Writers: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, Hossein Amini (screenplay), The Brothers Grimm (fairytale)
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Sam Claflin
Release date: June 1st, 2012
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Running time: 127 minutes
Best part: The breath-taking visuals.
Worst part: The monotonous pace.
Following the recent forgettable slapstick farce Mirror Mirror comes yet another interpretation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Snow White. Snow White and the Huntsman takes a large step in the other direction; creating a dark, twisted interpretation of a story normally considered to be a fun, family friendly adventure. Out of the many recent film and TV adaptations of popular fairy tales, this adaptation of Snow White may be the fairest of them all.
This film takes a sharp turn away from the classic 1937 animated adaptation Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, emphasising many fantasy elements relevant in popular film culture. With the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) taking over the kingdom and locking the murdered king’s daughter Snow White (Kristen Stewart) away forever, the king’s once glorious and beautiful reign has crumbled. Her rule forces Snow to escape her captivity and proceed into the dark forest. With a strong desire for Snow’s still-beating heart, she enlists the help of the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to bring her back. The Huntsman’s path however intertwines with Snows as their desire for the freedom of their kingdom leads Snow to be the fated saviour of the land and take her rightful place on the throne.
Chris Hemsworth & the dwarves.
This interpretation perfectly suits the name of ‘Grimm’. With this familiar story recreated in the serious tone of the revered original material, Snow White and the Huntsman is a derivative yet energetic reinvention of the legend. The direction by first time feature director Rupert Sanders (previously known for creating breathtaking advertisements for the Halo 3:ODST video game) creates a fairytale land that is sickly creepy and gorgeous simultaneously. Despite the uneven pacing throughout, Sander’s film may be seen as his canvas; a blank slate in which his keen eye for visuals and influential works are composed in a multi layered and involving fashion. His action set pieces and cinematography contain elements of blockbuster hits such as Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, the similarly envisioned Robin Hood and The Lord of the Rings trilogy with the mixture of handheld camera work, fluid tracking shots and soft lighting. While the affecting landscapes and peculiar creature designs are reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke and Guillermo Del Toro’s Pans Labyrinth. Several shots in particular, involving fairies calling Snow White, are filmed in close up on their small faces to create the emotional balance needed for the disgustingly dark story told.The weaker aspects of this interpretation however involve the screenplay. Involving three different screen writers, Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) and Hossein Amini (Drive), the screenplay is of lesser quality than the visual style due to the many popular genre elements fit in all at once.
“Lips red as blood, hair black as night, bring me your heart, my dear, dear Snow White.” (Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), Snow White and the Huntsman).
Despite the many charming dialogue moments and rousing speeches, including one that will leave any sceptic of Stewart thinking twice, flashback sequences and underused characters dilute from the familiar story. Unfortunately, the development of Snow White from victim to determined hero is largely implied. She never convinces the viewer that she is the fabled, strong female lead character the original fairytale portrays her to be. Her underwritten character, though convincingly performed by Stewart, incessantly shifts focus between the more involving characters around her. The dwarfs, played by a plethora of experienced character actors such as Ray Winstone, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins and Ian McShane, are also underwritten. Despite engaging performances from this reliable cast, they simply provide moments of comic relief for this otherwise sombre interpretation. The performances from all three leads are enrapturing. Coming off of portraying the detestable female lead character Bella in The Twilight Saga, Stewart can hopefully shrug off that stigma after her dynamic performances in Adventureland, Welcome to the Rileys and now Snow White and the Huntsman. Hemsworth continues his run of charismatic performances after Thor and The Avengers with a thick Scottish accent and axe in hand. While Theron, continuing on from her recent turn as the hardened female antagonist in Prometheus, brings an ice cold demeanour to the sadistic Queen Ravenna.
Though hindered gravely by its sluggish pacing and derivative direction, Snow White and the Huntsman appeals to fairytale buffs and blockbuster nuts equally. Thanks to the charming performances and invigorating visuals, this gritty reboot will work wonders over the holidays.
Verdict: Thankfully, fairer than many of the poisoned apples in modern cinematic fantasy.
Works: Blade Runner, Alien, Thelma & Louise, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men, Kingdom of Heaven, American Gangster, Robin Hood, Prometheus
“Are you not entertained!” shouts Russell Crowe as Maximus in the 2000 Academy Award winning historical epic Gladiator. This question may be frequently asked by its director Ridley Scott, as his direction strives for perfection with each film. Ridley and his brother Tony Scott are two of the most influential directors in modern cinema. Though it can be argued their recent work may not match their earlier groundbreaking achievements, they are sought-after genre directors who have created and augmented a fascinating array of unique trademarks. When people question the relevance of auteur theory, there is no doubt either one of them will come to mind.
Ridley Scott & Russell Crowe (Gladiator).
Scott and Damon Lindelof, co-creator/writer of Lost, have recently sparked many heated online debates about the ambiguity of their sci-fi blockbuster Prometheus. What some may consider plot holes, others see as a smart use of sci-fi elements; creating bold, philosophical questions without answers. Scott has used ambiguity in many of his films, developing a true sense of mystery. Many of his films use ambiguity to question the viewer’s involvement in the film viewing process. The ending of Blade Runner for example is one of the most discussed scenes in cinema history. Harrison Ford’s character Rick Deckard as far as we know may or may not be simply a tough persona used to shield himself from emotional torment. Scott creates these debates not to frustrate, but to create though provoking discussion. Ambiguity is not only a defining trait of his now acclaimed work but has led to some of the most influential films in pop culture. It has separated Scott’s films from mind numbing modern sci-fi desperate to answer every question with nonsensical answers for a target demographic.
Ridley Scott & Harrison Ford (Blade Runner).
With a number of Scott’s films critically derided upon release but considered groundbreaking decades later, will the same happen to his recent thought provoking, ambitious, violent, enigmatic and ambiguous sci-fi horror flick? History suggests that only time will tell. In the 30 year gap between Scott’s sci-fi adventures, he has approached different genres eagerly. Genre defining works of art and popcorn chomping blockbusters such as Thelma and Louise, Black Hawk Down, Matchstick Men, Kingdom of Heaven and American Gangster have shown Scott’s directorial elements used outside his phenomenal realm of dark, disturbing sci-fi with Alien and Blade Runner. Film Noir and westerns are clearly important to Scott. With Matchstick Men boasting an energetic Nicholas Cage performance, a femme fatale, a bag of money an troubled criminal minds behind every operation; these noir elements prove the existence of film/neo-noir as relevant to modern film-making.
Scott loves a true message illustrating the merit behind his entertaining and subtle storytelling. His love for powerful yet sensitive female characters proves to be an alluring convention. His characters are important for the image of feminism in cinema, seeing them as regular people willing to break out of their chains and achieve their own sense of freedom. Continuing this idea in Prometheus with Noomi Rapace’s character Elizabeth Shaw as the leader of the ill fated expedition, his presumed attraction to Rapace’s ass-kicking and gothic computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in the Swedish version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, now defines Rapace as the heroin of modern cinema. Thelma and Louise, Ripley, and G. I. Jane are also part of Scott’s penchant for femininity. Thelma and Louise’s race to the end is another example of ambiguity in Scott’s filmography. Following the classic western convention of the ‘race to the border’, the ending of Thelma and Louise suggests an escape from men controlling the two main characters throughout a mediocre existence.
With Prometheus‘ ambiguous questions, based on important themes of philosophy, sexual reproduction, birth and death, and creationism, being handled with such depth, Scott’s film-making techniques and symbols have once again proven to be a major talking point. Scott’s smart, sensitive and ambiguous storytelling, despite mixed responses, has always inspired thought-provoking discussion about not only our connection to his characters, but his level of determination in consistently creating bold, violent and creative cinema.
Stars: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba
Release date: June 8th, 2012
Distributor: 20th Century Fox
Countries: USA, UK
Running time: 124 minutes
Best part: Michael Fassbender.
Worst part: The unanswered questions.
Whether Prometheus is seen as a prequel or brand new adventure in the Alien universe, one thing is certain; no one does sci-fi quite like Ridley Scott. Scott, the director of memorable, smart blockbusters such as Blade Runner and Gladiator, not only excels in different genres but creates fascinating cinematic moments that will live with you forever. As the director of the 1979 classic sci-fi horror flick Alien, Scott’s highly-anticipated return to this universe is a philosophical and shocking account of the search for our beginnings.
We follow many characters, each with their own views of humanity and the mission itself. In 2089, Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) find a star map etched into different archaeological remnants from vastly different civilisations. This constellation, highlighted by the appearance of a large figure pointing to the sky, may in fact symbolise the dawn of man. Landing on the distant moon LV- 223 three years later, the accuracy of this theory is what everyone on the spaceship ’Prometheus’ is searching for. Shaw and Holloway must encounter hostile sceptics including inquisitive human-like android David (Michael Fassbender) and hardened Weylan Corporation executive Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron). There discoveries will however change the course of human history (for greater and worse) while creating scarily affecting problems for the ship’s largely scientist based crew.
Ridley Scott knows how to deliver truly smart sci-fi. While not as groundbreaking as Blade Runner or Alien, Prometheus carefully and uniquely asks the big questions no one has found the answers to. The screenplay by Damon Lindelof (co-creator/writer of Lost) and Jon Spaihts, based sparingly on Stephen Hawking’s recent theories on the discovery of hostile beings in the universe, uses important questions, suggesting different yet believable theories based on our evolution and of creationism, as the basis for its many character arcs. A believable relationship between this story of our beginnings and murky horror flick reminiscent of the Alien universe is executed in Prometheus, creating a truly dangerous sci-fi adventure, subtly using both references from the Alien films and the seeds to create its own universe. Many of the supporting characters feel two dimensional, developing largely predictable problems for the main characters. The performances, however, as usual with Scott, are all top notch. Rapace once again creates a strong female protagonist; this time noticeably similar to Ripley in the original Alien films. Theron and Idris Elba as the ship’s captain are charismatic in their smaller roles. While the stand out is Fassbender as the peaceful looking android with creepily ulterior motives. Fassbender creates the most fascinating character in modern sci-fi, depicting a strange, multi-functioning automaton with a curiosity for the existential questions his human ‘superiors’ ask. Several small touches, including his accurate impersonation of Peter O. Toole in Lawrence of Arabia, display a fascinating and in-depth depiction of a soulless being in search of a human connection.
“Big things have small beginnings.” (David (Michael Fassbender), Prometheus).
Charlize Theron & Idris Elba.
Despite this search for answers leading to a frustratingly ambiguous final third, each character’s motivations and theories delicately and assuredly create the themes of the film, culminating in a search for the reality of existence through hostile and tension filled terms. The film, for the most part, is emotionally powerful. You feel excited when Prometheus lands, while ultimately feeling a strange void in the pit of your stomach with knowing what comes next. Not really surprising to one who knows the brutal story behind the name ‘Prometheus’. Scott isn’t afraid to push the MA15+ rating. The beautiful yet bloody practical effects and creature designs match the violent intensity of the Alien series. The shockingly realistic and blood curdling penetrative deaths are part of the emotional core that will be longingly set in your mind. One scene in particular will have you questioning the practicality of Caesarean sections. The film’s visual appeal is also stunning. The holographic and touch screen applications of their operations and discoveries create several dimensions, using different pix-elated and CG creations to develop an appealing contrast with H. R. Giger’s influential and practical alien spaceship designs.
Does Prometheus live up to expectations? Yes and no. Yes, Scott’s streamlined direction delivers several wondrous set-pieces and visual flourishes. No, the big questions it so-eagerly asks in the first third aren’t given answers. Overall, we might have to show up next time for one ‘final’ adventure.
Verdict: An ambitious and glorious sci-fi actioner.