Archive for the “Film Review of Snow White” Category

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PG-13
US Release Date: 1 June 2012
Running Time: 127 min


A modern re-telling of a classic children’s tale, “Snow White and the Huntsman” takes a considerably darker perspective than previous adaptations. The film attempts to preserve a sense of realism in a world of fairy tales. In doing so, it introduces an aspect that is usually absent in traditional children’s stories: violence.

The story stays true to what most people know about the story of Brothers Grimm’s Snow White. There is an evil queen, and magical mirror, a beautiful virgin girl, a charming prince and dwarves. But the similarities end there. The film focuses heavily on Queen Ravenna (played by Charlize Theron) and portrays her as a tragic villain, succumbing to her own worldly desires.

The magical mirror enjoys a significant upgrade thanks to modern CGI capabilities and special effects, and morphs into a metallic spectral form. Snow White (portrayed by Kristen Stewart) is not the typical princess either. She is far removed from fancy ballroom parties, royal courts, and daintily tip-toeing through forests full of faun. She is a “real-girl,” who understands that the way the world works and isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty. In fact, she is covered in dirt and rags throughout almost the entire film.

Enter Prince Charming… or not. William (played by Sam Claflin), is the son of a Duke and childhood friends with Snow White. But as the title suggests, the prince is not the hero of the story. Rather an anti-hero, Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), ends up breaking the famous poison-apple spell and wakes Snow White from her slumber. There are eight, yes eight dwarves in the movie. The eighth is killed in battle, and thus by the end of the film the fabled number of “seven dwarves” is set.

It is by these changes that perhaps “Snow White and the Huntsman” is not simply a re-telling of the classic tale, but rather attempts to reveal the true myth of the story that becomes idealized into a legend. The passage of time may have changed certain aspects of the story to become the children’s story people today know it to be. The drunkard doesn’t get the girl, none of the dwarves die, and Snow White never played with swords.


A closer look at three different reviews from across the country (New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles) offer how the film was initially received and the concerns that critics focused on.

NYTimes, A.O. Scott 31 May 2012
Scott’s review focused heavily on the marketing of the movie, and how the production team handled translating a children’s fairy tale into a film for adult movie-goers. As Scott points out, “There is nothing cute about this movie. And that feels right.” He points out the very important fact that folk tales were originally meant to scare children into behaving, not to soothe them into deep sleep. The review further explores just how the film expresses a darker side to the story. It addresses the use of shadows and earthen colors in the landscapes/scenes.

Feeding off the theme of darkness, the review changes direction and looks closely at the characters/actors. Queen Ravenna is the film’s darkest character, and Scott points out scenes where she murders her husband on her wedding night and “plucks the hearts out of birds.” Scott also describes her as “a woman with a legitimate grudge against a male-dominated world of sexual violence and patriarchal entitlement.” And this tragically villainous portrayal of the evil queen perhaps justifies this film as a “dark and realistically human” interpretation of the story. It paints her as the victim in many ways.

Scott seems to focus considerably less on the other leading characters/actors. His short paragraph of Snow White is more accurately described as a passive-aggressive attack on Kristen Stewart’s background of acting work. Of the three sentences dedicated to her two of them have heavy “Twilight” references. Scott’s concern is more focused on pigeon-holing Stewart’s typecast role rather than on actual performance and portrayal of Snow White as a character.

The review quickly shifts back to the elements which make the film more “adult.” He addresses the artistic earth tones throughout the film and Ravenna as a tragic victim (again). The review ends acknowledging that modern movie audiences crave “warrior princess” characters like Snow White, all with a vague tone of sarcasm. If there is any praise at all in this review, it is certainly a kind of back-handed, matter-of-fact, disinterested praise.

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Variety, Brian Lowry 31 May 2012
Three thousand miles away from NYT headquarters, the Variety and Brian Lowry write a review that only Hollywood can write. In other words, the review reads like a sort of “Behind the Scenes” –type of review. Lowry’s review does this by focusing mainly on the staff responsible for producing the film.

Like Scott’s review, it initially addresses that the film comes off as a very mature re-telling of the children’s tale, but topic shifts towards Universal, the studio that made the movie. It also references that the producer’s name was used as a marketing tool due to his connection to Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland” re-telling. Lowry mentions that Rupert Sanders, the director of the movie, is a commercial director.

The rest of the review is closer to a plot overview than anything. The analysis of each character is considerably thinner than Scott’s, especially Queen Ravenna’s. Lowry however compares many parts to other movies. He compares landscape vistas to the ones portrayed from the “Rings” trilogy, the magic mirror to T-1000 from “Terminator 2,” and the concept of “the one” from “The Matrix” trilogy.

Lowry’s review does not view the film in positive light. He cites the dwarves as “extremely handy in a scrape but don’t provide much comic relief as might have been intended.” Ouch. Lowry also adds, “The cast does what it can… but can’t overcome a degree of flatness to the middle section or lack of consistent excitement at the end.” Double ouch. The review ends stating that a film like “Snow White and the Huntsman” would have done well in the past as a Saturday matinee; a cheaper ticket. Lowry does not feel that the film can live up to modern expectations of a commercial success and lacks “a touch of magic.”


Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert 30 May 2012
A heavyweight in movie critic circles, Roger Ebert comes in representing the middle of the country in this triple feature of movie reviews. He opens immediately by establishing that the movie “reinvents the legendary story in a film of astonishing beauty and imagination.” Although the story is riding on predetermined rails, Ebert says, “But, oh, what a ride.”

Ebert’s review focuses very little on character analysis, and gives the “quick and dirty” version of the film’s plot. The only production staff members that are mentioned in Ebert’s review are the actors themselves, and no other mention of producers or other executives are given. Only the director is mentioned by name towards the end of the review and it is attached to praise.

He compares the magical mirror to Death in “The Seventh Seal,” and “The Terminator.” The review then shifts focus towards the film’s visual effects, and implies that these are the major reasons why the film is a darker version of the children’s tales. He describes the castle in the movie as sitting “in eerie splendor… a gothic fantasy that reminds me of the Ghormenghast series.”

Ebert points to the two main locations as one of the film’s “treasures,” the Dark Forest and the fairyland. He describes the Dark Forest as a “forbidding realm, nothing lives and it is thick with the blackened bones of dead trees, as if a forest fire had burned only the greenery.”  Of the three reviews, Ebert’s description most accurately depicts the imagery and color tones of the film, capturing the dark feel the movie was aiming for. Ebert then goes on to praise the CGI/special effects work again, citing the portrayal of the dwarves and the enchanted fairyland as a job well done. But Ebert does something that none of the other reviewers do, which is point out similarities between “Snow White and the Huntsman” and other, more traditional depictions of the story. He points out that the enchanted fairyland is a “tribute to a forest scene in Disney’s 1937 animated film.”

Again and again, the review has significantly high praise for the visual marvels that the film offers, citing CGI and special effects as reasons. Ebert also notes that although the battle scenes were a bit excessive, it still made the film “enjoyable.” On the other hand however, Ebert finds that the complexity of the characters was not on par with the visual effects, and lacked in comparison. The review ends citing that since he had zero expectations for the movie beforehand, the movie was a pleasant surprise.


In Conclusion:
All three critics seem to understand the darker side to the movie, and all point of very specific reasons as to why this movie is not a typical children’s story. Scott’s review focused most on this aspect however, mostly because of the review’s concern on Queen Ravenna as the dark story’s driving character. Ebert achieved this by focusing on the visual aspects of the film and how it helped paint the mood. Lowry however lets the story/plot speak for itself as a dark re-telling, and never really comes out and says, “this is why the movie is dark.”

Of the three reviews, Ebert’s review seems to be the most neutral and objective. Unlike Scott’s and Lowry’s preoccupation with “other movies that the staff was involved in,” Ebert’s review treats the film as a standalone entity, and uses minimal outside references. Based on this, Scott’s and Lowry’s opinions of the movie seem highly biased and somewhat unethical. Their reviews seem riddled with passive-aggressive undertones that mock the backgrounds of directors, producers and actors. Therefore, although Ebert points out a lack of character complexity, the Chicago Sun-Times’ review is the most positive review, with the NYTimes and Variety giving moderate to negative reviews.


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