Thursday, July 5, 2012

Snows, White

I've seen two film interpretations of Snow White in the past few months, and one on TV. That's probably two too many.

Nicole and I saw Snow White and the Huntsman this past weekend. And while I didn't dislike it per se, I can't give it a ringing endorsement. Better than Mirror, Mirror? Sure, for as much as you can compare an adventure film to a comedy. Funnily enough when we went to see "Mirror, Mirror" weeks earlier, a trailer for "Huntsman" played and I whispered to Nicole "Wait, isn't that the movie we came to see?" Hell, the "Huntsman" trailer even begins with the "mirror, mirror" line. I hadn't even remembered that there were two Snow White movies this year.

So "Huntsman" styles itself as a dark-ish, action/adventure film and I wouldn't dispute that it belongs in that category. Where it begins to unravel is where it incorporates its source material and the dissonance with how modern movies are made and what is expected.

For starters, nowadays you can't have a helpless princess waiting to be rescued (unless that helplessness is played off as a sort of character flaw, or we're talking about something made for kids), no, a female protagonist has to be strong and independent, or at least must become that along the way. Both movies (and "Once Upon a Time, too) have their Snow White evolve along those lines. In the opening minutes of "Huntsman" we hear about a queen who pricks her finger on a rose blooming in winter, and wishes that her daughter would be as beautiful as the red blood against the white snow... and as strong as the rose that's blooming in defiance of winter.

Interesting. I read a version of Snow White years ago where some princes are out hunting. One shoots a hare and, when they see its blood against the snow, comments that a woman whose complexion was of those two colors would be the fairest in the land. There's no mention of strength; it's thrown in to "Huntsman" to push the notion of a strong Snow White. Nothing wrong with that, of course. In fact I think it's elegantly done

But this Snow White really isn't the strong and heroic type. She doesn't really do much of anything and always needs someone else to pull her bacon out of the fire. Except at the end, where's she's suddenly and completely trained in the use of medieval armor and weaponry. There's no real character arc other than "Well, someday she'll be great... okay, that's now." None of the crises she faces seem to develop her in any way, teach useful skills or build character.

So, Snow White is pretty weak. But what about the Huntsman? Well, we don't get much on him either. Apparently his wife has died, and we later learn in a throwaway line that it was very probably the evil queen who did so. Chris Hemsworth of "Thor" fame is pretty much just here for the action. That and a pointless love triangle with Snow White and her childhood friend, the duke's son William. There's never any tension here. It seems that someone who had a hand in this movie realized that their male lead was playing a peasant and that princesses marry princes. The movie leaves this open ended. As good a way to finish as any, I suppose.

On the other hand, it had just as much humor as "Mirror, Mirror" did.

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