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Snow White & the Huntsman Awash In Okay-ness

Snow White & the Huntsman
Directed by Rupert Sanders
Written by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, and Hossein Amini
Universal, 2012

There are movies that are, of course, neither good nor bad.  The good and the bad rage war against each other for the entire film, at the very end of it, you say, “Well that was perfectly…ok.”  That’s what Snow White & the Huntsman deals with, as it approaches awesome but never quite gets there, and approaches atrocious but never stays there long.

The wicked queen, Ravenna (Charlize Theron) tricked the princess Snow White’s (Kristen Stewart) father into marrying her, thus giving her the kingdom.  Ravenna is gorgeous, but she’s also old, and she’s been having to suck the life out of younger people to stay young.  She locks Snow White into a cell high up in the castle for several years.   When Snow White comes “of age,” Ravenna asks her Magic Mirror who’s the fairest of them all, and he replies that Snow White is.  However, if Ravenna can suck the life out of her, she’ll never have to go through that process again.  That’s some soul!  Ravenna enlists her brother Finn (Sam Spruell) to go fetch Snow White out of her cell.  But he gets all rapey and before you know it, Snow White flees the castle.

Snow White is now in the dark forest, where all sorts of creepy, acid-trippy things can happen.  Ravenna’s powers don’t work there (of course), so she hires The Huntsman (Thor’s Chris Hemsworth) to find her.  In return, Ravenna promises something that sounds impossible, but he goes anyway with Finn and others to find Snow White.  When he does, he suddenly gets suspicious, and protective, and decides not to go through with it.  Which means the movie now has become a bit of a chase film.  Ultimately, Snow White must evade, then gather an army, then come back and try to conquer the evil queen.  Luckily, she runs into the seven dwarfs (Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, Brian Gleeson) and the people start to rally as they see the true queen alive for the first time in years.

There are some head-scratching moments for this movie.  I’ll say the same thing about this that I did with The Avengers: when movies bring up the idea of “power” they can’t seem to define the limits of it.  From what I can tell, Ravenna is the only person in the entire Kingdom who has any kind of power, which seems to be the power of healing and the power of sucking out souls to be younger.  And the ability to talk to this magic mirror thing.  She can create illusions and armies out of inanimate objects.  With that kind of power, you wonder how it’s even possible that mortals could succeed.  This is where the movie is probably at its worst: don’t get me wrong, I love me some Charlize Theron: her character has the very real motivation to stay younger, I get that, but it’s ill-defined everywhere else.  If I don’t know the rules, then how am I supposed to get excited when our mortal heroes come in and try to take her down?  And when Theron has to do that exhausted “wicked queen” schtick where she’s forced to shriek and bellow, it always comes off too over-the-top, and yes, that’s even when I know it’s supposed to be that way.

Some of the more fantastic elements as Snow White walks around outside the Kingdom are fun.  I wish they had explored those further, rather than making this more battle-heavy.  I think we’ve reached the point since Braveheart and the countless medieval, swords-and-sorcery movies that have followed where we see swords and armor and want to wretch at how much we’ve seen this in the last 17 years.  It’s almost like this was a last-ditch appeal to get men in the theatres.  Hey, it’s a fairy tale, but it has battle.

This is a strictly OK movie and it is in no danger of hitting any kind of year-end list.

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