I wanted to like Rupert Sander’s pretty new take on the fairy tale classic Snow White. As the film begins, Snow White and The Huntsman delivers what the trailer promises; visually striking CG effects, supernatural battles, some dazzling costumes, and a plucky new take on the ever pure and demure original Housewife, Snow White.
With mixed success, Kristin Stewart’s Snow White ditches dated damsel in distress for warrior princess power. Like any modern girl, she’s leading her own armies and handling monsters with a well placed glance — all this without much help from her non committal grungy huntsman Chris Hemsworth. Ladies, you will identify! Though our leading man may be down to storm the castle (literally in this case), this degraded prince is no shining knight on thundering steed — he’s a drunkard hung up on his X (how many times have we dated this guy?).
But if you’re hoping for some sexy scenes between Stewart and her rogue with a Scottish Brogue, Hemsworth, forget it. To be honest, there’s more chemistry between Snow White and the bridge troll. Even the iconic kiss between the damaged Huntsman and sleeping Snow involves so much discussion about his ex, it plays more like a bad threesome between the star crossed pair and his dearly departed wife.
Charlize Theron easily steals the show as vain, Evil Queen Revenna, but the skin deep tale doesn’t give her much to work with. She looks stunning plucking out bird hearts and eating them like bon-bons. She shines sucking lovely young virgin essence like a morning bong hit. In fact, the film’s only real heat is generated primarily by Theron’s icy queen being spied upon taking her daily milk bath by her creepy albino, bowl cut sporting brother. But while there seems to be an undercurrent of incest here, with a PG-13 rating, this medieval maelstrom is no Game Of Thrones, and the promise of any chainmail and boddice ripping between siblings or anyone else for that matter, remains unrealized.
There is some fun to be had when Snow White and the Huntsman finally cross paths with that famous pack of puckish dwarfs, but a short stint in fairy land is not magical enough to illuminate a flat screenplay. Thus, as the plot veered away from revision, and began to plod through epically cliched material like so much marsh mud, I found myself yawning my way through the third act. The story moves laboriously into expected resolve and reads more like an expose of other (better) recognizable films; Lord Of The Rings, Never Ending Story, Princess Mononoke, Joan Of Arc, etc. There’s no magic in this bad apple — but be warned this film will put you to sleep!
MIRRO MIRROR; REFLECTION
The End? Not quite. Look just beyond the surface wrinkles of this poorly executed summer movie, and a deeper message is revealed. Snow White is the ultimate tale of female anxiety regarding aging, and allows us to interface with our own hidden fears that what makes us worthy as women is looking young and beautiful.
We pass along this hidden message to females from an early age. As girls, we all grow up with the same archetype of perfect femaleness; the pretty princess. Whether she was the humble nature lover (Snow White), or the hardworking and under appreciated urban girl (Cinderella), she was always bright, light, lovely and as such, destined to be swept away by her Mr. Wonderful. We also recognize that her nemesis was nearly always another woman (or women); most often of the matronly variety — inevitably jealous of her allure and attempting to thwart her happily ever after. Thus the stage is set.
As women, those messages from our youth are reconstituted and reinforced in the media. We are all the subjects of pop culture’s reflections whether conscious of this or not. A trip to any super market is enough to send a lady into a shame spiral, as the cult of women’s magazines and gossip rags drum out a battle cry against our sagging butts and faces, and delight in focusing our attentions on new fantastical serums promising alchemical anti aging affects. What a movie imagines as swords and sorcery; life imitates with Botox injections and scalpels. Plastic surgery, once an unspoken taboo, is sold as a nearly mandatory right of passage for aging celebs trying to stay relevant in a youth obsessed culture. Thus we recognize that our culture is every bit as seized by a nagging occupation with youth and beauty as Snow White’s Evil Queen. Just like Revenna’s magic mirror, the reflections of our society act as an ever present reminder and demand for us women to appear ever youthful, ever fair.
Having spent the vast majority of our lives staring into this cultural mirror, haven’t we found ourselves just a bit warped? At the end of the day, can’t we empathize with Snow White’s Evil Queen just a little? For the chance of winning back some of that youthful luster, how many of us wouldn’t suck just a little life essence from some sweet pretty thing (imagine the new young cross trainer your X has started dating). Isn’t there a narcissistic and insecure lady hag lurking inside of every woman; worrying endlessly about her waning beauty and jealously warding off displacement by a younger and more vivacious rival? Don’t we gobble down tabloid tell alls of beautiful stars being cheated on and left for nannies, starlets, and strippers, because watching our pop princesses try and fail makes us feel just a little better about our own predicament? Don’t we spend our hard earned money on products and clothes and makeup because deep down we really do fear that our worth lies only in our beauty. Isn’t there some truth that we, like Snow White’s villainess, understand that we shall inevitably loose that power, despite all our best efforts, and doesn’t it drive us just a little mad? Those of you spending your pay checks at Sephora, raise your hands. Any lady who has peaked inside the cover of a tabloid and taken a guilty pleasure in seeing who’s thighs are covered in cellulite can now come into the light. All you PMS induced headcases Facebook stalking your past boyfriends take pause. You might deny it in mixed company; but we hags know we’ve been that woman.
At the end of Rupert Sander’s new telling of Snow White and The Huntsman, our heroin is victorious, but at what price? She has gazed into the looking glass of her nemesis and realized that she too will not always be the fairest in the land. In a fairy tale fit for a modern age, there’s no happily ever after with a waiting prince. The Huntsman seems to be heading back to his humble life in the forest (or maybe just out for another beer as the case may be) as our Princess takes on the formidable task of becoming something more; a just Queen. She’s gained power and experience, but what she makes of the rest of her story seems to be up to her.
So, what do we do with this information? If Snow White teaches any truth, it’s that obsessing about our outer image is a tragic waste of time. The writing is on the wall; we can’t turn back the clock. There will always be someone younger and more beautiful, and even Snow White herself will one day grow old. But regardless of our age, what we can do is aspire to gain the purity of spirit represented in the character of Snow White. We can do this by letting go of bitterness, engaging in some active deprogramming of our beauty myths, and staying young at heart as long as we possibly can. Even if the reflection’s not as kind as it once was, and your Mr. turned out not so right after all, we can still brighten ourselves by lightening our load and not getting caught up in the BS. And what about when our inner hag gets the best of us? — as she’s bound to do. I recommend to stay off Facebook, hide your mirror and try not to kill any virgins.