Thor and K-Stew combine in Rupert Sanders CGI-laden retelling of the classic fairy tale.
What’s wrong with a good, old-fashioned fairy tale? Not enough sardonic asides and postmodern revisions, according to Tarsem Singh’s recent Snow White adaptation, Mirror Mirror. In the view of ad-man Rupert Sanders’ feature debut, more epic adventure is what the story needs to locate its galloping hooves.
To recap for those out of the fairy tale loop: Snow White, played in this version by Twilight’s own Kristen Stewart, is banged up by her evil step-mother, Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), in a cell decorated with stone, stone and more stone. Evil stepmother passes the time by talking to a beauty-affirming mirror, squeezing her kingdom into poverty and delivering mournful speeches to pretty rebel knights.
One day her hitherto yes-man-of-a-mirror – actually a viscous gold figure (Christopher Obi) with Darth Vader’s voice – announces that Snow White has become more beautiful than the queen. As well as causing great embarrassment, this news threatens Ravenna’s power and so she dispatches her creepy brother to perform murder most horrid.
Resourceful SW escapes so the queen manipulates a hard-drinking, grief-addled Scottish huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to pursue her into the haunted forest. And for those still out of the fairy tale loop, this is where the creative licensing commences.
The thrust of the drama boils down to Queen Ravenna in the evil corner trying to kill Snow White, and SW in the good corner trying to preserve the lives of a trio composed of herself, the kingdom and the film’s pending box office.
Knocking about protectively are the newly enlightened huntsman and Prince William (Sam Claflin), who is impressively gracious about an invented character stealing his thunder. Still further down the cast list, a band of dwarves are frog marched in and exist solely to facilitate a round of, "Look what CGI did to Ray Winstone! Bob Hoskins! Eddie Marsan!" catcalls.
With the dwarf plot swiftly sidelined, the haunted forest takes centre stage, hypnotising with rocks that wake up to be trolls and grasping branches that sense human weakness. Everything is shifting, dirty and just a Sean Bean away from Middle Earth. In this intoxicating atmosphere, characters take a while to define themselves, which, considering that they are fairytale archetypes, is both strange and dissatisfying.
What this action-fairytale hybrid is lacking is a good, strong heart. In its place is a marketable beauty with an acting range comprised of a sliding scale of semi-peeved grimaces. We’re supposed to believe that Snow White commands the adoration of everyone she meets, but when poor Hemsworth lunges in for his emotional reveal, it’s as plausible as a man professing undying love for a tablespoon. To make matters worse, Theron in full charismatic powerhouse mode, and you do end up wanting her to win.
In contrast to Julia Roberts’ enjoyable pantomime baddie in Mirror Mirror, Theron plumbs the delicious, pain-filled depths of a woman as tortured as she is terrible. "Men use women… when they finish with us they throw us away to the dogs," she says, magisterial face creased with pain, even as she brutally takes another life.
Imagine Fatal Attraction’s Glenn Close empowered by the dark arts. Beside such complexity, Snow White seems like one of her dwarves, and the huntsman’s choice of allegiance informed by drink. It is the character whose absent from the title that (just) saves the film by giving it all of her black heart.
Charlize, Thor and K-Stew in a Brothers Grimm fairy tale! C’mon!
Almost everyone gets lost in the fugged-up atmosphere.
Worth seeing for Queen Charlize.