Director: Rupert Sanders
Writers: Evan Daugherty, John Hancock,
Stars: Kirsten Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron
“I shall give this wretched world the queen it deserves. “
Oh to have been in the boardroom meeting when this one was first suggested. Unfortunately we can only use our feeble low budget imaginations to picture such an epoch defining moment: “Guys, I’ve got it. It’s so simple. Snow White… but with swords… and tits!”
Yes that’s right. The big money suits in Hollywood have decided that in these depressing times, what everybody needs is a lavish retelling of a children’s fairy tale, only redressed for a more adult audience. What was once a harmlessly simplistic story told as a colourful cartoon full of vomit inducing cheery musical numbers has been re-imagined as a brooding grimy action packed drama. It’s dark. It’s angsty. There is a lot cleavage on display.
There is a lot to want to hate here. The ‘darkness’ is entirely superficial, never going so far as to upset the children who are still expected to be drawn in. In fact it mostly means characters being clad in armor, brandishing their swords and getting a bit more upset than they would in a Disney version.
They have also somehow managed to rope ($$$) Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Ian Mcshane, Nick Frost and a few other quality actors into brief cameos as the Dwarfs; performances which will obviously be appearing at the top of the actors CV’s for years to come.
But for all its corporate sins, this version of the Snow White story is actually – in some ways at least – surprisingly impressive. What immediately becomes apparent is that the director has placed high emphasis on the visual and technical side. It has to be said that at times this is a visual feast and demonstrates some of the most creative use of special effects seen since Pans Labyrinth. At times it is as though a music video director has been let loose, stringing together a collection of starkly contrasting vignettes. There are a lot of shots of squawking birds circling around trees, characters dropping to their knees in downpours, and lots of conveniently epic lighting.
Yet, for all of the visual gloss, it is difficult to escape the fact that the story of Snow White is complete bollocks to anyone who isn’t below 8 years of age. Medieval fantasy has come a long way towards respectability in recent years, and this re-imagining desperately tries to tap into the trend. But despite its epic intentions, Snow White inescapably belongs to the old school fairy tail, where all logic can be abandoned at any time. Goblins and magical creatures drop in and out, and Snow White can be rescued from completely random peril as quickly as she falls into it. To boost its credentials as being ‘grown up’ there are plenty of battles against faceless armies of darkness, which allow yet more CGI flair but are fairly conventional and limited in scale. And following in the foot steps of the Matrix, Star Wars and all the rest there is a lot of empty talk of ‘the one’ and prophesy thrown in without any real development of the idea. Despite all these added bells and whistles it is still the traditional Disney story underneath.
Stretching this out to over 2 hours is a very impressive feat of self indulgence. There are plenty of engaging and dramatic scenes, and the final 30 minutes are full of faced paced action, but all this becomes lost in lengthy plodding scenes of characters walking here and there without any real purpose other than to bump into the next mythical creature. Whether the wee and easily amused ones will reap much enjoyment is difficult to say, but events unfold through far too much dialogue which lacks in humour. Even with plenty of swashbuckling and eye catching magical moments the pace too often moves at a slow grind.
At the heart of everything Kirsten Stewart struggles to carry the weight of such a long, long film, getting by for the most part relying on her usual sullen shtick which seems to involve a lot of scrunching of the facial features, and quick sideways glances to emphasise that her character is not comfortable with eye contact. This emo teen may work for people in a romance story but it leaves a character which is meant to be portrayed as a warrior with a distinct lack of physical menace. Charlize Theron on the other hand is much more engaging as the paranoid and megalomaniacal villain, presenting just enough brutality and cruelty without actually being able to do anything visually brutal.
Visually impressive and boasting some memorable scenes executed with great directorial flair, this is a surprisingly competent film which is largely undone by the pointlessness of re-imaging a children’s tale for an adult audience. That, and it doesn’t half drag on a bit.