Suspension of Disbelief: Snow White and the Huntsman
Suspension of Disbelief is a weekly feature, in which we review movies, books, TV shows, and other popular culture for the skeptical teen.
Movie Title: Snow White and the Huntsman
Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron
I’m a fan of both Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and gritty retellings of fairy tails, so I was kind of jazzed about seeing Snow White and the Huntsman. The trailer made it look pleasingly dark, and Charlize Theron seemed truly terrifying as the evil step-mother. While I did enjoy her turn as the murderous queen, the rest of the characters lacked depth and I left the theater without strong feelings one way or the other.
Spoiler Warning- Although if you’ve ever seen or read or heard about Snow White, none of this will come as a surprise.
The movie opens with the lovely queen of an unspecified medieval country spotting a rose blooming in the winter, and wishing that her daughter will be as strong and beautiful. Lo and behold, Snow White is born and everybody loves her. Unfortunately, when Snow White is a young girl her mother dies, leaving her father brokenhearted. He is lured into battle with a false army where he finds the beautiful Ravenna, who he promptly marries. At this point, I was actually hopeful that maybe they were going to take things in an interesting direction and give Snow White a sympathetic relationship with her step-mother. That was not the plan, and Ravenna quickly takes over the kingdom and locks Snow White in a tower prison cell.
Things pick back up about a decade later with the beautiful young princess in her cell. Of course, the queen learns that she needs Snow White’s heart, and with a little help from her animal friends the princess escapes into the dark woods. Upon her arrival she promptly has a bad mushroom trip. Knowing that very few people can survive in there, and not wanting to let her nemesis escape, the queen finds an attractive, drunken huntsman and sends him after Snow White. Of course he betrays the queen and rescues the girl. They run into 7 dwarfs who are old acquaintances of the huntsman, and go hang out in fairyland where Snow White is blessed by a white stag in a scene strikingly similar to one from Princess Mononoke. From there the heroes meet up with her childhood best friend and a half-hearted love triangle starts up. Of course the queen poisons Snow White with an apple and she’s woken up by her apparent true love. From there it’s any old battle series from any of a dozen movies with some comic dwarf relief.
Overall, it was a fun movie but it also let me down in some places. To begin with, the evil witch was the character with the most depth. Her background was fully explained in flash-backs and it was possible to feel some sympathy for her position. None of the other characters were fleshed out as well. I was perplexed that despite having very little contact with other people since childhood, Snow White was able to quickly transition into a leadership role. I was also not moved by the rather short lived love triangle. I’m not sure why that seems to be the trope du jour, but it didn’t come off as authentic. The huntsman had a sad back story, but it was relayed in an info dump near the end that also failed to impress me and came off as a plot device rather than adding much to the character.
Finally, I was bothered that Snow White was the chosen heroine because she is both beautiful and pure. Yes, I know that this is just how the story goes but it bothers me none the less. The idea that women are valuable for their attractiveness and innocence devalues all of the many accomplishments by women that are utterly unrelated to their physical bodies. There is nothing inherently wrong with being beautiful or naive, but it also doesn’t mean that someone has any special ability to be a good, kind, smart leader either. I prefer stories with females leads who save the day with their strength and accomplishments, not because they meet some pageant qualifications.
I give it 2.5 out of 5 Magic Mirrors