As I walked out of the advance screening of Snow White and the Huntsman, I got nostalgic. Being a child of the MTV generation, I had a déjà vu moment of leaving the theater after 1985’s Legend, directed by Ridley Scott. Yes, the Ridley Scott that is about to bring the science fiction fan in me to orgasm with the Alien prequel Prometheus when it’s released in a little more than a week.
Legend starred Tom Cruise fresh off of being in Ridley’s brother Scott’s blockbuster Top Gun. It was a fantasy yarn in which a man was supposed to stop the Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) from bringing perpetual night to the Earth. The previews had lots of heroic derring-do, and the costumes and special effects looked flawless. Every time I saw the trailer I thought, “This is the guy who directed Alien and Blade Runner. There is no way this will be bad.”
The film was a box office bust, and I was very disappointed in the film, because the it was all scenery and not real cohesive plot. And when there was a plot it dragged. It was a lesson in the fact that if you do not have a script, all of the window dressing in the world cannot save your film.
Fast forward back to Snow White, that attempts to put a twist on the classic fairy tale by turning the princess into a tragic warrior. Ravenna (played by Charlize Theron in stone-cold mode) imprisons young Snow White after seducing and killing her father. Fast forward to teenaged Snow (played by Kristin Stewart in stone-cold mode, you get the idea) who escapes from her cell when Ravenna’s albino-looking brother Finn (Sam Spruell in a damned ugly white wig to boot) tries to seduce her. This evil family just can’t keep their hands off of anyone.
Soon Ravenna looks into her cool-ass melting mirror, and is told by the spectre that comes out of it, that she is not the fairest of them all. When she finds out Snow White is, she sends the monosyballic Huntsman (Thor’s beefy Chris Hemsworth) off to kill her, by acknowledging her as only an escaped prisoner. Of course, Huntsman cannot kill her because he eventually finds out her true identity and her innocence. The Huntsman instead decides to train her to be a warrior in order to destroy Ravenna and rid the kingdom of the darkness she had brought to it.
Unless you are completely brain dead, I think you can figure out act three.
Newbie director Rupert Sanders has some really beautiful people to use, and never quite knows how to get any of them out of three-expression mode. Theron, Hemsworth and Stewart are truly dialing it in. All of them have their serious, fight mode and concerned (aka I look like I just smelled a fart) looks down pat. But no attempt is made to give any of these characters depth. They are merely pawns to walk through the chessboard of a script.
The three screenwriters, including The Alamo director John Lee Hancock, make the film a continuous chase. Snow White and the Huntsman come across an all-woman community in the Dark Forest. We get some chit chat of them oohing and ahhing at Snow. Suddenly the bad guys led by creepy brother Finn show up slinging arrows, and we have an incoherent battle sequence that they barely escape.
Our heroes come across a colorful land of animals and lame looking sprites. They just begin to pet them and the arrows come again. We yawn through another horribly-edited, dark and messy action sequence, with no rhythm or soul. Lots of shaky camera work attempting to show emotion.
Mutli-Academy Award winning costumer Colleen Atwood gives it her all. She will be up for an Oscar again with the all-around stunning outfits. But it is all for naught since they have more character than any of the characters in the film.
The climax is formulaic, and an attempted love triangle between Snow White, the Huntsman and a young childhood crush named William is never resolved. It is all truly a mess. Much like Legend was two generations ago, and much like many fantasy films Hollywood makes, and will continue to make. As long as the studios keep setting up the deal: the stars, the production designer, and the first- time director, without developing the script.