Today: February 26, 2024
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Snow White And The Huntsman

Summer Blockbuster season is upon us once more.

Summer Blockbuster season is upon us once
more. Is there a more depressing,
soul-destroying period on the movie calendar?

It’s that time of year when the Hollywood studios fill our cinemas with
big, dumb, colourful, loud, obnoxious product placements, precision-tooled to
appeal to the masturbating chimp with ADD lurking within all of us in a
desperate effort to lure us away from the sunshine, Wimbledon and the Olympics,
tempting us out of the house and into the movie theatres. Films where big robots punch each
other. Films where spandex-clad
superheroes punch each other. Films
based on comic books. Films based
on cheesy stage musicals. Films
based on board games. Films based
on fairground rides. Films based
on chick-lit self-help books.

Some day
soon, someone, probably Michael Bay
or Brett Ratner, will make a
$200-million film based on a children’s cereal starring Scarlett Johansson’s arse as Tony the Tiger and edited to within a
frame of inducing epilepsy. Sure,
every so often a genuinely intelligent artist like Chris Nolan will put out a film that’s actually good but most
Summer movies are designed to appeal to the lowest low-brow in the audience,
the kind of hooting, braying idiot who likes to be able to check his text
messages during the film without missing anything important.

Already
this year we’ve had Battleship, a big,
dumb, loud alien invasion movie based on a dumb board game featuring R’n’B star
Rihanna’s shapely bottom. We’ve had Avengers Assemble, a big, dumb, loud superhero team-up movie where
a bunch of spandex-clad, second string Marvel superheroes join forces with
Scarlett Johansson’s shapely bottom to save New York. By destroying more of the Big Apple than an Al-Qaeda aeronautical
display team on mushrooms. Johnny Depp and Tim Burton have made their movie again. You know, the one they make every year that no-one ever
wants to see. Sacha Baron Cohen is tediously dicking around in The Dictator and a decade after the
last sequel (which no-one wanted then) we have Will Smith obnoxiously gurning his way through MIB3. Still
to come, we have Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises, which admittedly
both look pretty good, but we’re also going to have to sit through pointless reboots/remakes
of Spiderman, Superman and Total Recall. Not to mention Top Cat. And then
there’s Rock of Ages, a film for
people who think Glee’s too edgy.

Which brings us to
this Summer’s dueling Snow White movies Mirror
Mirror
and Snow White And The Huntsman. The first, Mirror Mirror seemed to have everything going for it; a visionary
director in Tarsem Singh, an
Oscar-winning Wicked Queen in Julia
Roberts
, a fresh-faced Snow White in Lily
(daughter of Phil) Collins, Sean Bean as Ned Stark and Nathan Lane as Nathan Lane. Waitaminute? Nathan Lane? America’s
answer to Biggins? Surely that must have set a few alarm bells ringing? While, like all of Singh’s work, it
looked ravishing and was undeniably kiddie-friendly, it felt like Tarsem was
just cynically going through the motions, treading water. Mirror Mirror was
feeble, unfunny, self-consciously ironic, an arch pantomime that was camper
than a Widow Twankey contest at Madame JoJo’s with Roberts’ Wicked Queen a shriller
variation on her obnoxious 30-something fag hag from My Best Friend’s Wedding.
Worst of all, Mirror Mirror
was safe. It lacked the bite, the
horror, the darkness of the original fairytale. A Grimm tale with no grimness.

Thankfully, the same
cannot be said of debutant director Rupert
Sanders
’s Snow White And The
Huntsman
which is everything Mirror
Mirror
failed to be; stripping the tale back to its dark, twisted origins
and giving it a decidedly feminist spin.
You know the story already: Wicked Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) kills the good King and enslaves the land with the
aid of a mirror, a quasi-incestuous brother (Sam Spruell) and some black magic, imprisoning the King’s daughter,
Princess Snow White, in the process.
Locked away, Snow White grows from girl to young emo chick Kristen Stewart, escapes Ravenna’s
clutches and disappears into the dark woods hoping to find her father’s still
loyal allies and raise an army against the Wicked Queen. Knowing Snow White is the only threat
to her rule and convinced the girl’s death will grant her eternal beauty,
Ravenna sends the world-weary Huntsman (Chris
Hemsworth
) to kill her. But,
finding he can’t bring himself to kill an innocent girl, the Huntsman becomes
Snow White’s protector and together with a motley crew of foul-mouthed,
hard-drinking dwarves (Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins,
Eddie Marsan, Ray Winstone, Johnny Harris, Toby Jones, Nick Frost
and Brian Gleeson)
and Snow White’s childhood sweetheart/handsome prince William (Sam Claflin) they set out to save the
land.

Edgy
and raw, Sanders has given us a grim, grimy fairytale that isn’t afraid to play
it straight. It’s not hip, it’s
not knowing, it’s not ironic. It’s
not winking at the audience and sticking its tongue firmly in its cheek. It’s a dark, violent slice of fantasy
that takes a timeless story and drags it kicking and screaming into the 21st
century. This is a film where
people die, and die badly.
Husbands are murdered in their marital bed, knights have boiling oil
poured over them, villages are put to fire and sword, beautiful young girls are
drained of their life force by an almost vampiric Queen. Fantastical, nightmarish imagery haunts
every frame but the film is grounded in a real-world sense of reality. This may be a world of trolls, fairies
and magic mirrors but it’s also a world where a village of Amazonian widows
mutilate their own, and their daughters’, faces to escape the hunger of
Theron’s Bathory-esque Queen who’s obsession with being the fairest in the land
consumes all who threaten her, using them up and spitting them out.

Admittedly,
it’s tough at first to believe that Theron, one of the most luminously
beautiful women in the world, is actually worried about the threat posed to her
fairness by the washed-out wee girl from Twilight
but, hey, it’s a fairytale! The
action scenes are fun, Hemsworth’s beefcake badass wields a hatchet like he’s The Last of the Mohicans while the big
battle scenes are blood and thunder affairs, vaguely reminiscent of John Boorman’s Excalibur. Stewart’s Snow White is almost a messianic force, a female
King Arthur, restoring life to a desolate wasteland as she dons armour and rides
into battle, a Goth Joan of Arc.

The
performances are great and while Charlize Theron walks off with the movie,
Kristen Stewart more than holds her own as Snow White. Spruell is a deliciously creepy,
sexually threatening baddie and, despite having to compete against Thor in the
hunk stakes, Claflin is a likeably sympathetic love interest. Despite an accent that’s less Sean Connerry and more C.U. Jimmy,
Hemsworth’s macho action hero will set girls (and boys) hearts aflutter and, be
honest, who doesn’t want to see Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsan, Ray
Winstone, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris and Simon Pegg’s fat mate from Spaced as
tough, ass-kicking dwarves?

While
it’s not exactly Angela Carter, Snow
White And The Huntsman
has heart and brains. It’s a refreshingly, unashamed attempt to make a
kitsch-free, gritty, adult fairytale for a modern audience and, so far, is the
Summer Blockbuster worth seeing.

David Watson

David Watson is a screenwriter, journalist and 'manny' who, depending on time of day and alcohol intake could be described as a likeable misanthrope or a carnaptious bampot. He loves about 96% of you but there's at least 4% he'd definitely eat in the event of a plane crash. Email: david.watson@filmjuice.com

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