What do you get when you take 1 part Narnian Aslan, 1 part Arthur from Excalibur minus the “Carmina Burana,” Fellowship-of-the-Ring long shots and mountain trudging, a pinch of Burton’s Alice in Wonderland white queen/drama queen battle with a hint of psychedelic, and a splash of Legend (Mia Sara not Will “I am” Smith)? What we should get is some high-octane liquid awesome, but what we get instead is Snow White and the Huntsman and a reminder that the whole is not always greater than the sum of its parts. I should have known that the exceedingly long voice-over at the beginning was a baaaaaaaaad sign.
This movie made me angry, in part because I had been looking forward to it. C’mon, Charlize Theron in a raven’s wing cloak and gold lame, Chris Hemsworth, axes, and otherworldly stuff? I called it over Mirror, Mirror for the win ages ago, and it does, indeed, “win,” but as the most disappointing of the two. I blame KStew, who I have decided is a vacuous bore and has no business being cast in anything. Maybe that’s not fair, yet it seems apparent that she reached her peak in The Panic Room (or maybe it was as “The Ring Toss Girl” in the The Flintstones Viva Rock Vegas movie, where we can only see the back of her head). After that, it’s all been downhill. I think we can even blame her for Jumper being an inchaote snoozer, even though she only appears in the very last scene as Hayden Christensen’s sister . . . okay, maybe that one is on Hayden.
I kept waiting for this film to get better, past the brother’s Prince Valiant haircut, past the sibling incest, past the milk it does the body good, especially when it does double duty for bathing and as a sign of the queen’s benevolence (she pipes her old milk bath out into the streets to feed the starving people because she’s a giver). Waiting. Waiting. Waiting, and then I was ready to walk out. My movie companion, however, guilted me into staying. [As stated elsewhere, I’ve only walked out of ONE film my entire life.] He said that it would be cheating on my 52.177 film project because seeing a “film a week” means seeing the “whole film.” I didn’t read that in the fine print, and I didn’t write that either, though I suppose he had a point. So I waited for Snow to be over. And as I waited, I saw and thought many things.
Mostly, I thought about Tyrion Lannister chopping off that guy’s leg in the Battle of Blackwater and how richly textured Dinklage’s performance has been in season two of Game of Thrones. The look on his face when he realizes that he has to go outside the city’s gates for some hand-to-hand combat is soul wrenching: he doesn’t want to go, and I didn’t want him to go; and yet we both knew that he had no choice but to go. His version of Henry V’s St. Crispin’s day speech was little more than measured hysteria: “There are brave men outside our gates—let’s go kill them!” It was also brilliant.
Every now and then I would tune in to watch poor Bob Hoskins deliver lead-brick lines like “You have eyes Huntsman but you cannot see” or to hear Theron screaming her lines and practicing her round vowel sounds, where “wall” becomes “WOOOL” and “all” is pronounced “OOOOL.” I made a mental note about the trend of bumping off lesser-known dwarves. And as I was again thinking about Dinklage and his depth as an actor, something about the failure to cast little people in Snow bothered me. For a moment, I did wonder if I was enacting some sort of Middle Earth double-standard because I didn’t have the same problem with LOTR. At the very moment I was having that thought, on the screen appeared a long shot reminiscent (copied) from the Fellowship quest, which got me thinking about The Hobbit. December can’t get here fast enough.
I did experience a few moments of engagement with issues related to the film. I gave further consideration to the “mirrors” in recent fairytale offerings being voiced by men of color, for example Giancarlo Esposito in Once Upon a Time or Christopher Obi in Snow White. In light of the historical consequences for such forbidden gazing on white women’s bodies by Black men, in particular, I do think it’s puzzling that these white women seek validation and knowledge through images of themselves reflected and refracted by animated objects racialized as other. That thought, however, was far more substantive than this film deserved.
It also occurred to me, why is it that when a mother gives her life casting a spell to save her son, we have a hero like Harry Potter, but when a mother sacrifices her life casting a spell to save her daughter, we have a self-obsessed deranged tyrannical narcissist like the Evil Queen?
As Snow dragged on, I found it odd that a film about a princess and a huntsman, the very same ones mentioned in the title, would demonstrate such anxiety about their station difference that it would leave their romantical happily ever after completely unrealized. So lips and love are enough to revive Snow so she can save the kingdom, but the Huntsman is left to longingly gaze at her from the periphery because he’s not royal? What’s the point? Genre people genre. That is OOOOOOL.