My husband and went to see Snow White and the Huntsman last night for our anniversary, which has been one of my husband’s most anticipated films this year, ever since he saw the extended trailer (which is at the bottom of this post, for your viewing pleasure). And although it has been receiving mixed reviews from critics and fans, for us, it delivered. (This review will contain minor spoilers, but only if you are also completely unfamiliar with the original Snow White tale).
What We Expected
I think a large portion of how much you enjoy a film depends on what you expected going in. For example, my brother and his wife saw Pan’s Labyrinth in Italy after just seeing the poster. They hadn’t seen any trailers and couldn’t read the poster, since it was in Italian, so they just went off the image. My sister-in-law was in the mood for a nice, sweet fairy tale for children.
If you have seen Pan’s Labyrinth, you know that while it could be considered a fairy tale, it is definitely not sweet and is most certainly not for children. So they were disappointed upon their first viewing experience. Now, after subsequent viewings, they would consider it a good film, but the first time was a let-down because of inaccurate expectations.
So here’s what we expected from Snow White and the Huntsman.
- Stunning visuals.
- A grittier and tougher interpretation of the fairy tale of Snow White.
- Great action.
- A scary villain.
- A sympathetic look at the Huntsman
- Maybe a touch of romance
- Not too much from KStew.
- To be entertained.
What We Did NOT Expect
- Oscar-caliber writing or acting
- An incredibly moving cinematic experience
- A journey of self-discovery
- Deep questions that made us question the nature of our existence
- Blown minds
- Deeply thoughtful and nuanced storytelling that explains everything
- Lord of the Rings
What We Got
CHECK. Seriously, this movie is gorgeous. Although if it bothers you that everyone except KStew is perpetually covered in filth, then prepare to be bothered. As we came out, G asked, “How is it possible that this movie was so pretty while everyone was so dirty?” And I don’t know. But it was.
Visual Effects and Art Direction are the two categories where I think this film could win an Oscar.
The only (extremely minor) visual complaint I have is that the CGI department could make extremely “realistic” looking fairies and trolls, but they couldn’t do a rabbit. The bunnies looked like they were animatronics at Disney World. What’s up with that?
A Grittier and Tougher Interpretation of the Fairy Tale of Snow White
CHECK. It definitely delivered on the grit (see above, re: dirt). And Snow White wields a sword (badly) and armor (awkwardly). Much cooler are the Huntsman (who is never given a name) and the Prince (William – although in this, he’s actually a Duke’s son, not a prince) as far as the grit and toughness are concerned. No character in this film is above getting their hands dirty, and no character is completely one dimensional.
As far as the expanded backstory goes, the tale of how the Evil Queen (Ravenna) came to be Snow White’s stepmother and assume the throne is unique and interesting. There are some questions left unanswered (for example, the queen muses at one point that she should have killed Snow White as a child, but then never explains why she didn’t). If I wanted to poke holes in the plot, I could.
But I didn’t really care. The main points of the story were all there, some of the details were filled in, and if I used my imagination, I could fill in the rest.
CHECK. The Huntsman and William both have some great fighting scenes. And while The Hemsworth — I mean Huntsman — is pretty awesome with his axe, I have always been a bit of a sucker for some great bow-and-arrow action, whether it’s Legolas in Lord of the Rings or Hawkeye in The Avengers or, in this case, William in Snow White and the Huntsman.
The downside of the action are the brief moments when Snow White has to fight, because she is supposed to have no idea what she’s doing, and therefore looks like she has no idea what she’s doing. So basically it serves the plot that her fighting is awkward, but not the part of me that wants all action scenes to be EPIC.
Also, now would be the time to point out that Kristin Stewart looks really weird attempting to ride a horse. I found it amusing that you could tell when her double was being used in long shots, because she wasn’t bouncing around like crazy on the horse.
A Scary Villain
CHECK. But not who you would expect. While Charlize Theron was definitely scary, she was also kind of caricatured, what with all the screaming she did (SPOILER: She screams a lot). But the villain that was über-creepy was Sam Spruell as her brother, Finn. Man. If I think too hard about him, I may have nightmares.
As a downside, the film attempted to give Ravenna and Finn some backstory, and it just didn’t work for me. They explained a tiny part of how they came to be their current creepy selves (and why Ravenna is so obsessed with being “fairest of them all”), but the limited explanation only made me ask a whole bunch of other questions that were not answered. I almost wish they had left the whole backstory a mystery.
A Sympathetic Look at the Huntsman
CHECK. Chris Hemsworth was roguishly endearing as a drunken town brawler mourning the loss of his wife. It was easy to understand why he made a deal with Ravenna, and then why he changed his mind. And I was definitely rooting for him as he slowly discovered a cause worth fighting for.
Maybe a Touch of Romance
It was there, but only in the tiniest doses. Actually, I would have liked there to be a bit more, and I think my emotions went against the intended trajectory. The title “Snow White and the Huntsman” leads me to believe I was supposed to be rooting for that pairing, but I’m a purist. I wanted her to be with William. So I wasn’t completely satisfied there. But only by the tiniest margin.
Not Too Much from KStew
Okay, I will say this for Kristen Stewart, and that is that this role is a vast improvement over Bella. I don’t know if it’s because of the writing or her acting, but I bought her as Snow White much more than I do as Bella Swan. Then again, most of her role in this movie was to look awed and innocent, or terrified. She did both pretty well. There’s one part where she has to give an impassioned speech, and I wasn’t sold, but G said he bought it. And I’ve already mentioned the awkward horse-riding and sword-wielding, but again, the character was supposed to have been locked in a tower alone for many years. It’s understandable that she wasn’t the best rider or fighter.
CHECK. I was never bored in this film. I got excited in some parts, I internally cheered in some parts, and I mentally fist-pumped several times. Of course, outwardly, I was calm and stoic.
Unlike the lady next to me, who was kind of FREAKING OUT for the entire movie, which also increased my entertainment value. She nearly fell out of her chair at one of the aforementioned bow-and-arrow sequences. It was pretty fun.
The principal actors all delivered in their roles.
The only one I was slightly disappointed in that I haven’t mentioned yet was Bob Hoskins as the elderly blind prophetic dwarf. I understood that he was “seeing” and understanding the events with a sense of hope and wonder, but he kept delivering his lines like he was a little bit loopy. And considering I love Bob Hoskins (particularly his roles in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Hook), I think he could have done better. Maybe that was just a case of poor direction.
I loved the conflicted nature of The Huntsman and the devotion of William. I loved that the dwarfs were not cartoonish or silly. I loved the beautiful fantasy world they lived in, and I loved the deeper (but not too deep) look into the story of Snow White. Yes, there were some plot holes and some parts that just didn’t make much sense (where did that horse come from?), but it’s a fairy tale and I was okay with not everything being perfectly explained.
And as for the stuff we didn’t expect? It wasn’t there. But we didn’t expect it to be, so we weren’t disappointed that it wasn’t in there.
Overall, we both highly enjoyed this film for what it was: A beautiful, exciting, and entertaining new approach to a familiar tale.
As a bonus, here’s some of the trailers that played in front of the movie. I’m only linking the ones for movies I actually want to see. (And no, sadly, they didn’t show the Breaking Dawn Part 2 trailer, teaser or otherwise. Sad.)
The Bourne Legacy. Okay, I think I’m just wired differently from the rest of humanity, because while I liked the other Bourne movies (and loved the first one), I was never all gaga over Matt Damon as an action hero. I know, I know, something is wrong with me.
Matt Damon as an actor, yes. I like him a lot. And he did a great job in the Bourne films. But he just never screamed ACTION SUPERSTAR to me, and therefore, I wasn’t at all upset when I heard they were continuing the Bourne franchise without him.
Of course, at the time, I didn’t really think of Jeremy Renner as an action superstar either (I had only seen him in The Town and that one episode of Angel), so when I saw his casting, I was like, “Oh, okay.”
But then I saw Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. And then I saw The Avengers. And now I am all, “YES, Jeremy Renner, I will watch you punch faces and shoot things (preferably arrows) all the live-long day.” So I am pretty pumped about this one.
Les Misérables. I have been waiting for them to adapt this musical into a movie for…hm, ever. I’ve loved the music since I was a little girl listening to the highlights soundtrack. I’ve seen the show live four or five times. And I cry every time I see this trailer, so I predict I will be crying for the majority of the movie. It looks stunning. I absolutely can’t wait.
Step Up Revolution. I haven’t seen any of the other Step Up movies, but I’m a So You Think You Can Dance addict, and Kathryn McCormick is my all-time favorite female alumnus. I’m not expecting this to be a “good movie,” but I’m expecting some awesome dancing. And seriously, does anyone really go to see a Step Up movie expecting to see groundbreaking cinema?
Brave. I’ll admit, I’m actually not blown away by this trailer. But before you tar and feather me, let me just say I haven’t been blown away by any Pixar trailer, ever (okay, maybe the Wall-E trailer is pretty awesome). I think trailer-making is the weak link in the Pixar arsenal. But the movies themselves are always amazingly good, and I’ve heard Brave is no exception.