If you would have told my eleven year old, fairy tale-obsessed self that this weekend, I would see a fairy tale adaptation featuring Snow White leading a rebellion, I would have been skeptical. Luckily, my 23 year old self is not too old to still be ridiculously excited about things like this–if anything, this kind of geekiness gets better as you get older, I think.
It’s hard for me to be objective about this movie, but reviews are essentially well-argued opinions, and while it’s safe to say that I loved it, it wasn’t without flaw.
This adaptation is different than the original Snow White, as well as other adaptations, and it ranks as one of my favorite interpretations. In this version, Snow White’s mother dies, and her father remarries after falling in love with Revenna within a matter of days. Of course, Revenna then kills Snow’s father and takes over the kingdom, imprisoning Snow and turning the kingdom into a wasteland.
Cut to several years later, and Snow is finally able to make an escape, but Revenna sends a troop out after her so she can consume Snow’s heart and stay young forever. The troop includes Thor–er, the Huntsman–played by Chris Hemsworth.
The story escalates into a final battle that inevitably leads to (SPOILER) the Queen’s downfall. But what I love about fairy tale adaptations is not their plots, but how artists choose to retell such classic stories.
Overall, I found this to be a gripping film, full of great detail and beautiful cinematography. It held true to the archetypal images from the old tales, but I appreciate that it made Snow into a character with some depth, who, over the course of the film, grows from an innocent girl into a person willing to fight and kill in the name of justice.
My favorite part of the movie–and this is not a popular opinion whatsoever–was Kristen Stewart. Yeah, yeah, she gets a bad reputation for being in the Twilight movies, but honestly, the fault of those films should be placed mostly on the director, because many of those actors have played great roles in other projects perfectly well (Anna Kendrick, Peter Facinelli, etc.). I was a bit doubtful when she was cast as Snow, but after seeing the film, I think she was a great pick. I thought she portrayed Snow with a great balance of innocence, compassion, and strength. Perhaps it’s because I’m close to the same age as Stewart, but I felt a kinship with her character, which doesn’t happen very often for me. Her speech before the battle was heartfelt and inspiring, and I thought it was great to see a female leading a group of men into battle. I’m such a sucker for the woman warrior archetype.
My least favorite part was Charlize Theron (which is funny because I just watched Aeon Flux last night). I thought her acting was comical, and it felt out of place with the ruggedness of the other scenes. The CGI of her character was very impressive, but I couldn’t get past her yelling and too-serious facial expressions. There was nothing believably human about her character, and I never once felt sympathetic for her, and I think at times the film wanted the viewer to feel a little sorry for her… but I didn’t feel anything for her. I just wanted to see her defeated.
I also thought the addition of Snow’s childhood friend was unnecessary. He didn’t play that large of a role, and I was much more curious about the Huntsman, who was a really interesting character that didn’t get enough screen time.
The film is very dark–which I loved, since the story is pretty messed up, and I thought it should be taken seriously–but it’s not without its sweet moments. The dwarves were amazing and served as a bit of comic relief. There are also some great creatures that pop up, such as the troll (who turns out not to be such a meanie), the adorable fairies (can someone make a movie just about them), and the beautiful white stag with incredible antlers, that explodes into dozens of butterflies. These are the moments where it really felt like a fairy tale, and not just a war film.
What really sealed the deal as a great film, though, was the ending. The rebels win the battle, of course, and instead of having some cheesy scene where Stewart chooses between childhood friend and the Huntsman, the film just shows her being crowned queen, and her people bowing down to her. She does share a nice look with the Huntsman, but ultimately, the film focuses on her, rather than on some silly love triangle. So for that, I am very grateful to the filmmakers for not making romance the focus of the film.
Films like this are what you make it, I think. They can either be fluff stories, or they can be parables that address important societal issues in unique and creative ways–which is what fairy tales were intended to do in the first place (aside from scaring little girls into wearing chastity belts, but that’s an analysis for another time. I did a lot of fairy tale analysis as an undergrad…)
This really is the year for the woman warrior in cinema. About damn time–great female heroines have been in literature for decades, but are just now dominating the big screen. The Hunger Games, Snow White, and Pixar’s Brave all portray young women taking control of their lives, using kindness, but unafraid to use strength when necessary.
So, to sum up: A beautiful, important film, with a few dents in its shiny armor.
Also check out the song Florence + The Machine wrote for the film, called “Breath of Life” (the video has some great caps from the film):