It’s been so long since the first Snow White and the Huntsman movie that I was more than surprised to see that they were actually going forward with a second movie in the same universe. I didn’t really love the first movie—I liked it more for what it was trying to do than for what it actually did—but based on this trailer, the franchise might draw me back in for part two.
Disney totally lied. They said they weren’t going to do anymore princess movies. Something to do with getting more boys into the theater and seven-year-old girls wanting to be hot. (I was planning on following up that fragment with a sarcastic statement along the longs of “because that’s a lovely image” but then I realized that, no, it doesn’t even deserve to be dignified.)
Disney and Pixar lying, I will admit, was the first thing to go through my head upon seeing the Brave trailers. This leads me to believe that Brave is probably going to be a transitional movie, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, just like there’s nothing inherently wrong with making a princess movie or a movie feature a “hot” girl.
And before anyone starts to think that I really didn’t like Brave, let me just say that I actually did. Despite everything the studio did to put a bad taste in my mouth, Brave is an amazingly good movie. I wouldn’t say that it’s for really little kids, but even then, seeing it wouldn’t hurt. And on top of having great visuals and a strong theme, the main characters, Merida and her mother, are very well developed.
There seems to be a lot of pressure lately to write female characters a certain way so as to not be called sexist, and it’s very apparent. It’s also very apparent that the studio doesn’t know how to portray said characters half the time, which is sad, because the solution to making a poorly-written female character into a well-written female character more often than not comprises mostly of just giving her a personality. I kind of felt this way about Snow White and the Huntsman. I felt as though everyone had scrambled to make the lead likable and strong, but in the process they completely missed the mark. Although, I can give them props for at least trying.
Brave also makes a conscious effort to have a strong female lead, but none of it felt shoehorned in. I thought it all fit together nicely with Merida’s personality. Yes, she’s the typical princess who doesn’t want to be a princess. Woe unto her life, right? But I give the movie a lot of credit with this and it handled the situation well. It took the time to show that being a princess wasn’t as grand as it sounds, and it also took the time to develop Merida’s personality. It’s not even that being a princess is just so terrible (her mother, Elinor, doesn’t seem to have any problems fitting into the royal lifestyle); it’s more so that the restrictions it brings clash with Merida’s free spirit. This in turn creates the main conflict: Merida’s and Elinor’s strained relationship.
Spoilers from here on.
Neither Merida nor Elinor listens to the other. Merida completely rejects the court, while Elinor tries to push it on her. And neither of them truly sees the emotional damage caused, because they are both too busy thinking that if the other would just relent, they wouldn’t have these problems. Their relationship hits an all-time low when Merida cuts the tapestry Elinor made of their family and Elinor retaliates by throwing Merida’s bow into the fireplace.
Merida runs away on her trusted horse, Agnus, and finds a witch in the woods. She believes that if she can change who her mother is, she can change her fate, because Elinor is in charge of “every aspect of [her] life.” And at the moment, Merida’s biggest concern is that she doesn’t want to get married, not because she rejects the married life, but because she’s not ready for it. The witch eventually gives Merida a cake that will change who Elinor is.
Unfortunately, the cake turns her into a bear. Watching a bear try to act like a regal queen and scold people into behaving properly is hilarious.
Also unfortunately, Merida’s father and all the other people really like bear hunting, and her father has always wanted revenge against the bear that ate his leg off. And like sane people, they don’t believe Merida when she tries to tell them that that’s her mother.
Not only does Merida have to race to save Elinor from her father, but also from the spell, as after two days it will become permanent, and Elinor’s mind is changing too. The original bear who ate the king’s leg is someone like Elinor, a person who was transformed, and acts as an antagonist but is in many regards part of the internal conflict and a reminder to the audience that Merida risks losing her mother forever.
The lesson Brave offers is a beautiful one, as Merida and Elinor both need to learn to meet each other halfway and support one another in their endeavors, as well as own up to their own mistakes. This is a movie well worth checking out.
So on Saturday I went with my family to see the much-hyped Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth in the eponymous roles.
So we all know the plot of Snow White: evil stepmother takes over a kingdom, princess escapes, goes into hiding with seven dwarves, poisoned apple, magic coma, true love’s kiss, happily ever after. This movie attempts to lend the titular princess a little more agency—she attacks her captor (the evil Queen’s brother) to escape; she storms the castle to take back the throne clad in armor and wielding a sword; and she slays the Queen herself before ascending to the throne. The movie ends with a coronation, not a wedding. It does succeed in a lot of ways, and it had some really great ideas—it just didn’t put them together very well.
Let’s start with the dialogue. There were long scenes, it seemed, without any. Each character got a rousing monologue at some point throughout the film that was really emotional and great, but in between those what lines they had seemed stilted.
The only character who was really well-developed was the Huntsman, who doesn’t actually get a name (he was even The Huntsman in the credits). He has ups and downs and memories and reactions. Snow White is fairest of them all, but it’s unclear whether she’s fairest because of physical beauty (which the Queen seems to think) or because of her kind heart, which is pretty much her only distinguishing feature. I don’t blame this on Kristen Stewart, by the way—I thought she did pretty well, given the script she was working with.
Her boyhood friend William is blander than white bread, and the dwarves are all just steretypically dwarfy in a way that’s not new or exciting. The Evil Queen (name of Ravenna in the movie) has one of the character types that pisses Lady Geek Girl off more than anything: the “I’VE BEEN EVIL SINCE I WAS BORN AND I JUST WANT POWER” type—she has no relevant character motivation or background besides “I am beautiful and want to rule things and kill people.” Also, her brother was annoying, unnecessary, and had truly atrocious hair. Like seriously.
The world-building was sketchy for me; there’s magic, and faeries, and Faerieland; it’s unclear whether the Dark Forest is magic or just filled with hallucinogenic dust, and there are also medieval-era-looking Catholic priests, and one of Snow White’s first lines is the Lord’s Prayer. Are the dwarves an actual different race of magical people, or are they just short miners? Is this the real world with magic, or a completely different world? There’s some sort of weird symbolism about three drops of blood, but what does it mean? These things are addressed late or not at all.
Finally, it seemed like they just tried to shoehorn all of the plot elements of Snow White into the movie whether or not they were necessary. The movie was fine without dwarf sidekicks or faeries; especially tedious was the poisoned apple bit. First of all, the queen leaves her castle to tempt and trick Snow White into eating it, which completely ruins the whole idea where she had to send the Huntsman after the princess to begin with.
And then Snow White is comatose, and not awakened by the kiss of her boyhood friend William as we’re supposed to expect, but by a kiss from the Huntsman, following an anguished monologue that actually makes you feel for his character. (Whether the cure for her coma is actually true love’s kiss is up in the air; this isn’t addressed at all for the rest of the movie, except in the final scene, where she doesn’t seem to be happy at her coronation until she realizes the Huntsman is there.) Hemsworth delivers a great performance of the Huntsman possibly realizing he’s in unrequited love with this girl, but Stewart’s character doesn’t give me any rationale for his loving her. But anyway, I was still annoyed that she had to be awakened by a kiss rather than, I dunno, overcoming the curse with her latent healing magic or something? She seems to have that in this world, so that could have been a thing.
It’s just, she attacks her captor and escapes, but barely scratches him and is caught by the Huntsman as soon as she gets into the woods. Okay, that’s fair. She’s been locked in a tower for ten years; she can’t have been doing battle training or learning woodsmanship in that decade. But she travels with him and other warriors for a while, and you’d think she’d try to learn some fighting, but even when she finally carries a sword and rides into battle, she never really fights anyone but the Queen. There was a moment right after Snow White meets the Huntsman where he teaches her one defensive move, and since we never see her training or learning to defend herself in any other way, it’s obvious from that scene forward that this will be the move she uses to kill the Queen an hour and a half later.
This movie was a step in the right direction for strong princesses with agency. She abandons her dress for first leggings and then plate armor; she fights her own way out of the palace, and rouses the country’s small rebel force to regain her throne. And when she finally does, she’s crowned queen with everything that entails—she’s not a consort or a trophy, but a ruler in her own right. And although there is the hint that she might love the Huntsman too at the end, they 1) could totally just be platonic friends, and 2) actually have been through hell and back together and could arguably have romantic feelings for each other if you wanted to interpret it that way. The important thing is that marriage is not the wonderful, perfect, and obvious end result of being a princess in a story.
Snow White is always going to be a problematic fairy tale for any number of reasons; Euro-centric beauty standards, women who are either evil or damsels in distress, and cure-all marriages to perfect princes are just a few reasons why. This isn’t a standard-raising example of feminist princessdom, but despite all my complaints, it’s not a bad way to spend an evening. (I’d still recommend seeing The Avengers again instead—I’ve seen it six times already and it still hasn’t gotten old.)
I am both excited and nervous about this movie. While it looks good exciting and action packed, I’m still worried about Kirsten Stewart’s performance. I know Chris Hemsworth will be excellent as the Huntsman, but the thing I’m most disappointed about is the evil queen. She seems thoroughly evil in this movie and I’m starting to get a little bored with it.
When are we going to add depth to the stepmother? I wouldn’t even mind if she was the bad guy if they just gave her some depth to make her character a bit more interesting.
Overall though I am looking forward to Snow White and the Huntsman, and I’m looking forward to see where they will go with it, especially with the lack of a prince charming.
I don’t know why, but lately the movie makers have been going on a spree of interpreting old folklore. I mean, we’ve already had a retelling of things like Alice in Wonderland, and a new Snow White movie is underway. On top of those we’ve even gotten retellings of Beauty and the Beast and Little Red Riding Hood, but since they ended up being cheap, unimaginative Twilight knockoffs, let’s not count them.
But what the hell, I’m not going to complain about real life adaptions of some of my favorite childhood stories—so long as they’re not based on Twilight. This movie in particular leaves me a little apprehensive. Alice in Wonderland, for example, was a terrible remake that sold itself off the fact that Johnny Depp played the Mad Hatter, and I’ve yet to see Snow White and the Huntsman, but considering that it was made by the same people, I’m more than a little worried for it, despite how promising it appears to be.
Though apprehensive, I find myself with a bit more faith in this movie. I’ve seen a couple live-action versions of Jack and the Giant Bean Stalk already, made with all the innovative ideas that the eighties and nineties brought us, so as you can guess, they weren’t very good. This newer version is brought to us by the guy behind the last X-Men movie—so I’m not sure if it should surprise anyone that the only notable girl in the trailer is a kidnapped princess—so the movie can’t be too bad.
Despite any negativity I seem to have for the film, this does look like something worth checking out, and hell, it looks like it has the potential to be a damn good movie.