***Warning this review contains spoilers – if you have not seen Snow White and The Huntsman, do not read, turn around and just walk away!! For the rest of you, go ahead and click below to to read away!***
I have been ridiculously excited for this movie since I first saw the trailer months ago….and what do I get: not full satisfaction that’s for sure. You might say to yourself “you built it up”, or maybe, “your expectations were too high”. But with an A-list cast (i.e. Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth) and a staggering budget (about 100-million) I think I can expect full blown magic. And let me tell you, I was trying really hard to give in.
The film was lacking a strong build up to help foster the suspension of disbelief. Out of nowhere Snow White (Kristen Stewart), who has been imprisoned for close to a decade, is being guided by birds running at full force. She jumps off a cliff into crashing waves and, again guided by birds, is brought to this beautiful white horse who is conveniently laying down waiting for her to mount it. Let’s review some issues here: she would not have had the muscle density to have been able to run, swim, and ride for that long or hard (adrenaline rush perhaps?)…she would have been crushed by the waves. Now, I wish that I had been so invested in the film that I would have been willing to overlook these things but I couldn’t…. The film wasn’t compelling enough.
Another issue I had was the discontinuity in mood. Throughout most of the film we have a serious, almost somber, adventure story unfolding. Then – suddenly – we have some dwarfs introduced and used as an attempted comic device. There little funnies weren’t clever, they were superficial laughs at the short-unpolished- men. An imperfectly quoted example: “would you have really killed her”, *looks over fondly at Snow*, “yes”. … Did you just laugh? ‘Cause I certainly didn’t. Instead of just using short-goofy men as comic relief they could have developed the characters and used comedic dialogue.
Finally, I think too much was attempted to be packed in a 2 hour and 7 minute run. Perhaps within the first hour we cover the background relationship between Snow, her father, her mother, the Evil Queen Ravenna / Stepmother, and her childhood friend (love interest) William; to Ravenna taking over; Snow’s escape; suddenly the Huntsman is introduced, he’s still broken from his wife’s death; the Evil Queen’s brother is now suddenly and seemingly invincible and hunting Snow…. And really how is this just the beginning?! It’s rushed but the pace of the film doesn’t even necessarily match this rush of narration. Yikes.
I think SWATH that should have taken a page from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows or Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn – it needed to be a two- parter. Then there would have been the time to actually develop the characters, instead of just having them go on a journey.
Now that I’m done belly-aching, I’ll give some due-credits. Yes, I was disappointed by SWATH but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t like it, I just don’t love it.
I think it’s most important to acknowledge a tremendous respect towards Director Rupert Sanders, who aside from some short films and commercials doesn’t seem to have an extensive resume. In fact, his IMDB page is pretty bare bones and lists SWATH as his only film under the “director” header. Absolutely incredible, he and cinematographer Greig Faser did an excellent job of visual storytelling.
The visual and aural impact of this film is stunning. The use of CGI was done to enhance the films splendour instead of distract from it. The liquid-gold Mirror Man (Christopher Obi) looked gloriously tactile. I wanted to reach out my hands and allow the liquid to pour itself in. His rich voice echoed and boomed, sharply contrasting the regal Queen’s (Charlize Theron) low but deliciously smooth voice. The foley noises (sounds which are added to make the environment sound real, i.e. footsteps or the crunching of an apple) were wonderfully chosen, adding texture to the scenes. An example of this is when Theron picks a pebble-sized white flower off of a branch and crushes it in her fist. The foley sounds of this action took on a life of its own. The sound seems to have been layered providing the sense that the flower was being suffocated and then crunched. While being crushed, there was a liquid quality which gave the impression that nectar was spilling into the Queens clenched palm – draining the flower of its very life (though none of this was shown).
The camera had a powerfully kinetic quality that enhanced the storytelling of this film. During the first horse mounted chase scene, the shot would move with Snow and then against the charging army – suggesting that the forces of nature itself were aiding the fleeing princess and repressing the Queen’s army. The camera would sometimes swoop around the landscape and over the charging horses, revealing the massive battalion as it churned up the already-rugged scenery. Other, carefully selected shot sequences left more distinctive impressions. When Snow succumbs to the elements of the forbidden forest and passes out in the dirt, the camera swirls up and zooms out – revealing a desolate landscape with gnarled trees twisting towards her. Without words, you suddenly get a sense of how vulnerable Snow White is and how nature may have turned against her…
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