SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN Review

by     Posted 2 years, 91 days ago

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I really can’t stand the Because-It-Looks-Cool School of Filmmaking, and Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders could be this year’s valedictorian.  His obsession lies not with making sure his story makes sense or that his characters are interesting.  His triumphant moments are when he gets to make a big show of how he dreadfully he overestimates his visual imagination.  Lost in the expensive special effects and sloppy storytelling are the hints of a thoughtful subtext regarding the value of beauty in relation to a woman’s power.  But for Sanders, these moments are nothing more than a way to briefly shade his antagonist before rushing back to his one-dimensional heroine and her dull journey through pretty environments.

After marrying and then assassinating the king, the evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) takes over the kingdom, and imprisons the princess Snow White (Kristen Stewart).  Ravenna maintains her magical powers by sucking the youth out of innocents maidens, but it’s a constant struggle to keep up her youth-maintaining mojo.  However, when the Mirror-Mirror-on-the-Wall tells her that she can stay young forever if she takes the heart of Snow White, Ravenna finally decides to kill the girl who has been locked up in a tower for about eight years (thus leaving the audience to wonder why the evil queen even bothered to keep the princess alive in the first place).  Snow White manages to escape (again, that only took eight years of confinement to figure out how to do so) and makes her way to the Dark Forest.  Since Ravenna’s powers conveniently don’t work there, she hires a Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to find and return Snow White, and his reward will be the resurrection of his dead wife.  He makes his way to the forest, reluctantly decides to protect the princess, and the two make their way across the land to the last stronghold so they can lead the rebellion against Ravenna.

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Snow White and the Huntsman makes sure to have all the major markers of the Snow White fairy tale: the seven dwarfs, the poisoned apple, and Prince Charming aka “William” (Sam Claflin).  The purpose of these elements isn’t to find a new spin on the story, but to wedge them into Sanders’ design of copying The Lord of the Rings.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing to use Peter Jackson‘s epic as inspiration, but it’s another when you’ve stolen wholesale without any thought to why certain visuals were used.  For example, Sanders takes the White Tree of Minas Tirith and slaps it on Snow White’s shield.  In Jackson’s movie, the tree is the defining symbol of Minas Tirith.  It doesn’t bloom, but it continues to stand tall; the city has stagnated in its fight against Mordor, but the White City has never fallen to the forces of darkness.  If there’s a reason for Snow White to have the tree on a shield, I guess it’s because she brings life to nature and stuff.

There’s not much going on with Snow White.  The character has three reactions to just about everything: be scared, be confused, or be awed.  She’s The Chosen One who never has to wrestle with her destiny or really much of anything.  It doesn’t help that Kristen Stewart has no screen presence or chemistry with Hemsworth.  However, even an incredible actress would still be saddled with atrocious dialogue and a threadbare character.  All Snow White has to do is simply trudge around from various locations, waste time in one village, briefly get to know the dwarfs, and then become a champion to people who have known her for all of ten minutes.

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At least Ravenna has some character development going on at the other side of the kingdom, but the problem is that she’s on the other side of the kingdom.  Ravenna doesn’t drive the plot forward.  She sits in the castle, and throws out obstacles for Snow White to overcome.  Theron deserves credit for bringing sadness and pain to the character while still making time for a little scenery chewing.  However, Ravenna is endlessly frustrating because she gets a strong introduction and occasionally the plot will take a brief moment to show how she’s trapped by the sad notion of external beauty as the only real source of a woman’s power.  Since this is the villain’s guiding principal, we know it’s a bad one.  Almost any sensible person can tell that external beauty fades, and Ravenna is tragic because she chasing something superficial.  Sadly, Sanders does not appear to be a sensible person because he shares Ravenna’s value of external beauty at the expense of all else.

And the kicker is that for all of his designs, none of it is remarkably original.  Snow White and the Huntsman is essentially deviantART: The Movie.  The picture is filled with pretty designs but none of them have any meaning or cause the viewer to feel anything.  Go to deviantart.com and search for “Snow White” and you’ll see a bunch of drawings that show great technical craft, but are void of insight or thoughtful consideration.  In an enchanted forest, he makes a tree where all the leaves can behave like white butterflies, and I have no doubt that this effect took time and money and is a tribute to the animators at whatever digital effects house was responsible.  But the imagery is as shallow and superficial as the film’s villain.

Sanders came out of directing commercials, and perhaps that’s where he needs to return.  Commercials don’t really need to tell stories as much as they need to be eye-catching.  Snow White and the Huntsman is his feature film directorial debut, and all he wants to showcase is “Look, the studio gave me a huge special effects budget!”  However, he didn’t give use that budget to give audiences a well-paced, smart narrative filled with interesting characters who draw viewers into a compelling drama.  He used it to make a movie where the score swells not when a character has an epiphany of a major accomplishment.  It’s when Sanders takes a step back and admires his movie’s skin-deep aesthetic.

Rating: D-

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  • jonas

    I am so bummed by this review. I was so looking forward to seeing this film. The trailer rocks.

    • Ryel414

      I feel the same way.

      The trailers and the clips look awesome.

  • Jordan

    I didn’t particularly like the film (in fact, I will never see it again). However, I did respect the film a little more for showing a darker story. It wasn’t enough to save it, but something to keep in mind if you see it.

  • Ryan George

    *Review by Matt Goldberg

  • mattedscreen

    …the biggest plot gap for me is the thought that Kristen Stewart could EVER be mistaken as more beautiful than Charlize Theron. Shes attractive sure, but that fight would be call before the opening bell. Whatever mirror makes that call needs to be broken and tossed back into the fires that made it.

  • junierizzle

    Yet people forgive Transformers……….

  • anthony

    If anyone takes Matt Goldberg’s reviews as a way to see or not see a movie should just walk off a cliff right now.

    • Flyersfan20

      I agree. But it’s not just Goldberg, it’s all reviews. If you want to see a movie, then see it. If you don’t, then don’t. I just never understood the whole “I’ll wait for the reviews to come out and then decide if I want to see it”. That always bothered me for some reason. If you wanna see a movie, go ahead. If you don’t think the movie is your cup of tea, more power to you, but for people to say “Well [insert movie name here] isn’t getting good reviews so now I’m not going to watch it” just never made any sense to me.

      • Lauren Tannehill

        How does that not make sense to you? Reviews and specifically websites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic tell you whether you should spend $10 or $1. While Im not a big fan of critics, a consensus of reviews generally tells you whether you will like a movie and the % on rotten tomatoes is usually within 20% of where I would put a movie. In this case I had high hopes for Snow White but early critic reviews and user reviews have been very mediocre. Were you one of the many that was looking forward to The Devil Inside and went to see it despite its awful reviews?

      • Flyersfan20

        @Lauren No I wasn’t looking forward to the Devil Inside, still haven’t seen it to this day, and probably never will. It didn’t interest me. Plus, wasn’t it one of those found footage type films? Anyway, all I’m saying is that I don’t get how someone can say “Rottentomatoes has this movie at 35%, I’m not watching it now!” Why not? So critics didn’t like the movie, so what? I, personally, like to be my own critic. Cowboys and Aliens didn’t get great reviews, but it didn’t stop me from wanting to see it. I’m just saying I don’t get why some people rely on what movie critics say to determine whether or not they will see a film. To me, people should be their own critic, if you want to seee a movie really badly but it’s getting terrible reviews, I just don’t think that should alter your opinion on whether or not to see the film. I get your point, I do and you make some good points, I’m just trying to explain to the best of my abilities where I’m coming from.

  • João Paulo

    Really D- this is why i don’t believe in reviews. I looking forward to see this movie.

  • Anon

    I don’t know why they have Goldberg do almost every review. The dude is so bleak. He’s like the personification of a rain cloud, pissing all over everyone’s parade. I have no problem with negative reviews but this dude seems to pan like 75% of the movies he reviews. I just imagine him at an elementary school talent show, destroying the hopes and dreams of 4th graders as they weep into their Pokemon themed lunch boxes.

    • Strong Enough

      shut up…please.

      always whining

    • Grey

      personification of a rain cloud. using that in conversation soon.

  • Karen

    This review is pretty awful, and I’m not talking about the verdict the reviewer gave the film.
    ” Go to deviantart.com and search for “Snow White” and you’ll see a bunch of drawings that show great technical craft, but are void of insight or thoughtful consideration.” Your kidding me, right? Leave DA artist’s out of the equation man. As a DA artist, I was instantly offended as the artist’s on that site pour nothing but thoughtfulness and insight into their pieces. What a souless statement, and a clear example of the author’s apparent contempt for artistry.

    • Neil

      Being a member of DA as well, I completely agree with you. I guess Goldberg doesnt have real appreciation for art if he thinks all the art on DA is “void of insight or thoughtful consideration.”

  • Sara

    The Playlist gave it C-
    So yeah,… this film is bad.
    But I probably will watch it. =P

  • SP1234

    Goldberg, you were so excited about this movie. But I knew you were gonna pan it. I am not surprised. But I’m surprised that this is getting a lot of hate and the reason why is the good, old Twilight biase. Don’t even argue about it, that is exactly why this will get the hate, because they won’t let that go and they won’t even give her a chance or any of the others a chance, and I’m tired of that. I will be seeing the movie regardless. Is it because of Kristen, admittly in some ways yes, but I like the imagination behind the movie and it’s gonna be spectacular.

  • Adrian

    To be fair to Goldberg, his review is much like the others out there for this flick. See it and make your own opinion but what he’s saying seems to be almost the consensus thus far.

  • JJ

    I saw Snow White at a screening last weekend, and 100% agree with this review. It’s a pretty darn boring movie for something with so many visuals. The best things in the film were Charlize’s costumes, and anyone who thinks this is a “feminist retelling” because KStew wears armor is sorely mistaken.

  • Jasperwolf

    So, Kristen Stewart has added a third expression to her repertoire. Mirror Mirror…Who’s the dullest actress of them all?

  • Tim

    Search Matt Goldberg on youtube.

  • Farzan

    Wait so MIB3 gets a C- but Snow White scored lower? Yeah I call BS on that. Still seeing this tomorrow with the friends. Most of the big critics liked it even Ebert

  • Thomas

    Matt Goldberg, you’ve past your expiration date long ago, you’re sour….hated to have read you’re personal attack on all the deviantart artists. Those people put love and effort in their work! Maybe you should put a little love in your reviews! And what has that site to do with this movie, hated it so much you just wanna spit it out? I mean come on, a D-, does that even exist!

    • Callum

      *Your

      • jasperwolf

        *passed

      • Thomas

        I’m dutch, so forgive me for my quick mistakes…apparently my iphone changes spelling automatically

  • AnaB

    I agree with most of what Matt said here… wouldn’t go as far as D-, but it’s still a C…

    The visuals and Charlize’s performance’s save the film. The dwarves are pretty great too. Other than that, there’s not much to salvage here…

    Hemsworth tries and he has good moments, but overall his Huntsman is pretty one-sided. The Prince is diminished to being Snow White’s childhood buddy and that is such a waste of Sam Claflin’s talents. And Kristen Stewart… let’s just say that as Snow White, she’s a really good Bella.

    The story is too easy, the pace is too fast with too much happening at the same time… If you still wanna see it, do it for the visuals!

  • jay

    Goldberg said everything I expected the film was going to be. Don’t hate the Guy because he has high standards.

  • Ms Grey

    So definitely going to see this movie! Critics have been dead wrong about every movie…and what do they know about acting??? Get real! Trailers look great, incredible cast and lay off the KStew bashing already, she is very talented, but some people are unaware or incapable of subtlety in an actor. Whoohoo can hardly wait till I see this production!

  • Grey

    Your statement referring to members of DA was unwarranted and oddly mean-spirited.

  • a person

    This movie rocked don’t listen to negative reviews. Im 12 and i like it

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  • D. McHugh

    I see some of the points of this review. The film looks fantastic. Theron is terrific as is Hemsworth. They’re both quite good in this. It seemed the story needed tightening. There were lags at times where I felt the momentum come to a halt. I think they spent too much time int he woods. I would like to have seen the relationship between Snow and the Huntsman developed MUCH more, considering it’s the very name of the film. Uneven story pace aside, I think the BIG difference that made this a good movie as opposed to a terrific movie is Stewart. This girl just CANNOT act. Because she is in virtually every scene of this film, 90% of its energy depends on her performance. Because Stewart always has that “hey, whatever” disaffected attitude in everything she does…you can’t emotionally connect to her or her journey. Still, I kept thinking about this film after I got home. That’s a GOOD sign. Even with it’s major flaws, I’d give it a solid B-. Interestingly, I don’t put much stock in critics. They seem to be split on this film. There are only three critics I respect, Peter Travers (Rolling Stone), Roger Ebert (Chicago Tribune) & Richard Roeper. The all liked the film. Roeper even gave it a B+. So, I guess I was pretty close. I would still recommend the film. It’s still one of the better things I’ve seen this year, so far.

  • Melissa

    Never thought I would say this, but I actually agree with Matt on this one…

  • Scotty

    I have to agree with him, so boring for such a high action movie.

  • Katie

    Too many critics are biased. They don’t look @ the full picture, they just complain about the parts that they don’t like. Goldberg just didn’t like the movie, so he complained about it and threw in some good points to make his complaints into a review

  • Sylar

    Most ppl rely on story telling but for me I like action even tho there wasn’t alot in it was a decent movie for what it was

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