The University Park Campus of the Pennsylvania State University is a sprawling complex. It really is a city unto itself, and it was even way back in the day when I was there. There were over 30,000 thousand students on campus back then, and there are well over 40,000 now. If memory serves me, about half of those students were women. And while as with any population there were some of the women that I could not under any circumstance consider attractive, there definitely was no lack of the beautiful and the exotic. It took me four years, but I was able to sort through the 10,000 or so attractive possibilities and finally find the most perfect of women to be my wife.
I mention this because a couple of years ago I was back in the area and visited the campus to see how much it has changed. Beaver Stadium has been expanded to galactic proportions, new buildings have appeared in what had been open space, and downtown State College has been transformed into something that more resembles Rodeo Drive or the Latin Quarter of Paris than the pizza and beer college town I recall. But the most stunning change to me was the fact that as far I could see, the enrollment age for college students had been lowered to twelve. All the fine young women of my memories had been replaced by children skipping to and fro.
Kristen Stewart stars in the title role of Snow White and the Huntsman. She does a good job ... almost. It's got to be one of those getting older things for me. To some high school kid, I'm sure that Kristen is the embodiment of the voluptuous upperclassman. She is however a few sandwiches short of being the fairest of them all and has the unenviable task of competing for the title against Charlize Theron, who has fifteen more years of ripening and more than a fair share of hubba-hubba on her side. Still, the Mirror does say at one point that Kristen is the fairest of them all, and who am I to argue.
The Mirror might be wrong of course. After all, this movie is called Snow White and the Huntsman, but neither of them is really the star of the film. Charlize Theron's character, Ravenna the Evil Queen, is really the star. This is far more her story than Snow's, and her character has much more substance and depth than any of the other characters ... almost. The success of Ravenna on screen is due far less to the writing than it is to the acting. Charlize Theron provides a wonderful interpretation of evil. She comes across not as the clichéd Wicked Witch of the West, but much closer to a malevolent Jack Nicholson ... almost. Miss Theron pulls every bit she can out the role, but again there is just not much there to work with.
The same can be said of the re-imaging of the Snow White story. In this tale, the Huntsman is sent to find and kill Snow with the promise that when he does, his dead wife will be restored to him. Of course it is a lie, and the Huntsman refuses to kill the girl, and instead, takes Snow's offer of a reward for his help in getting her back to her uncle. It is a good take on the old tale ... almost. What might have been a clever story turns out to be not only predictable, but also poorly executed. Snow White, for example, who has been imprisoned alone in the castle tower since she was a young girl, escapes and finds that she is a capable swordsman and warrior capable of leading troops into battle. In her journey through the Dark Forest, she is led to "The Sanctuary," an enchanted and totally pointless place filled with magical creatures and fairies. The Sanctuary is such a jarring departure from the look and feel of the rest of the film that you would expect it to have a major part to play in the story, but it doesn't. It is purely gratuitous.
Of course where you really get your money's worth is in the beautiful art direction of this film ... almost. It is a pretty film. The CGI is well done, the costuming (especially the Evil Queen's) is glorious, and the sets are appropriately medieval. There was indeed some very clever filmmaking employed to present the seven dwarves. Like the rest of the film, however, there was nothing actually remarkable -- we've seen this all before.
Snow White and the Huntsman had a better than expected opening at the box office, and I wish it well. If you are looking for a movie to go see, I recommend this one ... almost. You could do far worse. Battleship is still playing if you want to torture yourself. But before you go, make sure there is nothing else you want to do first. I mean, how are your fingernails? Getting a little long? Now might be a good time to get the clippers and a glass of wine and spend some time on the patio prettying-up the digits. Or maybe it's time to wash that hair.
This one will be out on DVD soon enough.
When I saw previews for this movie, I saw three things that caught my eye: CGI, Charlize Theron, and Charlize Theron's costuming. That was enough to get me into the theater. However, only one thing kept me in the theater: Bernie didn't want to leave before the ending. Oh, the things I do for the love of my life!
I think if I were more familiar with pop culture, I would have known that Kristen Stewart was the girl in the Twilight movies, and would have refused to see Snow White and the Huntsman in the theater because I might be mistaken for a fan of hers. Indeed the theater was rather packed for a morning showing, and most of the people there appeared to be under drinking age.
Apart from Kristen Stewart being a bit of a mouth-breather, I was annoyed by goofy details. Snow White is locked up in an upstairs dungeon for from-little-girl-to-young-woman years, yet when she does manage to escape, she is wearing pants -- yes, tight pants -- and boots under her long dress. And she is able to ride a galloping horse bareback. Riiiigghht.
A scene with a troll is as gratuitous as the "Sanctuary" scene Bernie mentioned above. After one lesson on how to stab someone, Snow White feels confident leading an army against a castle, in armor, again on horseback, and Snow is the ONLY one not wearing a helmet.
Silliness. And I think that if you're going to combine "silly" with "Snow White," Mirror, Mirror did a better job earlier this year.
One good thing has come of this: I'll be much more wary of Kristen Stewart in the future.