Snow White and The Huntsman is a beautiful piece of trash. The story hasn’t changed too dramatically from the fairy tale. The evil queen, played with diva theatrics by Charlize Theron, wants Snow White dead. Snow, played by the always miscast Kristen Stewart, flees to the forest where she encounters seven dwarfs. Of course there’s a handsome prince trying to rescue her, but this film has her attracted to the Huntsman because he’s played by Chris Hemsworth.
There’s a reason the Huntsman has never been a main character before and the script does nothing to convince us why he’s needed. The script does very little at all really. The movie is lifeless. It just sits there with zero verve or energy from scene to scene. The actors strain to give limp dialogue some vigor but it is in vain. It seems the only creative decision anyone made was to try really hard to add gravitas to a fairy tale. They wanted dark and gritty. They wanted another The Lord of the Rings, but they stole from Ridley Scott’s Robin Hood. An honest mistake really.
It’s too bad because the craft side of the film is quite impressive. Cinematographer Greig Fraser gives every frame a poeticism it doesn’t deserve. Fraser showed a lot of range last year shooting Killing Them Softly, Zero Dark Thirty, and this piece of crap. The entire production is top tier. Had they bothered to write something worth a damn, this could have been something special. Instead, it’s one of the worst films of last year.
What surprised the hell out of me is how much I enjoyed Mirror Mirror. Here’s a movie that doesn’t try to be bigger than it is. It has a simple story to tell and it goes about its business in a unique and charming way. Here, the evil queen is played by Julia Roberts, but she’s not really evil. She’s the villain, but she’s the easy to mock kind. She’s comically inept and desperate, and I had fun with Roberts in the role (I’m sure she did too). Snow is played convincingly enough by Lily Collins. Her arc is a simple turn from naïve waif to empowered princess and Collins fits the part just fine.
Armie Hammer is the ridiculously handsome prince. He’s a bit of an arrogant buffoon but he’s a hero at heart with a twinkle in his smile. Armie is a lot of fun in the movie. He’s unafraid to act the fool which makes him a joy to watch. The plot finds the queen strapped for cash and trying to marry the Prince for his money but Snow White and the bandit dwarfs keep getting in the way. It’s silly, but it works. It’s a little too self-aware at the beginning but it quickly settles into its own light, carefree groove. Unlike Huntsman, this film has actual characters. The dwarfs aren’t just a bland group of henchmen. They’re distinct, each with his own personality and importance to the story.
I know at a glance the film looked like it would be stupid, but it’s much, much better than you think. There’s great chemistry between everyone in the film. The costumes are fabulous and heighten the fantasy. There’s a memorable animated prologue, and a fantastic sequence involving giant puppets unlike anything I’ve seen before. It doesn’t try and emulate anything. It barely has anything to do with the original fairy tale. The apple stuff is a throwaway moment toward the end. It’s not an epic, it’s a family fable and a wild success at that.