuming, sound design, set design, beautiful on location filming, and make-up were all top notch. Just looking at any freeze frame of this film, one instantly notices the money they had to throw around. There are a lot of good things to be said about this film, and its ability to create a mood was obvious. The action sequences were relatively clean; and the general style of the film — taking big chances in this regard — panned out nicely due to the exquisite team of producers and post-production special effects people making the world feel real. Truly great fantasy stuff here. Pretty stuff.
Now, after all of that praise, how could a few negatives bring down the ability to recommend the film?
Well, the few bones I have to pick with this film, while not many, are massive qualitatively, including some obvious, flagrant omissions; these issues cannot be defended or expalined and fall directly in the writers and director’s realm of blame.
The first 20 minutes of this film are rocky. Too much time is spent with the Queen’s back story and the escape of Snow White felt rushed. All the while we are being forced voice-over narration from the Huntsman? Why the voice-over is the Huntsman seemed very arbitrary. Why not any character? Why not Snow White? The narrator and whose character in the film it is matters, and here, it felt tacked on. Also in the first act or so, none of the characters, none, are easily relatable or easy to empathize with. It’s not until the Huntsman is introduced (around 30-mins) in the beginning of the second act that this film was saved. Thank you, Chris Hemsworth for playing the role so well. What little dimensionality there were to any characters, you brought it.
The direction with Charlize Theron didn’t work for me, at least not in the first half. In the first act, as she was often being directed to scream and flail at a “10”, where for the remainder of the movie she was at a 7 or 8 in intensity. Never pop that cherry of villain-rage so early. Basic Movie laws. BUILD it.
The second act moved along well enough, and the casting of all the dwarves worked well. It could have blown up in their tiny little faces, and I applauded, once again, the special affects work here. Most of these “dwarves” were played by 5 or 6 foot-tall Hollywood A-listers and B-listers. Cleverly done, a la “Lord of the Rings” perhaps with scale models, stand-ins, and brilliantly smooth “After Affects.” They really look like dwarves, not like pasted faces on tiny bodies.
The next issue was the inclusion of the apple from the old fairy tale. I think this should have been omitted from the film. The way in which the poison apple is used here seems inconsequential since it occurs at the ¾ mark rather than the ½ way mark, and then, within 10 minutes or so of screen time, she is kissed by the Huntsman and is back. Poof. Just like that. There needed to be 20 minutes at least where Snow White’s childhood friend and the Huntsman discuss their equal love for Snow White, try a few things to get her to wake, travel to the Keep where they promised they would take her, etc. It all happened to quick. In a time where many characters could have received some due development, they flushed the opportunity. As if not having Snow White in the film for more than ten minutes would have audience members walking out. Please.
The biggest sin was that when she did wake up, after the kiss, the Huntsman had already left the room, and this kiss IS NEVER DISCUSSED. Snow White just wakes up, she doesn’t know why, the Huntsman doesn’t know he was responsible, and they never discuss it. Ever.
If the director and the writer were going to go through the painful lengths of including the dwarves and the poison apple and the “mirror, mirror on the wall,” they needed to keep the love story and find its closure. It is such a simple inclusion that they pissed away, focusing all on style and mood and sights and sounds. This movie is a sights and sound movie. Not a tale which can find its value in the merits of its storytelling.
By this point I was going to give the film a 7. But then the ending happened. Oh, my.
Who do you think she got with? Answer: Neither. That’s right.
In the final moments of the film, when Snow White is supposed to bring the land out of its cold rapture and into a Spring for the animals, the plants, and mankind, there is decidedly NOT a montage of any kind showing the lands and the hills and the forests blossoming into their former glory. What? Did they run out of cash? Futhermore, at Snow White’s coronation and crowning in the final minute of the film, she JUST TRADES GLANCES WITH HER CHILDHOOD FRIEND AND THE HUNTSMAN.
The doors closed, the music crescendoed… roll credits. No epilogue. Something that could have given us all emotional closure in 90-seconds of fottage was not necessary apparently.
Can you see why I’m mad? In Snow-Freaking-White, part of it is the Prince Charming bit. She needs that love and the audience needs that closure. No satisfaction is to be found in the end of this film regarding who she picks and if she will ever really have love. Did they not want to choose team Jacob or Team Edward? Get the eff outta here. What a strike out.
They should have either changed everything in this Snow White tale and called it something else, or made the intelligent decision to play their cards closer to the chest and pull out a more traditional Snow White tale, still one with the style and mood and special effects all there. It was a real waste of money considering this will be soon forgotten and very few people’s “Favorite Snow White Variation.”
Really Let-down. Had a lot of faith. Really wanted to like this and give it a 7, but those last 30 seconds are unforgivable.