Snow White and the Huntsman is a visually stunning film. Watching it is like delving into a sumptuous feast in a dark fantasy land.
Shame that, like the apple that Snow White bites, its glossy sheen covers a rotten core. It is all shine and no substance. The music swells, the colors burst, but beneath, the plot is incoherent, the characters unconvincing, and the emotions flat and lifeless.
The movie is brimming with potential. Snow White, for example, should be an interesting and compelling character. She’s beautiful, kindhearted and loving, as Snow White always is, and she’s as physically weak as you would expect an imprisoned waif to be. But she’s also proactive. Determined. Brave. Resourceful. When the Huntsman teaches her how to defend herself, he acknowledge her small size and lack of strength and teaches her moves that might actually work. As far as convincing, bad-ass princesses go, she ticks all the boxes. A strong female character without being a Strong Female Character (TM). Unfortunately, she’s also just plain bland. She looks pretty good as the silent figure, but as soon as she communicates with anyone else, she loses all appeal. Her lines are unconvincing and emotionless. She’s supposed to unite people against the Queen, but she couldn’t realistically inspire anyone if her life depended on it. She’s not boring so much as a bit of a non-entity.
Towards the end, the movie seems to realize this, and throws all of the previous praiseworthy attempts to develop a realistic character aside in favor of the Warrior Princess. Despite being a prisoner for her whole life, Snow White suddenly knows battle strategy, can run in mail with sword and shield in hand, and can handle her sword in a melee. She’s received no training between one scene where she was taught how to strike fast with a dagger, but suddenly, she is a master of battle. Having an actually convincing character didn’t work for the film, so they resorted to kickassness to try and add drama to the finale.
It doesn’t work.
On the other hand, we have the Queen. Again, the groundwork for a great and interesting character is all there. Her motivations are semi-clear. She hates men, because she believes that all men use women and then discard them when their beauty fades. She steals the youth and beauty of others, because she realizes that these are the only powers a woman can possess — powers that are inevitably stolen by time. The movie had a lot to explore here, but in the end, it only paid lip-service to these ideas. The Queen mentions, every now and again, the importance of beauty. But she’s also a melodramatic, pantomime villain. Her character not only lacks pathos but is also simply unbelievable to me. I never once thought she might be a real person, with real struggles and goals. I never even quite understood why she wanted to take the kingdom in the first place.
The lack of convincing characters is what really destroys the film. It’s difficult to follow what’s going on. It’s almost impossible to feel any investment in the characters or their struggles, and so the movie lacks tension and drama as well as heart. There’s some attempt at a love triangle, but after finishing the film, I’m not even sure what it was, who liked who, or how it ended. After two hours of gorgeous visuals, I just feel… nothing.
The promotional stuff for this movie made it seem incredibly promising. An action-packed, dark fantasy version of Snow White! With the perspective of both the princess and the queen! Not to mention a potential romance with that yummy actor who played Thor. But in the end, the film fails to deliver.