Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Snow White and the Huntsman is a mess. That is not to say it is a bad film; just to say that it is a mess. There is a lot to like here. But there is a fair bit to dislike as well. The plot is fairly straightforward: a witch (Charlize Theron) takes over a kingdom by seducing and killing the widowed king and imprisoning his daughter Snow White. Many years later as her beauty and power begin to fade, the magic mirror tells her that Snow White (Kristen Stewart) was destined to stop her and if she were to consume the heart of Snow White, she would be immortal. At the same time, Snow White escapes from her prison into the dark forest and a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is asked to hunt her down. Instead, the Huntsman joins forces with her and along with the seven dwarves, Duke Hammond, his son William (Sam Claflin) and their army, lay siege on the witch's fortress.

There are two reasons to recommend the film: Charlize Theron and the production work. Charlize Theron looks sensuously bewitching and walks a fine line between menace and madness. She delivers a stellar performance, exercising the perfect amount of restraint over her exuberant, malevolent character. Among the actors, the film belongs to her, and her alone. It is a joy to watch her on the screen.

The second thing that works in favour of the film is the production work. The film is a feast for the eyes. The special effects, the art work, the camerawork and the action converge with each other to provide an absolutely riveting experience. Tremendous amounts of imagination as gone into conceiving these visuals, and it shows. The film is not just grand, but also beautiful to behold. They set the dark, melancholic atmosphere of the film quite well. There is a scene when injured ravens come together to form the injured queen. They converge into thick, black ooze and from there, the queen emerges in a gown of black feathers. The sheer detail with which this scene is constructed is breathtaking and the film offers plenty of such moments.

However, the film is almost undone by the rest of it. Kristen Stewart looks beautiful but is a poor choice to play a warrior princess. She looks ill at ease throughout as if still channeling the angst ridden, idiotic spirit of Bella from the Twilight series. Moreover, there is no chemistry between her and Hemsworth or her and Claflin. The love triangle is stale, soulless and without any passion. They are also done a great disservice by a script that provides very poor dialogues. At pivotal moments, when the words are meant to inspire, arouse or endear, the end result is either devoid of emotion, cringe inducing or unintentionally funny. Also, the film is overlong by a good twenty minutes. It meanders aimlessly at times, adding pointless subplots. The dwarves look and talk as if they've just walked off the sets of The Hobbit.

Ultimately, Snow White and the Huntsman has a lot to offer by way of visuals. It also has an enchanting villainess. However, there is a whole lot of mediocrity pervading the rest of the film that mars the overall impact considerably. If you love Charlize Theron or great visuals (or both), then this one is recommended viewing. For the rest, it's just another one of those summer blockbusters you will forget about soon after exiting the theatre.

Rating: 3/5

(P.S.: Notice how Hemsworth and Theron get more prominent footage in the poster? I wish that were the case with the film as well.)

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