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To say that I am torn about this movie would be an understatement.
On one hand … you have a visually stunning, extremely well-made film by first-time film director Rupert Sanders. While story and pacing-wise not perfect making the film stumble from time to time, it’s held together with a performance by Charlize Theron that is both surprising and damn near brilliant. Add that to the appeal of Chris Hemsworth and the end product is a pretty solid overall summer film.
But … on the other hand … you have Kristen Stewart.
I’m not sure if I have to explain that contrast, but for the sake of this film review, I guess I will.
Thanks to the marketing monsters at Disney, at a certain age, almost every little girl is brainwashed into believing that life is a giant fairy tale. Especially that a Prince Charming will one day be riding through the neighborhood … possibly on a horse. So to say that most of the free world is familiar with the story of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” it an understatement. So with one film – “Mirror, Mirror” – already wasting time in the box office, the peeps in Hollywood decided to make another one. Why? Well, we can’t answer that question here, so let’s move on.
Attempting to turn the fairy tale more to the dark side and possibly resemble the original Brothers Grimm story, Sanders and screen story writer Evan Daugherty have presented a grittier, bloodier tale to find the “fairest of them all.” Starring the incredibly dull Kristen Stewart as the title heroine, this film becomes a little lost in what it wants to be. Dark age designs trying to be like “Game of Thrones” mixed with the expansive, unfolding scenery of the “Lord of the Rings” with a mix of nature and fantasy from “Princess Mononoke” this film never really finds it’s own identity. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t help.
Holding it all together is Charlize Theron as the evil Queen Ravenna. Given basically nothing in terms of real dialogue, Theron proves that good acting comes from good actresses. She knocks this out of the park and puts a capital “C” in crazy. Overwhelmed with a lust for power and an unquenchable thirst for more, Ravenna is the villain we have been searching for. Over-the-top at times, the Queen proves to be less a cookie-cutter stereotype and more a mentally-ill, complex individual. As the man-hating sorceress, Theron takes control of every scene she is in and makes it virtually impossible to take your eyes off of her. Beautiful and insane contrast wonderfully through her performance and truthfully, she is the reason this film remains relevant.
In comparison, (which, there really is not one) there is Kristen Stewart. To be blunt, she’s terrible. Awful even. As the maiden Snow White, she’s boring, silly and near unwatchable. For this story, Snow White is meant to be the counter-balance of inner beauty to the Queen’s evil, but nothing in Stewart’s performance makes you even think that she could be more than just a sad sack little girl who needs constant protection. What little dialogue she has is forced through a fake British accent that itself is forced through a face that continually has a look of confused sadness. Everything that Theron is, Stewart is not. In fact, it’s almost as if, when the screenwriters found out that she was cast, they let out a big sigh, regrouped and then deleted massive amounts of character development to make up for her lack of ability. Atrocious.
Off to the side slightly is Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman. Completely under utilized, Hemsworth is of course extremely likable and fun to watch. I liked his character because he’s a flawed, regular man – not some amazing unstoppable warrior – that has his own motivations making him more interesting than just the brute to Snow White’s beauty. However, his potential is never really used and instead is set at odds versus Snow White’s childhood friend and possible love interest William played by Sam Claflin.
Starting off great, the story really becomes clunky as hell, puttering on the brink of boredom every time the story focuses on Stewart. However, mixed throughout are these amazingly interesting visuals that both surprise and bring the audience’s focus back to the film. The first, and possibly the best is Snow White’s first venture into the Dark Forest. Part poison dream, part nightmare hallucination, the angles and shadows of the forest become demons on the hunt for the princess that made me stop and say “Hmmmm.” Another great surprise were the dwarves themselves. I didn’t know that they would be making an appearance and yet, using some excellent digital effects, character actors like Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones add some much needed fun and cool to the second half of the film. At the same time, the visual effects for the Queen and her Mirror are quite amazing including a scene where Theron pulls herself out of a dying, black oil of crows that is scary, striking and sensational.
Unfortunately, even they can only do so much. Everything truly depends on Stewart’s ability to hold the film, and she fails miserably. Do I think it is all her fault? Uhm, yes. Sort of. It’s obvious Stewart was cast because of her non-existent appeal in the “Twilight” films, but it’s pretty obvious the filmmakers were really trying hard to do something more with this film than the expected and she was not the right person for the job. The people who cast the film really need to be questioned.
So again, I say it – I’m torn. I think regular movie-goers will enjoy the film.
I mean, I did, I guess.
Bored for most of it because of the pacing and lead actress, but then delighted by some of the visuals, a few of the supporting performances and by the ambition of the director, it’s hard to say how I feel about this film. Audiences around the globe will eat up Hemsworth for his huskiness and likability and Theron will be praised for her performance, but stalling it to a state of complete averageness will be Stewart. The target audience of teenagers will go for her (not knowing any better) and probably leave with a positive impression, but a lack of focus, being too long and too many bumps in the story make this just another middle of the road fairy tale of me. The apple looked good on the outside, but it was rotten on the inside.
3 out of 5 Random Bridge Trolls