Posted by Bob Greenberger on June 11, 2012
When I plunk down my cash to see a movie, I want to be transported. I want the screen to fill my vision and transport me to somewhere new and interesting. I want the story to entertain or enlighten. I expect that after tens of millions of dollars have been spent, every effort has been made to make this as engaging an experience as is possible.
Therefore, when glaring story gaps interrupt my journey and I start asking questions, it snaps me back to reality. If it happens once or twice, I can forgive it and reimmerse myself but when it happens from beginning to ending, the film has failed at its primary job, the be worth the money and time I invested.
I was thinking about all this as I emerged from a late afternoon screening of Snow White and the Huntsman (or Snow White and Thor as Kurt Busiek has dubbed it). From the beginning through the end I kept posing questions and that shows someone didn’t look at the story and make its motivations clear.
Key questions that rob the film of its power begin with why on Earth Queen Revenna kept Snow alive. We’ve been told she has been betrayed and hurt by men in the past, but we’re never given any details to explain the motivation (show not tell, remember?). She’s been in charge of other kingdoms so what happened to them, forcing her to take over King Magnus’ land? What does she want other than immortality? What drives her to want to live forever? Her creepy brother Finn seems to have no role in the story so exists to do the queen’s bidding but what does he want?
They take over Magnus’ realm and we’re told that for the next decade or so, the land withers. But what sort of monarch is she? How does she deal with her former kingdoms? What about the politics of defending the realm? If the people suffer and the land dries up, how does she maintain a well-fed army? So many questions.
Snow, meanwhile, grows up in the North Tower without benefit of anything to keep her sane. There’s a bed and we suppose a chamber pot but has she been taught anything such as dressmaking so she can make her own rags? Of course, she’s also in leather pants which beggars the imagination. How does she stay healthy and so lovely if fed meager meals (we presume)? Once she frees herself, she appears remarkably fit and able which goes without question or explanation.
People seem to charge into situations without a single thought to planning. Ravenna marries the King a day after meeting him without first understanding how the kingdom works, who can be trusted, who must be killed. What alliances obligate the kingdom beyond its borders? What was her rush? Similarly, William hears Snow is alive and without pausing to stock up on supplies like water, he turns his horse around and charges after her without a clue as to which direction to go.
OK, questions aside, I take issue with the amount of discussion required by the story and ignored by the screenwriters. Evan Daugherty is a tyro at such epic fare while his co-writer, John Lee Hancock should know better after writing fare like The Blind Side and Alamo. You have no sense of timing but once William joins Snow’s side, at least a day passes before they address the years apart. How Finn and the men can so easily trace Snow’s path also is a convenient bit of storytelling that makes no sense once you start thinking about it.
The film is very pretty to look at and does a nice job giving us a very un-Disney look at the original fairy tale so the dwarves are a fun lot and the wildlife in Sanctuary honor Snow, who is somehow The One (is there One per kingdom or she is The One in the world?). For a land where they recite the Lord’s Prayer and red-hatted clergy attend the throne, they seem awfully comfortable with magic without connecting it to their beliefs. Overall, they created a rich and interesting world so one can hope the already-in-the-works sequel explores further.
I walked out of there dissatisfied because it had such nice aspirations but failed to craft a script to properly transport me for two hours. What a shame, it had such potential.
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