Sunday, June 3, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman


Snow White & the Huntsman by Georgia

    VICTORY TO QUEEN STEWART! I love, love, loved Snow White and the Huntsman!!! It was dark, but beautiful and powerful at the same time. In this movie, Snow White has been locked up by the evil queen (Charlize Theron, who deserves an Oscar for this role!) because of her fairness and beauty. But she escapes and befriends the drunken Huntsman who was sent to capture her.

 But enough about the storyline, here's what I think: go see it. If you are over eleven years old, go see it. There's a great heroine (who just happens to be the awesome and beautiful Kristen Stewart!) for teenage girls (and boys,) there's Chris Hemsworth (Thor) for any Hemsworth fans, there's violence for the action movie lovers, and there's a bit of romance. A BIT, mind you. This ain't Twilight.
Before I end my post, I'd like to say a brief rant: I AM SO ANGRY AT ALL THE STUPID MALE CRITICS WHO HATED THIS MOVIE!!!!!!! Not all the male critics hated it, but most did. They thought it had way too much "overacting" and that Stewart wasn't "right" for the role of the kick-butt heroine with a pure side. REALLY? Was it the fact that she actually had CLOTHES ON or that you don't think she's PRETTY enough for the role??? Is it hard to see a fully-clothed girl actually doing something?  Well, welcome to the 21st Century! Cough, cough, Katniss!! Anyways, the movie was great, no matter what the stupid critics say. GO SEE IT!!!!


I feel like I had been waiting my whole life to see this movie. 

Pause for reflection--I grew up in libraries.  Mostly old Oklahoma libraries, filled with musty books and crisp, new books and paintings you could check out to hang on your walls at home for two weeks, which my mother did.  It was on the shelves of the Lawton Public Library that I discovered Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory when I was ten.  The original King Arthur story captivated me.  I had been a big fan of the Wizard of Oz books and the Arthur legend blew my young mind-the drama of the knights’ escapades, the beauty of the women, the lavish banquets, the scope of it all.  I then read every variation on it I could find and eventually, years later, found the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley.  This was the re-telling of the Arthur story from the perspective of the women and it was as if I had found a new universe hidden within a treasured tale, a universe dominated by strong women.

This brings us to the movies.  In the 1970s and 1980s, women could play superheroes on TV. Wonder Woman was one of my favorites.  As was the Bionic Woman.  I had the action figure doll for both.  My collection also included Wonder Woman’s invisible jet.  It was made of clear plastic so it was sort of invisible.  Here’s the rub though—none of the films at the movie theater of my childhood featured female superhero leads.  And now that I’ve crested the hill of forty with three daughters coming up behind me, we’re still waiting for a female superhero to carry a movie.

Screw superheroes.

Who needs them in 2012 when the gods of cinema have given us Katniss Everdeen in Hunger Games and Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron as good/evil Queens in Snow White and the Huntsman?  


 I hereby declare 2012 the Year of the Powerful-Yet Empathetic-Strong-Yet Kind-Kick Ass Leader Girl. In Snow White and the Huntsman, Universal Studios gives us a princess to love.  The new and improved Snow White is the type of  princess we wouldn't mind our daughters growing up to be.  

Kristen Stewart’s Snow White is the strong, silent type.  I’ve read reviews of this movie in major national papers and saw an interesting trend.  The majority of male reviewers, though not all, complain about Stewart. One didn't think she was “pretty enough” next to Charlize Theron.  Many said she was "ill-suited" for the role.  And my response is, I think they would have liked Stewart better if she wore a push-up bra and showed a little cleavage instead of being costumed in modest outfits best suited for, you know, traipsing through the forest and sword fighting.   What was that three-time Oscar-winner Collen Atwood costume designer thinking?

Stewart is a new kind of Snow White.  She is a slight girl with expressive eyes and at first glance seems an unlikely choice to take back a kingdom from the likes of the powerful evil Queen.  Her appearance reminds me--in their shared "delicate" appearance-- of freed Burmese/Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi , who like Snow, is the only daughter of a king--in Ms. Kyi's case her father was the "King" of modern Burma.  Though small in stature, Aung San Suu Kyi has inspired a nation to rise up against oppression and won a Nobel Peace Prize in the process.

Stewart works because we’re intrigued by how this fragile-looking young woman will face the awesome task in front of her.  She’s the literal underdog, half a foot shorter than model-height Theron.  Sheer force alone will not be the way Snow wins.  It’s not possible.

Conceived in love by her Queen and King parents, the scenes of Snow as a young child show her nascent leadership abilities and how her childhood best friend William, the Duke’s son, is clearly besotted with her.  When Snow’s life slips in to tragedy after both parents die and the evil Ravenna—played brilliantly by Charlize Theron—locks her in the tower for years on end, one understands that basic chit-chat is not something Snow does. 

When Snow escapes and the chase storyline kicks in, Stewart convincingly undergoes a 
metamorphosis from terrified young girl to a composed leader ready to wrest her father’s kingdom back from the darkness that has fallen across it during Ravenna’s reign.  The movie pulls pieces of the original Disney film into its elaborate, innovative, visually dazzling whirl.

The scene where Stewart goes toe to ugly toe with a giant troll is one of my favorites.  She hollers back at him just as he is hollering at her and stares him down with an openness in her eyes that lets him know she sees him, really sees him, and perhaps understands whatever misery he’s endured that has landed him the unfortunate job of consumer of bridge crossers.

Romance is secondary in the film.  Snow is loved by the Duke’s son William who does all he can to rescue her and fight with her but, as Georgia said to me, the movie is not called “Snow White and The Duke’s Son.”  Chris Hemsworth of “Thor” plays the huntsman hired by Ravenna to bring back Snow so the Evil Queen can remove her young heart.  And then eat it for a light snack because that how Ravenna rolls.

The scene where the Huntsman finds Snow in the Dark Forest and they see each other for the first time is handled well by both Hemsworth and Stewart.  He is shocked to find such a young girl as his prey and she is unsure of his intentions.  But there is something that runs between them in that instant which, I hope, we’ll see explored in more depth in the sequel.

The Huntsman then switches sides and becomes part of the swelling ranks of those supporting Snow in her bid to take back the kingdom.  The beach scenes where her army is descending upon the castle are stunning-- banners flying, horses’ hooves kicking up the surf, Kristen Stewart on a white horse in full chain mail transformed in to a purposeful Joan of Arc.   It has been years since we’ve seen a sweeping, saga kind of movie done on this scale with real, animate objects versus special effects.  Though the movie uses plenty of those as well.

And now, for the Queen. 

Charlize Theron accomplishes the mighty task of embodying pure evil and 
darkness in one beautiful package while also giving us insight in to the cruelties she endured as a young child that led her own mother to slice her hand, put drops of her blood into a bowl of milk and force Ravenna to drink it while placing a spell on her that her beauty would protect her, it would be her power over men, including the men pillaging her home village and taking away her mother. 

On their wedding night, Snow’s father is on top of Ravenna in bed and says, “You will be the ruin of me, Ravenna,” with a smile on his face, bewitched by her beauty and thrilled to have her as his own.  Her response is chilling, “Another king ruined me a long time ago.”  The implication being she has endured rape, most likely, and the loss of her mother during another King’s war.

There are layers to this story that speak to our modern day wars, to the travesties committed against women and children, particularly girls, in the name of religion, natural resources, or ancestral lands.  What does it say about our current culture that the plight of women and girls in parts of the world, indeed even within the borders of our own country, is no better than what the young Ravenna endured?

And so I understood Ravenna’s rage and how the evil committed against her turned and twisted her own psyche.  But I didn’t like her and spent many of the scenes detailing her ghastly beauty and eating habits with my head turned away from the screen, as did Georgia.  

 In the ultimate scene between Ravenna and Snow, Stewart communicates that she understands what Ravenna endured, that their initial situations-orphaned girls displaced by war—were the same. But how they responded to the evils done against them is the difference.

Snow is, in the end,  a warrior.  She understands herself to be the rightful ruler of her kingdom.  And so she does what warriors do.

This movie is not for the under twelve set.  It is dark, explicitly violent in certain scenes and disturbing. But for young adults and grownups, it could be one of the most gorgeous, inventive, thrilling movies you see this year.