To sum up what I felt while watching the film and to what I felt after the film was over: I enjoyed it for what it was. It’s flawed, but it’s not a bad or even terrible movie. I actually liked it. Is it truly good or bad? That’s debatable, but I think it reaches the OK category. But the sad part… it could have been SO MUCH BETTER!
Everyone knows the original story of Snow White, right? This film takes, as most like to call it, a “darker twist” or “darker whatever” to the original story. The evil Queen, named Ravenna in the film, discovers through her magic mirror that consuming Snow White’s heart will give her eternal youth and immortality. Snow White runs away from her prison just in time and encounters a huntsman who was originally hired to capture her, but decides to protect her instead.
One of the things that kept appearing in trailers and posters was “from the Producer of Alice in Wonderland” and it definitely shows. The movie looks freaking amazing! The dark forest and the magical creatures and beings, the enchanted forest known as “The Sanctuary” in the film, the dark army, etc. The mise-en-scène, the lighting, the fight scenes and the special effects were a definite positive. And sometimes I feel that this film gets lots of inspiration from other fantasy films, especially Lord of the Rings trilogy as probably one of the main inspirations of the film’s look. I think there was a bit of Alice in Wonderland here and there and I swear that the giant white deer God in “The Sanctuary” instantly reminded me of the deer Forest God in Princess Mononoke. The fear-educing gas reminded me a bit of Batman Begins, but that was probably just me.
Let’s start with Charlize Theron as the evil Queen. The Queen was VERY threatening. When I found out in the trailer that Charlize Theron would play the Queen, I thought it was the perfect casting choice! Not only is she extremely beautiful, but also because of the good use of her acting skills she was able to look intimidating and powerful while still keeping that beautiful face. Sure, she was over the top in some scenes, but it worked in this film. Aside from the actress who played her, I really liked the edge that made the Queen menacing and also a bit interesting. To make her steal youth and strength from others, that’s a GREAT idea!
Something I liked in the film was how they added a new angle from the original story: the theme of Appearance. Appearances are everything in this film. The women in a village had to scar their faces if they wanted to prevent the evil Queen from consuming their youth; the dark forest was a place of fear and the Sanctuary was a place of peace and comfort; the King falls in love of the evil Queen because of her beauty (connects to a common element in fairytales); etc. Even the Queen is able to sense strength in a man because of how handsome he looked. The Queen’s almost obsessed with her magic mirror to remind her of her appearance. That was actually very complex idea and worked very well in the story, mainly when it connected to the evil Queen’s story. The way your appearance is used as an advantage is a tool for survival, and the way everything looks is how you judge things: That’s how things worked in that world. It’s a theme that you could even apply to present day. For example, celebrities sell their image to earn more recognition and keep their fame and success (in a way that’s how they become “immortal”. After they die, people will still recognize their image).
Anything else I liked? I liked the Huntsman. He was enjoyable to watch and I did actually care about what happened to him. I also liked just the fact that they actually did make a very different and new take on the familiar fairytale. It’s not easy to re-tell a fairytale (I’ve seen them do that in Disney films a lot like Beauty and the Beast, The Princess and the Frog and Tangled), and they did something really new in this movie. They could have done better with the story, but I’ll get to those flaws in the film soon.
Snow White’s character arc is handled fine: she learns from the Huntsman about appearance used as a tool to intimidate people and also as a tool for self-confidence in a way. The character itself, however, is not that interesting. She’s the princess who wants to live up to her father’s legacy, but other than that and the fact that she’s more proactive than the original Snow White in the fairytale, there’s not much to her personality. I didn’t hate the character, but I think that the major flaw of the character was because of Kristen Stewart. I admit that her accent was pretty convincing, and when she had to have strong emotions like fear or anger she emoted them really well. But when she needed to be subtle, I didn’t see that. I wish I could’ve see her smile more. Snow White is supposed to be a person who represents life and hope, while the evil Queen is the entire opposite. But Kristen Stewart doesn’t even look like she’s enjoying life at all. She looks uncomfortable and a bit depressed. However, I do admit that Kristen Stewart is very pretty.
Well, now to the rest of the flaws. The story’s not bad, but it’s definitely very flawed. The set-up is really good, but even the set-up has one or two plot-holes. One of the biggest plot holes can be guessed in the first few minutes of the story. The Queen says later, “I should have killed her when she was a child”… actually, that’s a really good point! Why DIDN’T she kill Snow White as a kid in the first place? She had no trouble killing the father, so what made her decide to keep Snow White locked in a tower instead of simply killed? It’s revealed later that Snow White’s heart will give the Queen immortality, but the Queen didn’t know that until much later. I don’t think they even explained it in the story. That was a pretty noticeable flaw.
Some scenes felt a bit… weird… how do I explain this? Remember in the trailer when the Queen bathed herself in a milky bath? Well… I guess it WAS just for the trailer. They don’t bring it up again. And in another scene Snow White is saying the Lord’s Prayer… in a timeless fairytale story and made-up universe? That made me confused.
Probably the biggest flaw of the film is that it had good elements… but it rarely took advantage of them! I wanted to see more about the mirror and how it affected the Queen! I wanted to see the young girls who had turned into old ladies! I wanted the film to explore the village with the ladies who scarred their faces to protect their youth! Even the fairytale world isn’t taken advantage of very well. We don’t find out much about the dark forest or The Sanctuary other than the fact that it’s there. What about Snow White’s childhood friend? They don’t do much with him. And the DWARVES! I wanted to see more of them! They looked like fun characters! They looked like they had fun! It’s not that the film handled those aspects badly. It’s the fact that they really didn’t! These aspects are glanced over, especially the fairytale aspects: the dwarves in the story didn’t have to be dwarves at all, they don’t explain the Queen’s magic or the fairytale world very well.
Overall, it’s a flawed film, but it’s still enjoyable nonetheless. I personally liked it as it had enough positives to stand on its own. It was an interesting take in the fairytale and it looked great, but the film could have been SO MUCH BETTER, and I really wonder what it could have been if they had taken advantage of the elements presented, and if they had fixed a few flaws here and there. It those elements weren’t overlooked, this film would have probably been a great film! They definitely did try; it really looked like people DID put time and effort into it. After all, it’s Rupert Sander’s first time as a director, so even if they made a few mistakes here and there, and a few elements were weaker than others, I can still understand what happened. I’d much rather have someone who tries and put passion into the film but fails somehow than someone who doesn’t try at all and relies on laziness. Maybe you won’t see a masterpiece, but you’ll see something good or fun nonetheless.