She just cannot catch a break in Snow White & the Huntsman (A recap)

Not quite the fairy tale you grew up with. (From http://www.screenweek.it)

Tuesday night I was fortunate enough to attend an advance screening for Snow White & the Huntsman from Cinemit in Manhattan (note to self: if going to a screening anywhere in Manhattan, arrive anywhere from 1 – 1.5 hours so you don’t end up sitting all the way in the front and getting a crick in your neck. It does not float well on the train where the crazies will think you’re challenging them). I had gone with a friend so I enjoyed the company. Although the seats were not the best (we ended up sitting right about 5 rows from the front), the movie was great. I was captivated enough that I forgot about the pain (until typing right now and realizing that slowly my head is tilting slightly to one side or another).

This movie is pretty much your average fairy tale with a dark twist.

If you have been keeping up with your fairy tales, Snow White is the daughter of a benevolent Queen. She was fair and beautiful. She dies one day and the King marries another woman. The woman you would remember, then becomes the main antagonist who would usurp the kingdom and tries to get rid of Snow White.

Following in the traditional story (with a twist!), the Queen dies after giving birth to Snow White (who is extremely bright, amicable and everybody just loves the sight of her throughout the kingdom). Snow White’s father, the King, leads an army against the threat of a foreign nature. The enemy falls easily, too easily. They shatter like glass once hit. The army rejoices; the King comes across a caravan of sorts and discovers a pale, lithe woman. “What is your name?” The King asks. “Charlize Thero– I mean, Ravenna,” she replies.

At this moment I was hooked. If you knew the story, you could see the plot coming a mile away (naturally). It was the way that the actors/actresses pulled their roles off which really made the movie much more enjoyable. Having excellent CGI didn’t hurt as well. I think you would definitely watch the movie for the CGI, and then the veteran performances.

Cut to the Queen– no not the dead one– Queen Ravenna is in power. After murdering the King in his sleep by stabbing him in the heart (over the reasoning that men of his ilk “use” women for their own pleasure by stealing their hearts, she would take his), she assumes the throne. This, we will assume that is her basic driving force in doing what she does throughout the movie, being jealous of not being loved and all. After she is Queen, she opens up the castle gate and allows her army to walk right on through in the dead of night (she makes an ideal Trojan Horse though), led by her brother Finn (played by Sam Spruell who oddly looks like Andy Samberg’s future self). They then start their fiendish rule over the kingdom, causing prosperity to become despair. Basically your typical dystopic kingdom scenario. Meanwhile the Queen is in the middle of taking a milk bath (which looked more like plaster of Paris) and lets the peons fight to drink her bathwater. Yummo.

Enough about the Queen! What about Snow White? Well little (not so little anymore) Snow is trapped in a prison. She tried to escape after discovering her father’s death, but by that time the Queen’s unearthly army has already taken over the kingdom and slaughtering all the good folks. The Duke and his son, William, puts up a good fight, but loses Snow White in the commotion and she is left behind (huge surprise). So back to Snow White, who is trapped in the prison (all this time now up to the present). Kristen Stewart plays prisoner well. Her face just screams “sadness“. She seems to be self-reliant. She is also lonely, having no one to talk to (except the creepy brother of the Queen, who just stares at her through the doors waiting for her to turn legal– yes, attempted rape is always a great way to go about in movies).

Enough about Snow though– one day we see a pretty young thing being tossed into the adjacent cell. Her name is Gretel. Snow looks rejoiced to meet a new friend, even though she won’t last for long (by the way, KS’s faces just never change any more after that. Either that or I cannot read wooden faces as well as you can). Gretel is “sacrificed” to the Queen so that she could stay young. Yes, the Queen stays forever youthful not by diving in her milk pool daily but by sucking the life out of young women, turning them old while she becomes young again. Aren’t they lucky that they weren’t captives of Elizabeth Báthory?

Anyway back to Snow. We just have to keep coming back to Snow. She is the main character, after all. She is horrified to see an aged Gretel. It’s scary. To think that could happen to her had she been some poor extra character, instead of being the Princess. Whew. Crisis averted– not yet?! She’s sitting in despair one day until she sees 2 ravens with white bands on their wings. Dinner? No, they lead her to the window where she finds a nail embedded into the stones. How convenient for her, it comes out easily after applying a little bit of elbow grease (seriously now, how exactly could that happen when the window was only about a half foot wide and she barely was able to grab the nail). Any way, that nail comes in handy as she hear footsteps approach. Oh look, it’s creepy Finn! He comes into the cell. “You never come in,” she says after he sits on her bed, staring at her all creepily. So yes, he tries to touch her up because apparently all that stopped him was her age. Really now? I never knew that in medieval times they resisted. You know, child brides of 12 and whatnot.

So why was Creepy Finn going to visit Snow White? Not for milk and cookies sadly. Apparently Ravenna’s Magic Mirror (which have been re-imagined to be a gigantic gong looking object) when summoned, oozes out in gold satiny goodness and materializes into a gold figure (Oscar reference and possible nod anyone?) that’s as tall as the Queen. “Magic Mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” She asks. Without as many words, the velvet voiced Mirror tells her that she is, but Snow White is pure as snow and now that she’s legal, she’s in the running for Kingdom’s Next Top Queen. Ravenna don’t like that. She calls in Creepy Finn and tells him to bring Snow White to her. Apparently Snow White’s pure heart will give Ravenna immortality as well as be her downfall. It makes sense… I suppose.

Enough about creepy Finn, he gets scratched with a nail. He screams, she escapes. Even though we were treated to scenes of guards everywhere, Snow White was able to run around trying to find an exit, and made her way out into the courtyard where onlookers were gawking in surprise. Snow is at a loss for an escape. The gate is down (literally, not open like in Ender’s Game) and nowhere to run in sight. She sees an entrance of some small hole in the wall. What the heck, she thinks, and slip slides right into the hole. Creepy Finn vows to get her back.

The Queen gets all pissy and tells Creepy Finn in so many words how disappointed she is of him, how she has taken care of him throughout their years and this is how he repays her. Slaps him, and then heals his face. How ever will we remember that he’s a villain now that he is without a telltale scar? It would’ve made him look a lot less creepy IMO. Charlize Theron does menacing very well. You could practically feel the icicles coming off her breath. Screaming hotly in anger, not so much. The best evil characters are the subtly dangerous ones. So where did Snow White seem to have escaped off to? The Black Forest? Well that won’t work. The Queen’s magic has no power there! So poor non-magical Creepy Finn must go retrieve Snow White. However since he is a fail villain, they recruit a Huntsman. Enter Chris Hemsworth– I mean Thor– I mean, Huntsman.

The Huntsman is… a drunkard. Huh, not quite what you would’ve expected when you think about a Huntsman (muscular, and chopping logs daily. What? They just do, when they’re not putting arrows through cute animals like Bambi). He apparently is a depressed, beaten down man. Losing your wife would do that to you. Creepy Finn and his entourage haul him back to the Queen where she makes him a proposal. “Bring me back Snow White from the Dark Forest alive,” she says, “and I will bring your wife back to life.” (Really now) He agrees and off he goes with Creepy Finn and posse to the Dark Forest.

The Dark Forest is a creepy place. Trees move, and people of weak will do not last very long as they keep getting ambushed by gassy mushrooms. One whiff of that and it makes you feel like you’ve taken Ecstasy. Snow White, falls down a couple of times and gets gassed. Asides from the trees actually moving, she hallucinates a mirage of things, which (not surprising) freaks her out. Oh, by the way: while she spent probably how many hours wandering in the forest, Creepy Finn and the Huntsman managed to find her. Yes. Apparently the Forest is within walking distance, and not so vast at all. Huntsman almost hands her over to Finn when he demands his payment. “I want my wife.” He demands. “You fool, your wife is dead, no magic can bring her back.” Seethes Finn. Maybe I’m not a great villain, but wouldn’t you try to get the girl back before saying something like that? Obviously the Huntsman doesn’t give her up and smokes a couple of Creepy Finn’s entourage. Boy, can he wield an axe or what? Huntsman then escapes the Dark Forest with Snow White.

Long story short, Snow White and the Huntsman make their way through various sites where oh look– Creepy Finn and recovery team find them after a day. At that moment I was convinced that the Queen’s got a Lo Jack on Snow White. I know you really can’t drag out a search scene in a 127 minute movie, but they do make finding fugitives quite easy in such vast lands. Speaking of things that get sped up, Snow White gets schooled in the arts of war by the Huntsman. The viewers are amazed that in 5 minutes of actual lessons, it would be just enough skills for Snow White to employ throughout the movie and drag out into one long epic battle against the army of darkness.

Good news though, Snow White and Huntsman manages to find a clearing where Creepy Finn is nowhere to be seen (and not expected to pop out in Nemesis fashion crying for S.T.A.R.S) only to be attacked by… the 8 Dwarves. (8 Dwarves you say? Don’t worry not for long, because to stay in continuity with this re-imagined story, one will die soon enough). They trap our peppy duo (where even if you look at Kristin Stewart upside down, she– bless her heart– still looks the same whether feet on the ground or not) where poor Huntsman gets his dusty six-pack abs beaten in a couple of times before the little fellers are told that it is the Princess they’ve got strung up. They exchange info and then the Dwarves join the gang. The Enchanted Forest is a 180 from the Dark Forest. There is actual foliage, adorable CGI creatures roam the area, turtles, birds, and oh look the ravens with the white bands are back! Snow White sees that they aren’t what they seem. Little Golem-like creatures come out. They are faeries that could fly but use ravens to fly around in. There really is not much point to this scene except to show off how awesome the CGI is. She also meets with a magical stag, which apparently never appears and when does, only to those with a pure of heart. Snow White, with her wooden facial expressions, goes to pet the stag, only for it to get shot by an arrow. Who could’ve done that? Why, it’s Creepy Finn, who by the powers of deduction, have narrowed out where they were. By the way, what happened to those faeries? No one keeping watch?

Enough about the heroes, what of William? The boy who had lived? Well he grows up to be a delicious piece of man and an even better Bowman. He joins up with Creepy Finn just so he can find Snow White himself.

Snow White to her credit doesn’t get all mushy with William. They reminisce a bit and William gives her an apple. She bites into it and then starts to choke. The apple was spiked! She basically chokes on the poisoned apple and collapses. William laughs evilly and turns into… Ravenna. If you want the job to be done properly, do it yourself I say. The real William and company find her lifeless body where William kisses her. How disappointing to find out that what we would’ve assumed would’ve been her Prince Charming was a major fail. She does not wake.

Even in death, Snow White’s expression does not change. She’s laying in what looks to be a mausoleum. Huntsman comes in, and talks about how she reminds him of his late wife. He then kisses her. Twist! Never saw that one coming. She then wakes up after he leaves. Didn’t see that one coming either.

Everyone is moping around because the one who would reunite the kingdom is presumably dead when lo and behold, pure Snow White in an appropriate white gown marches out and gives a very morale boosting speech. They shall storm the castle and take what’s theirs back from the evil Queen. Onwards march!

The Queen, who has since been growing old and weak due to losing her brother in battle (he gets impaled on the gnarled roots of a fallen tree back in the forest. Oh Creepy Finn, how I’ll miss you so. His death was so devastating I couldn’t recap it. I just… couldn’t!), decides to recharge with a mass soul dinner. Bodies of women are found all over her room and she looks as flawless as ever. Commence boss battle!

Snow White’s new army marches towards the castle where they are met with flaming boulders and flinging arrows flying over the castle walls. Many a good men fall between whence they came and once they got to the walls itself. The 7 remaining Dwarves sneak into the castle and manages to beat the soldiers within and raise the castle gates. Showdown time!

A mass of iron clad soldiers storm in, fighting with the dark army whenever they met. Snow White clamors through the throng of flesh and makes her way to the dark Queen’s lair. By the way, apparently unless you’re a main character, you get a helmet. Main characters have to look photogenic, so they don’t need them. Who ever wrote that part needs to be slapped. What logic is that? Is it because the main characters have godmode on already that they don’t need the basic armor? Perhaps KS’s facial expressions (nope, it still doesn’t change even when she’s on the cusp of victory) would help pave the ground with fallen enemies.

She gets up there and does battle with the Queen. Apparently you could see all 5 minutes of lessons out of the window as she gets swatted away like a pest by the Queen. Bet she wished she had learnt a little bit more now. Where’s Jackie Chan’s “wax on, wax off” when you need it? The Queen eventually falls as we near the end of the movie. The *one* move that Snow White learns would be the one that would end the battle. Yes. It was that simple. Game makers note, bosses are never that powerful, you just have to really kill the semi-bosses and the rest is a cakewalk.

So Snow White disposes of the Queen and is crowned the new ruler. All is well, and so our movie ends on a high note. I have to give the screenwriters great credit that they removed the romance in the movie. The viewers know that she would most likely end up with the Huntsman, but since we aren’t shown it, we are able to concentrate on the plot itself without being distracted with two people facemashing. The movie surprisingly wasn’t that bad, even though I didn’t have high hopes with Kristen Stewart as the main character. Although she kept her Bella Swan expression throughout the movie, the character that she portrayed was such a complete 180 from the whiny weak Vampire lover that you couldn’t help but root for Snow White as she kicked ass and took names.

Definitely recommended to at least catch in a matinee or rent when it comes out.

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