(Published in The Sunday Guardian on June 4, 2012, retrieved from http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/mediocrity-that-appeals)
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin
Director: Rupert Sanders
Rating: 3 stars
I suppose how much you enjoy a film depends on how little you expect from it. And after the traumatic Mirror Mirror, I can never walk into a re-reading of Snow White free of despondent resignation.
I’m okay with dark interpretations of The Red Riding Hood (the wolf was a paedophile!) and Hansel and Gretel (the witch was an anti-Semite!), but Snow White is simply about this henpecked king, racist first wife, gorgeous-and-cruel second wife, pathetic daughter, gullible prince, and temperamental dwarves. For some reason, though, Hollywood can’t get enough of this story.
If Mirror Mirror had Julia Roberts coming to terms with her age, this one’s got Charlize Theron doing the same. Only, the mirror here is slightly more interesting than Roberts’ snarky one, and Theron’s queen is a little more creepy – she opts for the blood of virgins over mysterious magic potions, to retain her youth.
Thing is, this film looks beautiful – from magic mushrooms (hey, I’m being serious!) to magnificent antelopes, from barren dark forests to enchanted fairylands, the settings make you want to dive into the screen. But the performances are so underwhelming, and the interludes so long, that you balk at the idea of dozing from boredom and waking up to these uninspiring characters and computer-generated beasts.
Story? Evil queen engages Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to find escaped stepdaughter (Kristen Stewart), who’s helped by childhood sweetheart Prince William (Sam Claflin). Hollywood’s new mantra seems to be, when there’s a love triangle, bung Kristen Stewart in. Nevermind that someone who looks like she’s attending her own funeral – she’s done that in those shimmering-vampire films, no? – doesn’t make for a fiery stepdaughter out for blood (no pun intended).
To its credit, the film doesn’t waste any more time on mush than it must. But it draws out that final battle till you want to scream, “Weknow the end! Now, get there already!” See, I wouldn’t have minded watching Johnny Depp, Viggo Mortensen or Hugh Jackman – who were all offered the Huntsman’s role – slug it out on the warfront, but Hemsworth doesn’t do it for me.
Then there’s the bizarreness of seeing the likes of Ray Winstone and Toby Jones play dwarves. Why not throw in Benedict Cumberbatch and make a day of it, huh?
I think this film set out to make some feminist statement, but that gets messy, since Snow White picks up all her combat skills from men (and little men). So, at one point, you’re thinking, “Huh? Who died and made you leader?”
The Verdict: If you can set logic aside, you should watch this film for the aesthetic appeal of its cinematography.