Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

{Snow White and the Huntsman opens in Seattle area theaters today}

The intensity of fear that overtook me as a young child seeing Disney's Snow White has little competition. That witch and her devastating apple will forever be branded into my brain. At the time I'm sure neither I nor my unfortunate parents felt an appreciation for the experience. But as years go by I look back fondly on one of the first times my emotions got taken over by a film. Actually, now that I think about it maybe it was Sleeping Beauty – listen, I was maybe 7, you can't expect all the details to be correct.

In the meantime, Snow White and the Huntsman arrives in theaters this week in what seems like a growing wave of fairy tale efforts including Grimm, Once Upon a Time, and some thing with Julia Roberts that I'm pretty sure isn't my imagination. Marketed as a dark take with some twists on the classic tale, I was cautiously optimistic. With Charlize Theron as the witch and the Twilight girl Kristen Stewart girl as Snow, it seemed there might be something great there. The visual look of the film is sumptuous and the main reason I think to see the film. Theron delivers what we would expect in an evil Queen – especially after seeing Young Adult. Stewarts' performance is pretty much on par with expectations (leaving aside the Jude Law-like "love her or hate her" discussion). But as a complete film, the simplicity of the plot and occasional ridiculousness of the dialog does not work in its favor. By the end my boredom was mostly relieved by trying to guess (with alarming accuracy) character's next lines. One could do worse, but personally I'd suggest opting for one of the SIFF films this weekend.

The story is familiar with some modest variations. A King and his Queen live happily. Born to them is a daughter of great beauty and personality. The queen dies and the the King quickly forgets his sorrow at the sight of Charlize Theron. Sadly he didn't read the credits first and he's more shocked than anyone in the audience when she turns out to be a wicked witch. Who drains the life force of young, beautiful innocent girls to stay forever young. Snow White is locked up in a castle and the evil queen's reign brings blight to the land. Yadda Yadda Yadda.

Eventually, of course, Snow White escapes and embarks on a road trip to try and muster forces to resist the queen. Along the way there's the Huntsman of the title, her childhood crush and seven or so dwarves. The latter being one of the more incredible special effects of the film with much taller (and I presume more famous) faces' digitally grafted on the heads of others. It's actually pretty seamless and fascinating until you start to consider those seven guys who weren't "good enough" to be allowed to do their own acting.  Though maybe they were just digitally shrunk – that's my personal research project for another day. The road trip gives the filmmakers more opportunities to shine visually. There's the dark forest and a very cool land of the fairies. Every once in a while there's some action. That's all fine. Impressive even – the film looks sharp. Whether it's Theron deconstructing herself into a mess of crows or just the waters crashing against an old school castle. It's just when people start to talk is when something between mild boredom and amusement set in.

The evil queen is given a supporting back story for her deep hatred of men and justification of sorts for her cult of beauty. With the way men regard her and youth poisoning the Queen to become the evil abuser of young women that she becomes. Ensuring a jumpstart for anyone wanting to write their term paper about the mega stereotypes embodied in both key women of the film. I'd imagine there's a long history of such criticism around Snow White to add to – and if played with in more depth I think I would have dug that aspect. Outside the visuals it's the next most interesting piece of the film.

As it is, Snow White and the Huntsman is far from the worse contribution to the recent set of fairy tale entertainment. Visually it's definitely in the lead – but with all this star and visual firepower it could have been magnificent. Disney, at least for now, has nothing to worry about…