Once upon a time, someone decided to take the “Snow White” fairy tale and turn it into a film. Well, it had been done a couple of times, but the most recent film, Snow White and the Huntsman, released on June 1, 2012, takes a slightly different and more somber approach to telling the classic “Snow White” story. Snow White and the Huntsman is directed by Rupert Sanders and stars Twilight’s Kristen Stewart as Snow White, while Charlize Theron plays Ravenna, the evil Queen.
My first impression of the movie was that it would lag, and it did. The actors didn’t have enough content to work with. The writers tried their best to stretch into two hours a bedtime story that can be read and understood by a 9 year-old in 20 minutes. As the film dragged on, suspense or anticipation never built up for me. Granted, I went into this movie with no “Snow White” brush-up; I vaguely remembered the Dwarfs, a murder plot, and a Prince. What the film offered me was an evil Queen, Kristen Stewart as Snow White (enough said), and old, regular-sized “Dwarfs” that were derelict.
I was disappointed by how evil Queen Ravenna was, in general, and without reason. She portrayed vanity well enough, but her story was confusing. When she first appears on-screen and kills the king on their wedding night, we can perceive her character as that of a bitter, scorned woman. This is confirmed with the next man she kills; she states that men use women just to throw them away. I started to think this was her “thing,” and maybe later we would come to find out about a man who made her this way. Nope. This never materializes.
Instead, she summons her iconic magic mirror to tell her what she wants to hear, and what she gets from it motivates her actions. Actually, the mirror in the film is a creative touch. It is best described as a gong with no hammer. When she calls out, “Mirror, mirror,” a fluid figure comes out of the center and stands in the shape of a man. The deep-voiced, faceless man corresponds with Ravenna, telling her that Snow White is the reason she is suffering mortality — not who is the fairest of them all. Subsequently, Ravenna decides that Snow White must die, and she enlists a huntsman to find and kill her.
The Huntsman, played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers) remains nameless throughout the film, despite his character’s importance to the plot. He agrees to seek and kill Snow White, based on Ravenna’s promise to bring back his deceased wife. His portrayal of a huntsman with nothing left to lose is convincing, but when the Prince whom Snow White knew as a child comes back into her life, it gets confusing. Who is her love interest? Naturally, we’d like to see the Huntsman have her heart — he earned it in front of our eyes. It was obvious that the seven Dwarfs (plus one) would make an appearance in the movie, although the plot could have done without them. Unlike the Huntsman, they have names.
Without saying much about the ending, I will say that this movie is an acquired taste. Maybe word got around, because ticket sales plummeted after its opening weekend. Overall, this film was a swing at representing the ominous overtones intended in the original version but a miss at delivering an evenly matched climax. The original version is indeed grim, and I don’t mean the Disney version, where birds are chirping and the Prince saves the day. The writers were smart enough not to revise this animation. I am referring to the old folktale by two brothers from Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm.
The Brothers Grimm version of “Snow White” (“Schneewittchen”) was called “Little Snow White,” and its earliest translation from German to English was available in 1914. This story, along with many others, would be considered cruel today and not necessarily for adolescent consumption. Snow White’s mother is a jealous Queen who will not allow her young daughter’s beauty to outshine her own and assigns a huntsman to take her out into the woods to kill her and bring back her organs as proof and dinner. Mesmerized by Snow White’s beauty, the huntsman allows her to run away and brings the Queen back some random animal’s innards.
Now lost in the forest, Snow White happens upon a small house that belongs to seven Dwarfs. They tell her she can stay if she becomes their housekeeper, to which she accepts. Fast-forward past several attempts by the Queen to go the Dwarfs’ house and kill Snow White. Each time, she is brought back to life when the Dwarfs come home, and the Queen’s mirror on the wall still proclaims that Snow White is indeed “fairer” than she. Ultimately, the Queen poisons an apple and manages to kill her in a way that is irreversible by the Dwarfs, and they put her into a glass coffin where she stays for a while, appearing asleep. One day, a Prince finds shelter in the Dwarf house and falls in love with Snow White’s body. He brings her back to his castle, where he obsesses over her, and an annoyed guard hits her on the back, freeing the poisoned apple from her mouth, which revives her. The Queen’s mirror states the unbearable truth, and she is forced to step into heated iron shoes and dance in them until she dies.
Now, that would have given me nightmares as a child. I, for one, appreciate the efforts of Walt Disney in his 1937 animated production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This story is much more kid-friendly, without major changes to the plot. One difference is that the evil Queen is Snow White’s stepmother. Why not? Kids already hate their stepmothers! Other changes to minor details exist in the frequency with which the Queen tries to kill Snow White. In Disney’s version, the poisoned apple plan is reversible with her first kiss. A little PG-13, but that isn’t always a bad thing.
This may say a lot more about me than I want known, but I look forward to seeing the second-most recent version of “Snow White,” Mirror Mirror, released March 30, 2012. It stars Julia Roberts as the Queen and incorporates the actual Brothers Grimm story, with minimal changes to the plot and enough humor (can we expect less from a film starring Nathan Lane?) to be a family must-see. Parents: Don’t make the mistake of frightening (and boring) your kids with Snow White and the Huntsman. There are alternatives.