My husband arrived home after 2 weeks away yesterday, and one of the first things we did was go see Snow White and the Huntsman
. We’ve been wanting to see it since the first gorgeous trailer was released, so we left the kids at home watching the Disney version with their grandparents and went off to see the darker and much less nauseating version of the classic tale.
I left the theatre with mixed feelings, so let’s start with the positive ones. The film was undeniably gorgeous. The special effects were fabulous and the interpretation of the some of the elements of the fairy tale was creative. Also, I’m not a Kristen Stewart hater (my husband calls her the “female Keanu Reeves”) – I thought she was lovely, and it’s okay that she rarely smiles because she’s fleeing for her life. I thought the film started off really well. I was intrigued by the opening battle, by the backstory, and by Charlize Theron’s incredibly poised beauty.
Aaaaand … then things started going downhill. My first WTF moment was when Snow White managed to escape from the Queen, aided of course by some friendly birds, to serendipitously chance upon a white horse just hangin’ out on the beach, waiting to carry her to freedom. What??
After that, the unanswered questions just kept piling up. Why the prolonged sorrow over the death of a dwarf we’d barely gotten to know? Who are the fairies and what is the significance of Snow White’s passage through Fairyland? Who was White Hart, and why had no one seen him before? The dwarves seemed to attach great meaning to this animal and his ‘blessing’ of Snow White, but it was never explained and then a few seconds after his appearance he’s dead and never mentioned again. Why can the Queen feel the pain and death of her brother, even from a great distance? Why does the Huntsman’s kiss bring Snow White back to life and not the kiss of her childhood friend William? How is it that Snow White knows how to wield a sword and lead an army even though she’s been in solitary confinement since she was 8 years old?
It seemed like there were too many occasions where the screenwriters thought, “Hey, this would be cool! Let’s put it in!” without explaining why the scene or element was there and bothering to integrate it with the rest of the story. I felt like almost half of the scenes could have been removed without affecting the story in the slightest. The entire middle of the film is a series of scenes in which Snow White escapes the Queen’s men, finds some helpers, and then is attacked again, and the cycle continues (first the Huntsman, then the scarred women, then the dwarves, and then the fairies). But each cycle adds nothing new to the tale – we don’t learn anything new about Snow White’s character, the mythology, or even the Queen’s desires. All we get are more questions that are never answered.
I also found the introduction of the second romantic interest jarring and confusing. Given that the film is titled Snow White and the Huntsman
and that the Huntsman (we never do learn his name, and Snow White apparently isn’t interested in it either) is the male lead, I think it’s fair to assume that we’re all rooting for a Snow White/Huntsman fairy tale ending. But then over half-way through the film a second romantic interest is introduced – Snow White’s childhood friend William, all grown up and Robin Hood-like. He joins their small group of fugitives, and suddenly it’s Snow White and the Huntsman and William, and things start to get murky. Then the minute she gets William alone, Snow White kisses him (only to find out that she was really kissing the evil Queen in disguise – a marked improvement on the “old beggar woman” disguise, I must say). Maybe it’s just me, but I was definitely confused. Why is she kissing him? What happened to the Huntsman? It’s not that I don’t like William … I just found him to be an unnecessary character that further muddled an already muddled story. And then when Snow White eats the poisoned apple and dies, it’s not William’s kiss that awakens her, but the Huntsman’s … even though we’ve been given no indication that’s he’s her one true love or anyone special to her at all. I mean, if a kiss is enough to wake one from the dead, I’m assuming it’s got to be based on more than just mild attraction. But even the Huntsman admits that he only cares for Snow White because she reminds him of his one true love, his dead wife. Hmmm.
As I suppose was to be expected, the film ended on a ridiculously anticlimactic note, with Snow White being crowned Queen and standing for an inordinate amount of time starting around at all those who helped her on her journey – the dwarves, the scarred women, William, Greta from her neighbouring cell, and of course the yet-unnamed Huntsman as he moves through the crowds of royal admirers. I kept thinking, “Is she supposed to do something? Maybe she goes and walks among the people now. Maybe she throws herself into the arms of the Huntsman. Maybe she does a cool magic trick with the tree branch she is inexplicably holding. Maybe the White Hart will reappear to bless her reign.” But no, nothing happens. She just stands there and looks around. And then it ends.
I’d give it 2.5 stars out of 5, maybe even 3 ‘cos it’s just so damn pretty and I love dark fairy tales. It has its moments – it’s gorgeous to look at, and there are some cool battle/fight scenes, and Chris Hemsworth. But the complete lack of coherent story detracts from the beauty of it all. In fact, Snow White and the Huntsman is kind of like the Queen – beautiful on the outside, rotten on the inside.
Jodi McIsaac is the author of Through the Door, the first book in the Celtic-mythology-inspired urban fantasy series The Thin Veil. Buy it now on Amazon.