Also, SPOILERS galore:
I was really looking forward to Snow White and the Huntsman. Really, really. The previews looked ah-mah-zing. I liked the idea of a little more kick-ass Snow White which is why I love Ginnifer Goodwin as Snow in Once Upon a Time...but I thought this Snow White looked even more edgy. I like edgy! Charlize Theron looked gorgeous and creepy. There was a bit much CGI for my taste in the previews, enough to give me a slight feeling of unease, but I brushed that under the rug and persisted in my extremely high levels of excitement.
Here’s what I expected from Snow White and the Huntsman (just so you guys can tell me if I went in with unreasonably high expectations or something):
Creepy and Evil Queen
Strong Female Protag: Snow White makes transformation at some point from girl getting hunted to kick ass warrior chick
Love Interest between Snow White and Huntsman / Romantic Tension: Snow White & a hottie Huntsman? I’ll buy a ticket for that ride!
Fleshed Out Characters: Especially Snow White and the Huntsman...cause you know, they’re the TITLE characters.
Here’s what I got:
Creepy and Evil Queen: Check! I think I was the most emotionally attached to this character because she was the most fleshed out, and had the most compelling back story. Charlize Theron is the best part of this movie.
Pensive, Non-Verbal Snow White: SW wandering around looking pensive, running and looking pensive, in chain mail looking pensive...a main character who Hardly. Ever. Talks. And when she does half the time you’re like, “Huh? What?” Case in point, when she yells “I gave them my word!” during the “seige” of the castle and I’m thinking, “What? When did this happen? Was I in the bathroom or something?”
Hot Huntsman: Check! Except we get very little of his back story...and the pieces we do get are piecemeal...his wife is dead, he misses her, he creepily sort of falls in love with Snow White cause she REMINDS HIM OF HIS DEAD WIFE (awkward), and his wife seems to have been one of the Queen’s victims. Also, he drinks a lot and owes some dwarves some money. But why any of this makes me want to like HIM as a character, I have absolutely no clue.
Love Interest Between Snow White and Huntsman / Romantic Tension: Nope. I THINK there was kind of supposed to be, cause he like twinkles those baby blues at her a few times and tells her she looks fetching in chain mail and she’s like “uuuhhhh.” Like, seriously, the guy just kissed you awake, you go out and make some rousing speech to the people that makes absolutely no sense (Snow White, are you feeling well? You’re babbling like a crazy person and confusing the hell out of the audience. Maybe take 5 before the Braveheart speech...you were just DEAD after all), and this is the first time you’re speaking to the guy since he raised you from the dead with his kiss and you literally DO NOT SAY anything in reply to him? Dating no no.
Love Triangle...or is it? Maybe it’s a Nobody Really Quite Gives a Crap Triangle: William and SW were pals as kids. Then the Queen takes over, all the good guys flee the castle, SW is stuck behind and locked in a tower. William escapes with his dad the Duke, thinking SW is dead...when he finds out she isn’t & is now running for her life in the dark forest, he goes after her...SW meanwhile has taken up with the Huntsman (and by "taken up with" I mean sharing a screen with a complete lack of sexual tension) and so when William finally shows up she’s like “Oh, hey, yeah, high five, nice to see you.” Actually, they don’t even high five. That would be showing too much emotion.
So...does she like William, the love of her youth? He kinda likes her? But isn’t threatened by the Huntsman at all apparently...nor is the Huntsman threatened by him. Honestly, it’s like they’re all college roommates or something. They got assigned to this movie together and they’re just getting along as well as the can until they can move off campus with their real friends.
Fleshed out characters: No.
Plot Holes and Things That Happen For No Discernible Reason: So, so, so many plot holes. So, so, so many things that didn’t make sense and were pointless. Why did we spend 5 minutes on SW walking through a bizarre fairy land to meet with a white stag who bows to her proving she’s the “life” of the land? We’ve never heard of this white stag before. There was this HUGE info dump at the beginning of the movie that gave us tons of back story in a rather uncreative way. How easy would it have been to say..."and the land had been guarded by a white magic that took the form of a stag...it disappeared when the evil came"...and then when we see the stag we’d all think “Ooooh, okay.” But instead we are like, “Um. Why? You know, if you’d cut this part this movie would have made it in at under two hours. Think about that next time, guys. Editing. It’s a thing. A good thing. Learn it.”
And this brings me to the section of my review in which I rant about CGI:
I’m a visual person. I love pretty scenes. In fact, I write to images in my head. I can’t start a new story unless I have a really strong picture or small movie of it running through my brain. I don’t mind CGI. It has its place. But I firmly believe that this quote from George Lucas is true:
“Special effects are just a tool, a means of telling a story. People have a tendency to confuse them as an end to themselves. A special effect without a story is a pretty boring thing.”
Now, George said this a long time ago and has apparently forgotten it completely as evidenced by his systematic destruction of the Star Wars franchise. I honestly think someone should hold him down and tattoo this backwards on his forehead so he can read it whenever he looks in a mirror and be reminded that at one time he had half a brain in his head. This is a rant for another day, however.
But it’s true. Just cause it LOOKS pretty is no reason to put it in a movie. That whole sanctuary fairy land thing with all the crazy animals, and mushrooms with one eyeball, and the stag turning into butterflies...Pointless. As. Heck. That’s thousands of man hours and millions of dollars that added NOTHING to the story. In fact, it only managed to muddle and confuse an already murky storyline.
CGI and special effects have their place, but please Hollywood, exercise restraint (I know this is hard for you, but give it a try and see how it goes).
And now for the part of the review where I give writing advice:
I don’t claim to be a writing guru. But there are few universal truths about writing that I think any novelist/screenwriter need to keep in mind. I say this less as a writer and more as an audience member who wants her ten dollars back.
Rule One: Your audience needs to care about your main characters. We need to be emotionally invested somehow. Sometimes this is because of back story, but mostly it’s because of how the characters interact with each other and how they respond to the things that happen to/around them. Know who I wasn’t emotionally invested in? Snow White. The Huntsmen. William. The dwarves. I’m actually not sure SW was emotionally invested in any of those people herself, so it makes it kind of to root for anyone.
Rule Two: Pay off your audience. When something big happens, like, oh I don’t know, the power of a kiss waking someone from the DEAD, the audience expects some kind of emotional pay off from the characters. And the audience believes THIS kiss is special because when William kissed dead SW nothing happened, but when the Huntsman smooches her (and then walks away) she wakes up. So there’s SOMETHING about THIS kiss that woke her up...and then nothing. No pay off between SW and the Huntsman at all! She doesn’t even say anything back to him when he compliments her before they ride into battle. W.H.A.T? Your audience is conditioned to expect that this kiss MEANS something and not only have we been conditioned by years of seeing this story play out in multiple mediums, you set it up that way yourself! To not pay off on that is cruel and stupid lazy storytelling.
Rule Three: Support grand claims with some kind of evidence. Snow White can defeat the Queen because she is “purer and fairer.” We are never given evidence that SW is pure. We never see her do anything that leads us to believe she’s just a completely sweet and awesome girl. Like giving her last piece of food to a starving kid, or committing some other selfless act, or honestly really much of anything. She runs out and screams at a troll that was going to whack the living crap out the Huntsmen so maybe that was supposed to be the selfless act. But it came across more like she’d be without a guide through the treacherous dark forest if he ate it, so she ran out screaming (and the troll was just so in awe of her, King Kong like, that he got all doe-eyed and turned tail and rambled off cause...well, just cause).
I mean, of course she's "more pure" than the Queen. Who isn't? The lady takes young girls and sucks the pretty right out of them with evil magic and makes them old and/or dead. Any random guy on the street is more pure. If SW's not demonstrably extra-specially pure, it basically boils down to being more “fair.” So, she’s just prettier. I love Kristen Stewart, but I don’t think Charlize Theron has much to worry about in that department. So the entire sum of SW character is that she’s pretty and she’s the King’s daughter. When SW and the Queen are finally battling, SW says “I’m everything you’re not.” What...non-verbal? The Queen at least talks on a regular basis. Strong? Powerful? I honestly don’t know what SW has that makes her awesome. And during her rallying cry (which made no sense at all, there was no context to her ramblings about iron melting, etc.) I kept wishing that her character supported it. I wanted her to be strong and edgy and bad ass. I did! But I would have been fine with her being sweet, lovely, and kind because that can inspire too!
Oh my gosh, this is getting way, way, way too long. I seriously have half a mind to rewrite the whole movie just for my own reading pleasure. It could have been good. It could have been brilliant.
I went in prepared to love it. I would have settled for liking it. Instead I experienced four of the five stages of grief while watching this movie. I have to admit I fluctuated back and forth between anger and depression the entire last half of the film. I have not yet reached the acceptance stage. I refuse to accept it.