Snow White and the Hunstman, starring Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart
I’m discovering I’m not really capable of writing reviews without spoilers. So be aware, they’re ahead.
By far my favorite thing about this movie was the gorgeous visuals. The queen’s magic manifested in these glittering obsidian shards that coalesced and changed shape constantly. The fairy tale castle overlooking the sea, the gowns, the sinister magic creatures of the dark forest, the vibrant colors of the land coming to life again, the dramatic action sequences: all pure eye candy.
Charlize Theron as the evil queen steals the show. Her outfits are breathtaking, showing her to be both warlike and dangerous, but also incredibly feminine. Her power and beauty are intertwined, reinforcing each other There are some really cool effects that show her face aging, and then aging in reverse as she sucks youth from her victims. The roots of her evil are explored. Her mother cast a spell on her, hoping that beauty would protect her. She was abducted as a child. She says that a widowed king used her and discarded her, then kills Snow White’s father to prevent him from doing the same to her. She seems to be a victim who is taking her pain out on the entire world. Also, it’s implied that she’s crazy, in a scene where her mirror’s talking to her is shown to be a hallucination. The queen is a tragic figure, bound by magic to Snow White, who has the power to make her immortal or kill her. There are instances where she seems to be welcoming her death, or at least wavering on claiming immortality. In this interpretation, the whole apple thing is a stalling mechanism, freezing the equilibrium between the two opposed women. And that only makes sense if the queen is ambivalent about killing Snow White, because when she offers the apple, she’s close enough to kill the girl but doesn’t.
The best thing I can say about Kristen Stewart is that she looks the part. She absolutely has the right look to play Snow White. She’s vulnerable and fragile, but also looks like a total badass in a ponytail and plate armor. The worst thing I can say about her is that she doesn’t have a lot to work with as an actress here. She’s either nonstop action or looking around at pretty landscapes. She has very little dialog for a title character. There is one rousing speech she gives to the troops, but I thought it was kind of incomprehensible and poorly written. The romantic lead goes on about how Snow White is so great, but it’s hard to see where this is coming from. She doesn’t seem to do or say much, besides follow him through forests of varying danger and act pleasant to those around her. There are magic things going on around her, like a white stag that appears to her (for a second I thought it was going to be a unicorn, and was ready to groan about virginity). But that’s all because of her magic royal blood, because she’s the rightful queen, not because of anything she’s done. If I could change one thing about this movie, it would be to develop this character more deeply.
I really appreciated the way the romance was deemphasized, which is hard to do with a fairy tale. Two “princes” kiss Snow White while she’s knocked out, and the second one awakens her, but she doesn’t open her eyes until he has left the room. After that moment, the two never do anything more than exchange meaningful looks. There is a big gathering in a church with pretty dresses at the end, but it’s a coronation, not a wedding. And this is an entirely appropriate and satisfying ending to this movie. The drama of this story is about the fate of the kingdom, not a girl’s love life. And that’s why I’d call this a feminist fairy tale.