Last night it was meatloaf roasting in the oven, cold rains, high in the 60s, gas down to $3.50.9/gal. A perfect fall day (*scritch!*)... on the 1st of June? Man, just a week ago we had highs in the 90s, and last night it was fifty degrees colder than that. Welcome to West Michigan wacko weather.
Snow White and the Huntsman [PG-13]
Holland 7 Theatre #7, 3:00pm
I love retellings of old fairy tales. Very pleased this year with ABC's Once Upon A Time and Jim C. Hine's princess novels, etc. So I've been waiting for this movie ever since Charlize Theron hosted an evil queen dinner on Bravo's Top Chef: Texas. Let me start off by saying this is one of the most beautifully filmed dark movies I've seen in years. And the clever special effects, whether CG or stagecraft, never felt like special effects to me.
The filmmakers of Snow White and the Huntsman expect you to have to have some familiarity with the story. The Apple. The Dwarfs. Hearts. So they can go on with their story without having to explain everything. Also, this isn't some fun romp. They are playing this as a deadly serious thing, which makes this much more of a grownup film than for kids, even with a PG-13 rating. The grim nature of some of the proceedings has the blessed effect of cutting down on the nonsense, like big love scenes in the middle of a crisis. But also some tragic images, such as the plight of the women living in the reed village.
*** Some Spoilery Bits Ahead ***
Charlize Theron and her costumer are brilliant. She is both evil and demanding, has a false soothing manner to calm her victims, but also bits of backstory which give her an eensie bit of sympathy. In other words, she's bad, but I feel for her fall more than I do for Sauron or Voldemort. (grin)
And yes, it is inevitable that you'll see bits and remembrances of every big/good fantasy movie of the past 20-30 years. The White Tree of LOTR:ROTK, expecting to see R.O.U.S.es at any moment in the Dark Forrest, Uther Pendragon's seaside castle from any number of Arthurian epics, Peter Jackson level quality dwarfs -- even thinking of Mouse in the sewers from Ladyhawke and "they've got themselves a cave troll" in the troll bridge scene. (grin) Partly it's iconic imagery, partly is that there's little choice. I don't know that you could cover the themes of this movie without touching base with every other epic.
The Dark Forest is pretty grim. Nicely evil -- damned annoying that at every turn I kept on wanting to refer to another movie, because some of the effects/evilness was so nicely done. The enchanted forest, however, is staggeringly different -- at first it seems over-the-top Disneyesque and then Avatar-like -- but it works after a moment of shock. I really liked the faeries and especially the mushrooms with eyes. On the other hand, even before we saw it, Mrs. Dr. Phil leaned over and called them on "about to have an Aslan moment". Which raises an interesting side note. At one point we have someone reciting the Lord's Prayer and there are clearly cardinals lurking in the background, so his alternate universe is definitely medieval Christian, something that doesn't always come up.
Snow White herself is done by the girl from Twilight. From my perspective, Kristen Stewart's given much better material here. A couple of reviews I read this morning complained that Snow is in too good shape if she'd been imprisoned in a tower most of her life. Jay Lake worries that he channels writer Cat Valente every time Snow is on the screen, which I can understand, but betrays his "wee crush" more than anything. (grin) And 2004 Clarion classmate and fantasy romance novelist Marjorie Liu, without mentioning a movie by name, complains that if you're going to sell something as a romance, you can't lose sight of it and not put in the romance at the end.
And I suppose this is one of the two knocks I have against this movie. We do have a weird triangle between Snow, her childhood friend and the Huntsman. One that partially plays out in an intriguing way, but we're not going to end with a happily-ever-after-wedding in this version. Not even as a Dr. Phil Special after the credits, of which there is, alas, none. If that annoys you, then just take solace in the title of the film and go around with a knowing smile. (evil grin)
The other knock I'll make, and I'm just saying it aloud without completely feeling it's a deal breaker, but I'm sure others will mention it -- In a movie pitting two women in a war of good versus evil, the good Snow does not triumph over the evil Ravenna by dint of her good and nonviolent ways. I suspect it's not just a lack of vision thing. Standing up the queen in a such a fantasy Medieval military world would last about thirty seconds, even without magic. There's a part of me that wanted Snow's healing touch to cure the break in Ravenna's own heart. It'd be too much for her to mend her evil ways, but the revelation that she was evil could do her in. Or damn her. Or piss off her mirror. Or something. But no. Violence is met with violence.
Actually, I thought Ravenna was going to pull the old body duplicate at the end. "Kill her, she's the evil one." "You must kill us both." But then we've seen that scene too much, too, so I suppose I'm glad that they in fact didn't pull out that cliche.
Because this movie is too beautiful to want to hate it.
Recommended (But Not Perfect)
Trailers: Walt Disney/Pixar Brave still looks good for animated, and based on previous viewings, the 3D will probably be worth it. First look at footage from Les Miserables and Hugh Jackman versus Russell Crowe. Looks like Anne Hathaway will do the Natalie Portman V For Vendetta haircut, and wide-eyed Amanda Seyfried as Cosette. Opens for Christmas and you know we'll be there. (Wikipedia says that the innkeeper and his wife will be played by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter!) More summer action with The Bourne Legacy, minus Matt Damon but still with some of the same CIA heavies trying to run/not run Treadstone. BTW - Friday night I caught Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman in Invictus, the lovely movie about Nelson Mandela and the Rugby World Cup. Also Christopher Plummer in The Tempest (simulcast), another look at the 80s big hair rock ridiculousness of Rock of Ages, which I might have to see just 'cause, and the no-Ahnold, no-Mars, more-Philip K. Dick (?) Total Recall.