Friday, 8 June 2012

Kate Reviews Snow White and the Huntsman

So me and some friends went to see Snow White and the Huntsman. Because we're cool like that.

My overriding impression was that it didn't suck. I mean, bits of it weren't great; I still cannot comprehend why anyone thought it would be a good idea to give Kristen Stewart a stirring speech when her whole shtick is looking pretty and soulful and not talking (or, let's be fair, acting) very much. It's easy to make fun of Kristen Stewart so I'm imposing the rules of fairy tales (and vampire baseball) and giving myself three strikes. That's one.

Anyway, back to the film. While bits of it weren't great, other parts really, really were. The costumes, effects and cinematography were what sold the movie for me; I'm not above paying admission to sit in a dark room eating popcorn and looking at pretty costumes for two hours. Not that I'm a girly-girl or anything: I love seeing a strong woman in chain mail (so much more flattering than plate) as much as a pale-and-interesting princess in floor length skirts. I can't say too much about the ending because I don't want to give the plot away (though seriously it's Snow White, make an educated guess) it is at least a story about Snow White Doing Things For Herself rather than Snow White Who Is Too Dumb To Understand Stranger Danger But She Gets Married At The End So That's Okay. And yes, I groaned a bit when they described her as  being 'as loved for her defiant spirit as her beauty'. This was a weird line because:

1) She was never actually shown as defying anyone except when someone was actively trying to kill and/or molest her. That's not defiance. That's common sense.

2) Seriously, she was taking home a wounded magpie. Are magpies forbidden in Far Far Away?

3) People don't tend to like defiant children. This is because children rarely use their defiance on social justice and focus more on defying vegetables/homework/bedtime, often all three in a single evening.

Apart from aforementioned speech, which wasn't that well written anyway (in fact may have been written by the same person who wrote Englebert Humperdink's Eurovision entry Seriously, it's like he typed 'cliches about love' into Google and set the results to music.) Kristen Stewart was actually well cast as a shut-in who's been locked in a tower with no one but magpies and a creepy stalker for company for the last ten years.
...Look, I know you're probably waiting for a Kristen Stewart joke but I only get three and I'm not wasting one on that. Not when it practically tells itself. (Okay, fine: strike two.) Seriously though, she doesn't do a bad job. If her facial expressions are a little overly subtle at times then at least they cast her as someone who has an valid reason to have not picked up non-verbal communication, having been locked in a tower for ten years. Of course the poor kid doesn't understand how to interact with people.

The script was also a big selling point for me. I have conflicted feelings about dark fantasy because: a) it's an awesome concept; but b) it's been badly done before. A lot. Me and my friends have a game called Dark Fantasy Book Club where we go to the dark fantasy section in Waterstones, pick out the trashiest book we can find and vote on whose is worst...because we're cool like that? Anyway, Snow White and the Huntsman is dark fantasy done right. The urban bits of the world look gritty and lived in, which is how I maintain fantasy kingdoms (and sci-fi, come to that) should look, unless there's a reason for them to be all clean and shiny and perfect. Sanitation. The Middle Ages did not have it. The dark forest is also really cool: it has this ambiguous menace where you don't know whether it's all in her head or if it really is full of giant monsters that want to eat your face. Similarly fairyland (Sanctuary) is perhaps the best designed portrayal of fairyland I've ever seen onscreen. Whoever designed that set deserves an Oscar for the sheer amount of obscure fairy lore they managed to incorporate: they had foxgloves, stone circles and humanoid fairies who acted like a separate species and not tiny cutesy humans. At the same time they had some nice original touches like snakes and tortoises with mossy camouflage. All in all it didn't fall into the trap of being too Gothic or too pretty-pretty and instead created its own unique look.

Speaking of unique looks, the costumes were easily my favourite part of the film. Normally that's a bitchy thing you say when you're leaving a theatre but not in this case because the costumes were just that good. There's a scene where Thor (I refuse to call his the Huntsman on the basis that "The Huntsman" is not a name) cuts away Snow's long skirts so she can walk in the forest. Snow is naturally unhappy about the strange man she just met taking a knife to her clothes in the middle of the dark and scary forest... At least I think she's unhappy. She might have been going for afraid, defiant or possibly aroused. Or confused. Let's face it, it's hard to tell. Strike Three.

During this scene my thought process was as follows:

1) Oh I can hear the fanfic being written.

2) Him cutting off her clothes is just going to be a thing in the fandom now, isn't it?

3) NOOOO!!! The dress is my favourite character!

Again, that's not an insult. Snow's main costume was my favourite part of the film. Because, seriously, look at it. I love how deceptively plain it is with all the accents of red and gold around the sleeves. They're so subtle you just can't stop looking at them. Not to mention the slit sleeves and the accents of lace. They did a really good job of creating something that looks modern and medieval, practical and pretty. Kristen Stewart is so flawlessly beautiful she doesn't really need to be dressed up in elaborate costumes and I think the costume designer did a really good job of playing down Charlize Theron's natural beauty by encasing her in these really structural elaborate dresses, suggesting that her beauty is also somehow unnatural. So when young girls like Snow and Greta stand next to her in simple costumes and look just as good it's an extra slap in the face.

Another thing I liked about the film was how subtly it integrated traditional Snow White elements (and by traditional I'm including the Disney version because, let's be honest, it's a cultural icon) like the animal companions and puffed sleeves. The fact that a lot of this didn't strike me until I left the cinema is a point in their favour.

All in all it was a pretty good film. It's not Citizen Kane or anything (not that I have any intention of actually watching Citizen Kane, since Peter-Fricking-Griffin spoiled the ending for me) but if you like Gothic fairy tales and high production values I'd recommend it.

Have you seen Snow White and the Huntsman? Do you want to? Has this review changed your mind? Do I need to be quiet now?

Add your comments, questions and complaints below.


  1. Good review Kate. It was stylized in a more dark and gritty way, than we usually see from fairy-tale movies, but I still liked that about it even when the story started to get weaker. Also, just couldn't take my eyes off of Theron. Not only was she beautiful, but also pretty great in this evil role of hers.

    1. Thank you for saying so!

      I agree there were things about the plot that didn't add up but I think in a visual medium like film you can get away with that if the audience are hooked on the costumes/sets/cinematography. Like the equivalent of distracting a baby by shaking your keys at it.

      Theron was amazing: very different to your usual campy fairytale villain. I was a big fan of Snow's costume myself (though having read the article you probably picked that up already ;D).