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3 June 2012
I've been looking forward to this summer's movie season with a whole lot of excitement. It started off with Marvel's The Avengers (I've got to admit, I've become something of a comic book movie junkie!), and is continuing with such up-and-coming titles as:
The Dark Knight Rises
The Bourne Legacy
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
The Amazing Spider-Man
The Expendables 2
The House At The End Of The Street
Yikes! It's going to be a busy summer! Just think of all those Scene points I'll be collecting!!!
This past Friday was date night, with Barb and I heading off to the local Galaxy Cinemas here in Orillia to take in Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman.
Now, before I start my review, I have to admit that I was really uncertain about Kristen Stewart being able to pull of a role that was so far removed from the Bella character she has portrayed in the Twilight Saga franchise. I kept a close eye on the trailers while this movie was in production, and read more than a few reports written by critics just to see what they all had to say about her abilities. True, it seems Charlize Theron's performance truly stole the show when it came to real acting, but for the most part it appeared that the majority of critics found Stewart's offering to have risen above what most people consider to be a rather banal offering in the Bella role.
Myself, I actually like Kristen Stewart, and I think that she can be a very beautiful girl . . . .when she smiles. As for her acting abilities? While I admit that I am actually a fan of the Twilight movies (loved the books!), there does seem to have been a concerted effort to underplay her skills as a thespian, as the Bella character is both shallow and dull. But how much of that can we blame upon the actress, and not take into account the script that is provided to her, and the director's vision that ends up on film?
But that hardly leaves Kristen Stewart's Snow White in the background. While it is true that the titular character in this film is vastly overshadowed by her evil nemesis, this Snow White is a far step from the delicate and frail character that has been the central role of this story for ages gone by. Stewart's princess is a fighter -- that much we see from the beginning. While she lends a certain delicacy to her character, made all the more alluring by the raven-black hair, pale-as-snow skin, and ruby red lips that are her trademarks, there is a strength of spirit that shines through from the first moment we see her character on screen. From that moment, where we meet this young girl as she kneels on a cold stone floor in the dungeon of the castle's north tower (aren't dungeons usually in the basement???), to the hurried flight she makes to escape the castle, we are carried along on her plight while the forces of darkness give chase not far behind.
Every review I read of Snow White compares this movie to Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy -- not with regard to story-telling, but concerning the visual aspects of the film. And Snow White is nothing if not stunning to behold. From the beauty of its main characters, to the desolate landscapes of the dying land, to the jagged, soaring towers of the castle by the sea, and on into the lush and beautiful wilds of the fairy land known as Sanctuary, this film is a wonder for the eyes.
Like Jackson's Rings trilogy, the Seven Dwarves themselves are a marvel of creativity as well. Using the same techniques employed to make us believe in the diminutive stature of Hobbits and Dwarves in the Rings movies, the Dwarves here are portrayed as little people against the background of a big world, personified by well-known actors such as Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, and Ian McShane. Unfortunately, and as also reported in many of those reviews, the Dwarves themselves are relegated to the role of providing a few laughs with simple jokes and comical gestures, but provide little real service to the story itself. It is almost as though their characters were thrown into the mix as an afterthought, for truly this film could have been made without them at all, despite the vital nature of their roles in the original tale.
Chris Hemsworth's Huntsman falls somewhat flat and lacking against the charismatic force of Charlize Therons' Ravenna, and Kristen Stewart's innocent but determined Snow White. The battle scenes in which he engages prove that Hemsworth has what it takes to be an action hero, but the fight sequences themselves employ many of the same forms and fighting profiles as we saw him employ in Thor and The Avengers, right down to the iconic over-shoulder swing of his axe, a near-mirror image of his alter-ego's use of Mjolnir in the battle scenes against Loki and the Frost Giants.
And what little hint of romance there is between Hemsworth's unnamed Huntsman character and the titular Snow White is fleeting at best. Unfortunate, because if there was ever a fairy tale that was open to a romantic interpretation, this film would have been the foundation upon which many others could be built. Despite the heart-felt soliloquy that the Huntsman delivers while Snow White lays upon her deathbed, the victim of Ravenna's poisoned apple, at the grand finale of the film, when the resurrected princess is victorious in defeating the evil sorceress and is crowned queen at last, the director chose to provide barely a tenuous meeting of the eyes between those two, instead of any real depth of emotion that was so obviously missing, and so readily expected by most of the audience. Even Stewart's delivery of the line "You can't have my heart," while looking down upon a defeated and dying Ravenna should so obviously have been followed by something like: "It already belongs to another." But alas, such mush was not to be. Instead, the audience is left hanging, dangling over the precipice, while each and every one of us waited for the declaration that never came. Too bad.
All in all, though, Snow White and the Huntsman is a visually captivating film, with an age-old story brought to modern light. It is a dark, sinister tale interspersed with flickerings of hope, and the promise that life will always triumph over death. Kristen Stewart may not have entirely shed her Bella image with this film, nor has she risen to the ranks of a heroine such as Joan of Arc, as several critics have compared those two characters in their reviews, but the possibilities of her talents are simmering ever closer to the surface. Perhaps one day they will break through, and we might all see just what this girl is truly capable of. I think she has it in her to be a real and true Hollywood star, very much the likes of her co-star, Ms Theron, but only if she puts the pouting, frumpy and awkwardness of her twenties behind her and embraces more roles that will let her stretch out and become the star that she can ultimately be. Or maybe I'm entirely wrong. I guess we will just have to wait and see, won't we?
As for Charlize Theron, if you had little or no appreciation for her stunning, natural beauty, or for her truly incredibe acting skills before you see this movie (there is a reason she won an Academy Award for Monster -- see it if you haven't already, I promise you won't be disappointed), I guarantee that opinion will change dramatically by the time the final credits begin to roll.
While not quite Academy Award material, Snow White and the Huntsman is 120 minutes of good, plain entertainment. Just remember to bring your suspension of disbelief along. After all, it is a fairy tale. This film was a wonder to behold on the big screen, earning it 3.5 out of 5 smiley faces from this reviewer.
Snow White and the Hunstman:
I like being long-winded . . . it gives my lungs a workout!