Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Review Snow White & The Huntsman

I went into this movie not expecting anything positive, and I must say that it completely lived up to my low expectations. With the exception of a few action scenes, Snow White and the Huntsman essentially remained true to the fairytale which we are all familiar with.  There was some money spent on a few pretty good special effects, particularly the troll and the time they spent in the fairyworld and it helped to distract from the piss poor acting on the part of both Kristen Stewart and  Charlize Theron.  Having watched all of the Twilight movies to date, I didn't expect Stewart to do a great job, but I was disappointed in Theron, who won an Oscar for her role in Monster. For her part, Stewart spent the majority of the film with her lip trembling - a slight twist on her customary lip biting, while staring all big and doe eyed into a camera.  A concussed penguin would have had more personality than Stewart on film. Much of the time that Theron spent on screen she was screaming which gave her a character a single angry note.

Snow White's mother wished for a daughter whose skin was as white as snow, lips as red as blood, hair as black as a ravens wings, with the strength of the rose that she pricked her finger on. Shortly thereafter Snow White was born.  All was well and good until the queen died during a harsh winter.  The king mourned his wife, until one day he was drawn out to war.  The forces of the opposition were magical and they were quickly defeated by the kings forces.  The king discovered Ravenna chained in a carriage, and was so overcome with her beauty that he married her the next day.  As they lay in bed, she told him about how men use women and suck the life out of them, just before she thrust a dagger into his heart. With the king dead, it was easy to overrun the castle and imprison Snow White.  In the years that followed, Ravenna consumed the youth of the villagers to maintain her strength -- until one day -- the mirror told her that now that Snow White had reached adult hood that she was more fair than her.  Thus began Ravenna's mission to kill Snow White.  

In order to add a twist to the story, Snow White's escape was wrapped around the idea of the people rebelling under Ravenna's oppression.  Essentially, Snow White became the chosen one that everyone adored virtually on sight, to the point of pledging their lives to her service. Even the vicious troll did not have it in his heart to kill or otherwise maim Snow White, so enthralled was he with her heart and her beauty. Snow White didn't have to do a damn thing to earn their loyalty, but be born a special snowflake. This is hardly a positive re-envisioning of the classic tale.  Her only personality trait throughout the movie was the pureness of her heart.  Do we really need another movie promoting the pureness and beauty of White womanhood? 

Much of this movie was concerned with beauty as power and why it is the undoing of all women.  All of Ravenna's power was completely based on her beauty and when it began to fade, her powers reduced. At one point, Ravenna tells Snow White that she is lucky that she has not grown old. I suppose the message here is that women should cultivate other strengths because beauty fades.  As far as Ravenna is concerned, I felt that she used the weapon available to her at the time.   She also had a very tragic past and her mother cast this spell to protect her.  In medieval times, there was even less reason for men not to rape women and thus her beauty was their undoing.  Ultimately, Ravenna was cast as evil because she wasn't pure and no time was spent looking at her as a victim of patriarchy.

I further found it troubling that when Snow White escaped she ended up of a camp made up of women and children who were scared.  They sacrificed their beauty in order to be safe from Ravenna.  They were forced into this position because Ravenna stole youth and beauty to remain her power.  A more positive re-telling of this story would have evolved beyond beauty.  Having women attack each other because of appearance is not progressive, it simply casts women in opposition to each other. 

Once again, we were treated to all White, straight version of Snow White.  Though this was completely predictable, I am sick and tired of these highly erased stories being presented to us as a fresh retelling from a supposed feminist perspective.  Snow White did nothing empowering except give a small speech.  Most were too in awe of her to actually interact with her. The dwarves who were specifically meant to be played by little people, were played by people of average height. It is not inclusion to have an able bodied person play the role of a disabled character.  This happens all of the time in media but that does not justify what the producers and directors chose to do.  I don't even understand how this decision makes economic sense because employing real little people would mean no special effects would have been needed thus leaving room in the budget for other effects. There are so few roles in general for little people that to take an iconic role away is simply wrong. 

If you take out the special effects there was nothing new or innovative about this story.  It was the same old set White women up as the epitome of beauty, erase all historically marginalized people, and of course shaming women for pursing beauty, when it is one of the few sites of power available to them, while ignoring all of the sexist patriarchal bullshit that set up this situation in the first place. Having Snow White battle the evil Queen instead of Prince Charming on her behalf, does not change anything. If Hollywood is going to re-imagine these fairytales they need to give us something new, not simply make tiny changes and hope that we will see it as progressive.