The gaze of Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and The Huntsman sticks to the original tale pretty closely, finding ways to work in each classic element, while adding its own tidbits like a good adaptation should. Unfortunately, it feels like it tries a bit too hard.

The film’s overture jumps right into the great CGI action as it exposes the back-story, and reveals the origins for the characters in this version. The epic cinematography is skillfully pulled off and the tale is satisfactorily tall, then however, we start to find the film’s major weakness:

It is a bit boring, as the the story is really nothing new. Meaning, we are already familiar with the tale of Snow White, so there is no real suspense here, just a new version of a known story.

It’s well told, and that’s the contradiction, or perhaps the irony, of this production.

Then again, there are a lot of fantastic scenes in this film: The costuming, the effects, the set design, the camera work – it’s all great, but between the scenes is a lot of really well-made silence, and several very drawn out sequences.

As an example, there is a scene in which we’re supposed to be realizing that Snow is this magical chosen one, as she wanders slowly through the forest, being watched by the fairies and the woodland creatures as she holds out her hands to brush the foliage. The other characters slowly follow her in awe as she discovers where her fairy friends are leading her. The little meander is drawn out for minutes, and I found myself checking my watch, the film equivalent of checking how many pages are left in the novel – never a good sign.

Perhaps the problem is simply of one of trying to hard. The film seeks to be everything Snow White, and in so doing forces itself to take long segues between important points, the path it takes to hit everything is a long and meandering one.

Of course, what you all really want to know is how Kristen Stewart performed. This is her first AAA production after the end of the Twilight franchise which made her famous, but which also showed most of the critical world a mostly vapid girl with very little range or evocative presence.

After seeing this performance, I’m willing to say that at least half of that impression is the fault of the character she was playing in those films. She does express some greater range in Snow White and while I never felt particularly drawn in by her performance, it wasn’t for a lack of skill on her part. Unfortunately for her career, it seems she drew a bad lot in getting this part, as her character generates most of the stillness, the boredom of the film. There are dozens of moments when it seems like Snow is supposed to say something; something witty maybe, or profound, or even just keeping up her side of the conversation, but instead she just stares. She stares expressively, meaningfully, but it’s still only a look, when what she needed was a line. It’s hard to tell if it was poor writing or poor directing, but it doesn’t seem like poor acting

The rest of the cast pulls up about where you would expect. Charlize Theron is wonderful, beautiful, terrible, and – strangely – very sympathetic as the evil queen. Chris Hemsworth, as the huntsman,  is Thor with a drinking problem and a different accent, and Sam Claflin is barely in the movie at all, just another point on the Snow White map that the film goes out of its way to make sure it treads upon.

Overall, the film is beautiful and well-performed, but difficult to recommend due to the distracting pacing issues.

Snow White and the Huntsman is in theaters now.