Snow White and the Huntsman – Review

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)  

Directed by Rupert Sanders. Starring Kristen StewartChris HemsworthCharlize TheronSam ClaflinIan McShaneBob HoskinsRay WinstoneNick FrostEddie MarsanToby JonesBrian Gleeson.

Fairy tales and children stories are not what they used to be: my memories of Snow White was one of a lovely princess whistling in a forest surround by colourful birds, while the seven dwarfs were happily singing on their way back home. At the time the biggest question of was “will they wash their hands before dinner?”. Well, fair enough, 75 years have passed since the famous Disney version (and obviously over 20 other screen adaptations, including countless pornographic versions, which obviously I’m not going into). But young modern audience is used to much stronger stuff than singing birds, soap bubbles (though arguably the old witch in the Disney version gave nightmares to many at the time, and probably still does). This is a much darker re-invention of the story for the Twilight and Harry Potter crowd (not just in its colour palette but generally in its sensibility veering more towards horror than a fairy tale) and of  course with some Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones added the mix. The title itself might be a little bit misleading and possibly even prevent much of the older audience, who would potentially quite like this adventure like this, from thinking this might be for them.

We shouldn’t forget that after all the original  Snow White story had some undercurrent grim and dark tones to it, so in a way this version is almost going back to its roots.

Coming into this quite fresh, and expecting to find another horrible Red Riding Hood disaster, I was surprised by visual spectacle and the genuine inventiveness at display in SWATH (which is how Snow White and the Huntsmanis known on twitter). The director of Rupert Sanders comes from the world of commercials and that really shows, both in a good and bad way: on one hand the look of the film is actually very very good, in fact better than any of the Twilight movies, or the latest Harry Potter instalments I must say. The special effects too are seamlessly integrated in the action, and kudos to the film makers for deciding against yet another 3D post-convertion. However the other side of the director’s commercial background shows up in the film’s very patchy nature. At times it really seems to be made up by a series of scenes stringed together (well, it probably was) without a real sense of drama. Characters come in and out of the story, but none of them has any depth. There is obviously the usual love triangle at play here, which is now inescapable in our post-twilight culture. In one corner the Huntsman from the title, in the other Prince William (no, not that one), but the relationship is never really explored in any depth, in fact it’s hardly even touched on: it’s just there and we are supposed to take it for granted. What do those 2 men think of each other? And what does she think of them? And why didn’t the prince’s first kiss resuscitate Snow White? Did I miss something? It’s all a bit confusing… But then again, it might all become a lot clearer in the obligatory sequel (teased by the half-satisfying ending)

But does any of that matter? Well, only to a degree. Despite its obvious weaknesses from a dramatic point of view and being completely devoid of humour, the film still manages to be a sumptuous imaginative feast for the eye and an exciting and arresting action romp… It’s clearly derivative from all sorts of other movies made before, but it’s entertaining and inventive enough… if only somebody had remembered to tell a proper story too.

Charlize Theron is clearly having the time of her life playing the evil godmother/queen/witch. She camps it up as much as she possibly can and after all, if you’re hoping to get away with lines like “mirror mirror on the wall who’s the fairer of them all“, this is probably the only way to do it (… and by the way, despite of what the mirror says, my answer will always be “Charlize Charlize!!!!”). In fact she does such a fine job  that in the end you almost don’t want her to be defeated.

And finally the seven dwarves who come so late into the film that by the time they show up I had completely forgotten they should have been in at all. The CGI wizardry here is something to marvel at, as recognisable faces of well-known actors are somehow morphed onto bodies of actual small people. It is absolutely seamless and quite disconcerting (and a little bit unfair for real small people actually… Is this going to be the end of  their career as actors? It feels a bit wrong… Almost like having white people turned black by CGI). But however spectacular their appearances are, it doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re all quite interchangeable with each other and pretty soul-less. In fact there was a lot more characterisation in the Disney animated version from 70 years ago that in this one.

But hey, let’s take the film for what it is and not for what it could have been. It is flawed, but in the end both look and style and the sheer inventiveness and the detailed recreations save the day and the film delivers more than the actual title promises.

7/10 (with some reservations)

Toy Story 3 – Review


TOY STORY 3 –  (2010)

Directed by Lee Unkrich. Starring Tom HanksTim AllenJoan CusackNed BeattyDon RicklesMichael KeatonWallace ShawnJohn RatzenbergerEstelle HarrisJohn MorrisJodi BensonBlake Clark.

I’ve been meaning to talk about this film for a while, so what better excuse than its release on DVD and BluRay?

We’ve heard so much about this one in the last few months, that it’s hard to come up with something new and original to say. Everybody seems to love it: critics and moviegoers from everywhere. And recently there’s even been a campaign to try to push it as best motion picture for the Oscars.

Rotten Tomatoes gives it a resounding 99%, and at this exact moment the film features in the Top 20 favorite films of all times on the Internet Movie Database (also know as: THE MOVIE BIBLE!).

So let’s just start from a safe place and assume that this film is good. Because it is indeed.  The film works on so many levels.

The story about growing up and having to abandon your childhood toys is so universal that it’s hard not to sympathize with it. The film-makers have been very clever to show you the story from all possible point of views: from the toys themselves, who are about to be given away, from the point of  view of the boy who has to grow up and leave of all that child stuff behind, and the from  the mother’s prospective who has to watch her son going to university and leaving the nest. In other words, whatever your age is, you’re pretty much screwed: you’re bound to see some of yourself in that film, you’ll understand all those emotions at stake, and by the end of it you WILL end up crying like a baby!!… Or at least I did, more than once.

Furthermore, this is the third of a trilogy that started over 15 years ago. Pixar is all too aware of how we’ve sort of grown up with these characters and it plays on that to perfection, so that by the end of the movie, it is all even more poignant just because of this attachment over the years.

This is the main power of Toy Story 3. Pixarunderstands exactly what we liked about  the first “toy story” films, what we love about those characters and they give us precisely that. The mixture of drama and comedy. The classic jokes (The whole Ken and Barbie stuff is pretty inspired), the spooky characters (that doll stills gives me the creeps!!), the nail-biting/edge-of-your-seat action scenes (up there with the most accomplished action movies), the beautiful colorful animation, the perfectly pitched score and a story which works for adults and kids.

Being the third of some of the most beloved movies in the history of animation, or generally being a sequel or a threequel (is there such a word?) can be a bit counterproductive and most of the times could end up being massively disappointing. But not when it comes to a Pixarfilm. Somehow we are all come to expect only masterpieces out of that Company. And even though I don’t think this is out there with the originality of the first one, and both in terms of story and script, but it is damn close.

The jokes are a little bit more forced than in the first one, (All the stuff with Buzz speaking Spanish is probably funny once, but it does go on for a bit too long, almost like the joke of the dog with a squeaky voice in “up”) , and let’s face it, the story itself is not too far from “Toy Story 2“. Even the use or the songs by Randy Newman, is used in the same context as the first film… But hey, I’m really picking needles here, maybe because I care so much about Woody and his friends!!

I wish all the films were this good, not just cartoons!!

Of course, the animation has improved massively since 1995 and Pixar has grown up too and understands what animation should really do. In the first Toy story, we were all in awe at the realism of the rendering of the toys themselves and the landscapes and interior of those houses. Yes, within that, the humans always looked a bit like plastic and actually rather freaky. On this one the makers have learnt the lesson and decided to make everything a little bit “less real”  and the humans more like caricatures than real people. So now the final effect is less jarring than it used to be.

So, the question now is: is this the animation that’s going to break free and actually win an Oscar for Best Film? Well, sadly I don’t think we are ready for that yet, though I would really love it to do so. In the same way as the third Lord of the Rings was awarded for the whole trilogy a few years ago, I do think Toy Story 3 should be recognized and awarded for giving us probably the best constantly good trilogy in movie history…  In 10 or 20 years times what film are we going to remember most? “The King’s Speech” or “Toy Story” trilogy.

Enough said.

8.5/10

 Check out my review of Tangled

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