Snow White and the Huntsman (2012): The Beautiful and the Bland

I finally resigned myself to watching Snow White and the Huntsman tonight. At the price of £4.59 for an HD download via PS3 store, I thought, ‘Why not?’

Before I go into the who’s who list about the film, I would like to go on record as saying  the movie looked beautiful. The locations, the costumes, the cinematography were top-notch. The effects were outstanding. The digitizing of Ian McShane and Ray Winstone and Nick Frost and company was disturbing and Charlize Theron was, at turns, beautiful, terrifying, mad and captivating.

Chris Hemsworth was brilliant as the huntsman, although I did keep waiting to see if Thor’s hammer was going to appear and make the whole fighting nonsense very one-sided. About the battles…The large ones looks brilliant and the smaller ‘up close’ ones were very well choreographed.

Directed by Rupert Sanders (who is perhaps better known as the chap who was ‘playing away’ with his leading lady, and I don’t mean the real leading lady Charlize Theron) and starring Kristen StewartChris Hemsworth, and Charlize Theron Snow White and the Huntsman is a ‘re-imaging’ of the classic fairy tale Snow White.

In this verse Snow White is not beautiful on the outside (her mother helpfully tells little Snow and us that her true beauty lies within) and that her innocence and love and fairness are what makes her truly beautiful. Then mum dies and dad remarries the worst possible choice ever, Ravenna(Theron). Whilst in the middle of his performing his marital duties, Ravenna dispatches him before he really gets a chance to get started.

Beautiful but so deadly.

Ravenna’s private army (led by her despicable, but faithful, brother) slaughters everyone who cannot escape. Snow White attempts to escape but this is thwarted at the last possible moment. She is then thrown into a prison tower.

As if the punishment of having to grow up isolated in a prison tower were not enough, she is then turned into Kristen Stewart. If ever an actor’s name could be substituted for the word bland, Stewart should head the list of candidates.

Damn you Ravenna!

The film tries very hard to convince us, the audience, that Stewart is a real threat to the beautiful Ravenna. It does keep harping back to the old ‘innocence’ line and how that will be the evil Queen‘s downfall. But despite all the helpful nods to Stewart’s beauty it just doesn’t work.

*in one hilarious moment, Snow White and company enter a fairy glade. All the fronds are dangling dejectedly toward the ground, the moment Snow White enters they all stretch skyward in their happiness. I’ve never seen such a phallic emphasis used to such great inadvertent comic effect.*

But despite the fact that I kept expecting Bella (Sorry, I mean Snow White) to call out for Edward, I never once found Stewart capable of showing that she was this loving, kind and ‘beautiful on the inside’ heroine that the script called for. To be fair though, the script did not call for an awful lot from Ms Stewart. Her lines as Snow White were sparse and, in true Stewart fashion, mumbled.

Everyone else in the film managed to knock their performances out of the park. But actors aside for a moment, the scenes in the Black Forest were to die for. I loved the hallucinogenic spores that were released by the mushrooms. The trees (that were pretty damn scary looking anyway) suddenly seemed terrifying and alive. The whole forest came alive and it looked brilliant.

I did not like the little back story that the script came up with for Ravenna. The old, “Well, she’s not really bad. Her mother only made her this way so she could survive the horrible massacre of her village and family (except for her brother). Rubbish! That’s right, I said it! Rubbish! I want my bigger than life villains to be bad dammit! Not justified!

Charlize Theron (who one critic accused of ‘over acting’ and listen Pally, if she looked like she was overacting, it was probably because of Stewart’s inability to convey anything resembling emotion) who could have been a Bond villain  was so glorious in her badness it was a shame to see her lose at the end.

My daughter looked me in the eye at the end of the film and said, “Is is wrong that I wanted Ravenna to win?” I suppose that because the story was about Snow White the logical answer would be yes. But… But…

If we were not the only ones disappointed at Ravenna’s demise at the end of the film, surely that means either the script should have been more ‘Snow White’ oriented or perhaps Ms Stewart should not have been cast as the heroine of the film.

Of course now the entire world knows of the director’s and his ingenue’s extra-curricular activities and it becomes painfully clear why Kristen Stewart was so cast against type.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, it’s after Thor we go…

I have seen her in other films besides the execrable Twilight series and she always looks the same and acts the same. There is not one ‘Snow White’ bone in her body (and yes I am aware just how wrong that sounds).  The film really does belong to Theron, not Stewart and it really mystifies why on earth she was cast, dalliances with the director not included.

That the movie did well in the area of box office receipts can be verified via IMDb or Wikipedia. I am not surprised, like I said earlier, the film looks fantastic, the vast majority of the cast acted their socks off and apart from the disturbing digitized images of Ian McShane and Co (which outraged the  Little People of America so much that they protested) the effects of the film were top-notch.

Where is Edward?

My final verdict is that it is worth seeing for everyone’s performances except for Ms Stewart’s whose only crime was being mis-cast.


The Cabin in the Woods (2011): Wolfram and Hart go Big-Time

It may just be me, but the whole film kind of felt like a huge Angel episode. One where Angel and co have already been defeated by ‘Wolf, Ram and Hart’ and are now running the entire world to their own set of skewed rules. It felt like the ‘bad guys’ had won the battle, but in order to win the war had to keep sacrificing a certain amount of people to hold the ‘ancient ones’ at bay.

It was like this was really the series end of Angel and it showed us that the demonic law corporation was alive and well and holding back the evil gods by the skin of their demonic teeth. Having Whedon regulars like Amy Acker (never a bad thing) and Fran Kranz (a personal favourite after his brilliant role in Dollhouse), not to mention Tom Lenk (it was nice to see him in something other than the Pepsi Max commercials he’s been trapped in), sort of made this film seem like ‘old home week’ already, but add in the massive plot device and the twist at the end of the movie and it still felt a little like an Epilogue to Angel season 5.

But despite the niggly feeling that Eliza Dushku was going to suddenly show up and save the day, I enjoyed the film. The very presence of Richard Jenkins(who gave a star turn as the father figure in the film Let Me In) ensured that the calibre of acting was going to be top notch and it was. I adored the explanation of how the whole thing worked. The ‘participants’ had free-will going for them. Okay the cards were pretty much stacked against them from the get go, but they still had the liberty to misbehave or not. The entire feel of the ‘behind the scenes’ guys was brilliant. Right down to the betting pools on which ‘big bad’ was going to dispatch the group.

The writing was pure Whedon and Goddard gold. The scene where the gas station attendant rings the control room for a strange almost biblical rant. He  stops mid-rant and asks, “Do you have me on speaker-phone?” With much choked back giggling and gestures to keep quiet, the controller talking to the gas station guy says, “Yep, I did. Sorry about that.” He then makes a knocking noise and says, “Okay, you’re off.” Of course gas station guy isn’t off the speaker phone and the giggling and laughing clues him into this. The entire film was worth the price of admission just for this scene alone.

“I told you! I don’t want to talk about Dollhouse!”

It was these type of scenes combined with the subtle action that made the film worth watching. Wendy Lin (Amy Acker) turning up her nose at the office pool and then at the last minute placing her bet. The slow realization that everything is resting on their televised sacrifice show and the pressures and tension that entails. The premature celebrations when they think they’ve won. I could go on but what would be the point?

The film was a brilliant attempt at satirizing the horror/slasher genre that just doesn’t quite work. The film has stand out moments and for my money Fran Kranz stole the show. The Cabin in the Woods was plagued with problems from the get go. The studios who had given the film the green light, then turned around and wanted to first change the format to 3D and then just wanted to get rid of the finished product.  *Interesting to note that the other film the studio was desperate to get rid of was the re-make of Red Dawn. Red Dawn also starred Thor aka Chris Hemsworth. It makes you wonder what the studio was thinking.*

I did also get the feeling that Kristen Connolly was a replacement for Felicia Day who must not have been available for the shooting schedule. I was desperate to see this film and was gutted when I missed it’s cinema run. Watching it last night, I was actually glad that I didn’t see it on the big screen as I don’t think it would have enhanced the experience at all. I am now waiting for the blu-ray copy to come in so that I may see the making of featurettes that I live for.

Goddard, Thor and Whedon

My final verdict is that the film is a must see for Whedon fans, or indeed Goddard fans,  and it’s still very entertaining. It is not a horror film (I thought I’d better warn you) and it only just misses the satire genre. The film is still clever and what we have come to expect from Mssrs Whedon and Goddard.

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