The hugely profitable Twilight series has left Hollywood scratching its collective heads. In theory, the discovery that there`s a vast audience out of there of girls who don`t mind cheap-looking crud churned out fast sounds financially exciting. So, let`s take what`s her name, the star of Twilight, Kristen Stewart, and slap her in some public domain fairy tale and maximize ROI!
The funny thing, however, is that filmmakers have a hard time getting motivated by these blatant opportunities. So, rather than make a cheap "Snow White," they decided to try to bring in the boy audience, too, by promoting The Huntsman up to titular equality with Snow White. He`s played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor in The Avengers) as a fairy tale version of True Grit`s drunken marshall Rooster Cogburn.
That marketing plan in turn justified a $170 million budget — and it`s all up there on the screen — to make a lavish, scary, serious version of the old story with impressive levels of craftsmanship but not that much entertainment value. (For instance, the screenplay can`t come up with a single laugh for Bob Hoskins to get as the eldest dwarf.)
The real star is Charlize Theron as the wicked stepmother / queen. Theron has been on a hot streak lately (e.g., last year`s funny Young Adult) playing beauties who aren`t as young as they used to be and aren`t at all happy about it.
A major problem for "Snow White and the Huntsman" is that Theron is a star, but Stewart is not. I thought Stewart was the best thing in the one Twilight movie I saw, but that says more about the slapdash quality of those movies. All the ingenue has to do in the Twilight movies is smell nice (literally — that`s the engine of the plot), but here she is supposed to be an extraordinary beauty, the embodiment of purity, and then turn into a charismatic political leader and buttkicking Joan of Arc. It would be an implausible role for any actress, and it`s a massive stretch for a tomboyish actress not gifted with feminine charm.
Snow White and the Huntsman is set in mythic medieval England (and perhaps Wales), but we`ve seen a lot of Tolkienish fantasy-medieval England since Lord of the Rings. Snow White meets a giant stag, for example, much like in Narnia. The battle on the beach at the end is indistinguishable from the battle on the beach at the end of Ridley Scott`s 2010 Robin Hood. Ye Olde British Isles have been well-served in movies lately (for example, the upcoming Pixar movie Brave looks like Braveheart with a buttkicking princess), so it`s time to do some other European cultures. This famous Brothers Grimm story could have been an opportunity for a German setting.
Obviously, there`s not a lot of sense in comparing Snow White and the Huntsman to Walt Disney`s 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which are extremely different movies. But I do want to make one observation: household chores seem to have been a much larger theme in old kids` movies. (For example, Whistle While You Work from Disney`s Snow White, Cinderella scrubbing the floor, the Sorcerer`s Apprentice from Fantasia, and so forth). Maybe I`ve just missed out on the last decade of children`s movies other than Pixar`s, but this does seem like it could be a big cultural shift. Perhaps children don`t respond to fantasies of getting out of chores as much anymore because they don`t have to do as many?