Years, nay decades, have gone by without a film being made about the Grimm’s fairy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, after Walt Disney introduced it in his classic 1937 cartoon. Indeed, the last one was a musical version starring Diana Rigg in 1987. Now in 2012, suddenly two films appear based on the same story. The first Mirror, Mirror, was a light-hearted comedy that couldn’t overcome the miscasting of Julia Roberts as the comedic evil queen.
Now we have this much darker try by first-time director Rupert Sanders with a much more accomplished cast, headlining Charlize Theron as the wicked queen and Kristen Stewart as Snow White. I didn’t dismiss Stewart as a hack because of her appearances in the Twilight vampire movies aimed directly at 13-year-old girls. I remember her in Adventureland, and she gave a wonderful performance that made a relatively frivolous film into a movie that is a fine romance. Unfortunately, she doesn’t add much to this film, giving a less than compelling performance as the beleaguered Snow White.
While this movie is tense and entertaining, thanks mostly to the Theron’s fine performance, it is as dark as advertised. The special effects are very good, as is the cinematography (Greig Fraser). While the seven dwarfs in Mirror, Mirror provided comic relief, there is nothing funny in this film. Stewart is no comedienne and the queen is such a monster that there is nothing even close to comedic here.
Chris Hemsworth gives a good performance as the Huntsman, although he gets badly beaten up when we first meet him, so the quality of his character as a strong fighter is greatly shaken. Why the filmmakers chose to categorize him at the outset as a weakling and a terrible fighter is puzzling, since it eventually falls upon his shoulders to protect Snow White against bad people in the face of enormous odds.
The role of Snow White is, obviously, crucial to the film. It called for special effort, but Stewart basically just mailed it in, and that’s a shame because had she given a performance on a par with Theron’s, the film would have been even better. When you’re cast with someone with exceptional talent, like Oscar®-winner Theron, you disrespect them if you don’t give your very best. Stewart apparently has developed some bad habits from the Twilight films, films that are a joke, on a par with the B films that used to be churned out by the studios in the ’30s and ’40s. Coming out of that type of minor league, Stewart finds herself in the major leagues here and she owed Theron, if not her audience, her best effort, but she doesn’t give it here. Adventureland to the contrary notwithstanding, maybe she doesn’t have what it takes.
Also disappointing is that the dwarfs are not played by little people. When MGM made The Wizard of Oz (1939), all the munchkins were played by people who were legitimately little. On the contrary, here the dwarfs were played by regularly-sized people who were digitally shrunk in post production. It’s a shame that Universal didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to provide jobs for little people, and as Wizard proved, there are plenty of them out there who can do a competent job of acting.
But, that aside, the film is carried by Theron, who gives a marvelous performance as the queen, greatly aided by the fine special effects. As it is, even though it fails to reach the pinnacle that could have been achieved with a better effort by Stewart, it’s still a fine entertainment.
I had no desire to see this. The first two were ridiculous and less than involving. This started out the same way. But then, after about a half hour, it segued into a time travel film with Will Smith going back to 1969 to find a young Tommy Lee Jones in the body of Josh Brolin and try to save his life, becoming a film with real people looking to find the bad guy and reverse history.
While Brolin gives a fine, deadpan imitation of the deadpan Tommie Lee Jones, the best performances in the film are by the bad guy, Boris the Animal, played by Jermaine Clement and the seer,Griffin, played beautifully by Michael Stuhlbarg. When they are onscreen, the film sparkles.
This has the same director, Barry Sonnenfeld, as the first two, but it’s not nearly as silly as the first two. The time-warp angle makes it an intriguing story and the concentration on one bad buy without all the liquidations (literally) of hundreds of aliens makes it much easier and interesting to watch.
It’s a surprise to me, but this is not a complete waste of time like the other two were.