I’m not really a huntsman. But I am really a feminist. Snow White and the Huntsman is really not a feminist (movie), but it acts and poses like it is. And you know what? It ain’t even that bad. It’s just… here and there the movie would have needed some minor changes (and more inspired writing) and it could have been a pretty powerful and dare I even say – feminist – tale.
Let’s get it out of the way first: the huntsman is really unnecessary. Like really really really unnecessary. The only redeeming quality of the character is that they don’t get all couply and happily ever after on our asses, but that is sort of a paradox, because there is really not much other reason for him to be in the movie than to be played up as a potential love interest. But what is his character really there for? To have us identify with him instead of Snow White? I’d give the thought more credit if I believed that they decided to do so to give Snow White the mysterious factor. But let’s be real, they just wanted to get male asses in cinema seats so they decided to put Thor in there and have him roar a little, otherwise people might mistake it for a chick flick.
And that’s really the major problem of the movie. It is too afraid to be a chick flick – because, you know there are women, yep, notice the plural, and Hollywood movies never have several women in leading roles who even interact – and thus they try to act all non-chick-flicky. Even though it could be such a great movie about intriguing female characters. But it is too afraid to go there. I wouldn’t even really mind a companion-style huntsman character. But there is no reason to act as if the plot depended on him (though, ok, it does. Making her choke up the apple). And there is certainly no reason for the love triangle that never was, introducing Snow White’s friend from childhood, who has been boo-hoo all those years cause he couldn’t rescue the princess, but now he’s handsome and she’s pretty so let us have them maybe hook up. Urgh. Why, movie, why?
But the fault of this not being T.H.E. feminist re-telling of a classic fairy tale lies not only with the insertion of male characters. We have two major female characters who drive the plot as protagonist and antagonist. There is a lot in these characters that hints at unbelievable potential, yet it never gets fully realized. The most horrible thing is that this film stumbles over its own premise and falls into the trap of the age-old stereotype: women need to be beautiful and women don’t want to be anything but beautiful.
Charlize Theron’s evil step-mom/with character is of course visually stunning and yeah, you could argue that this whole movie is really just a celebration of how good Ms. Theron and well rendered CGI look on the big screen. But really, she is evil and crazy and whatnot because her beauty fades and that is all she ever had? The thing is, her backstory is actually pretty neat. Having been blessed/cursed with beauty and its power and subsequently taking down one kingdom after another, that is pretty hardcore shit. But it’s so lame that there is not an ounce of self-reflection to be found. I mean, I get the feeling that her character knows and considers it to be curse rather than a blessing, but why the hell doesn’t the movie and have her hate herself for depending on her beauty instead of going where ALL other movies have gone and be like “uuuh, she’s old, so she’s automatically ugly, gross, lines, eek”. That is not only so been done it is also so not empowering it is not even funny.
Plus, it would maybe be bearable if the movie had introduced a more progressive concept and have her beauty not only be the power she has over mighty men but have her beauty be actually directly connected to military and magic powers? Oh and the heck, girl kills king after king but never in the movie gets to go all out and state how fucking sick and dumb patriarchy is? Puhleaze, I say to that.
And then there is Snow White. Oh, Kirsten Stewart, what could I say about your acting abilities that has not already been said? I’ll leave it at that. Her character is funnily falling in the same trap. We’re told that she is super-special and The One because – yep, go ahead, guess – she is so beautiful. Ermh, whud? You know, but even then, when all the smitten dwarves are like “dude, she is JESUS!” her character remains passive and never brings the full “hit evil on the head and preach love for all” kind of thing. She is angry cause Charlize killed her dad so she leads people back to the bleak ol’ castle and because she does so … the country grows green again! Oh the happiness of simple storytelling that required minimum effort on the writer’s part. If Snow White really is Jesus, could you not just mobilize ALL LIVING BEINGS EVER to fight on her side and have the majorest battle of ‘em all down on the beach beneath the castle? Maybe let the whale of “Free Willy” jump out of the sea and bite of evil stepma’s head? Pretty please?
And just when you thought: “Wow, her character and the whole savior thing were really underwhelming” – there she is in front of the evil mirror and stares into it and my heart jumps and I scream from the top of my lungs: “YEAH! Now SHE will be the evil queen! You were all wrong, you were! HA!”. And really, what a fucking super-neat conclusion would that have been. Criticizing the pressure to be beautiful for women in patriarchal societies by symbolically making the evil mirror responsible for the moral decay of the women that stare into it. But WTF? she just stares and next thing you know, she is crowned and people cheer, and happiness and glimpse on huntsman, end of story. Even Lily Cole is young again. Oh movie, the chances you wasted! Countless they are.
Yeah, I still enjoyed it. It was entertaining which owes mostly to the stunning visuals. And while we are discussing visuals: Did you all also think: “Really, Princess Mononoke?” when they come up with the white stag and his massive antlers? Cause that shit is taken directly out of Mononoke, down to the shooting of him. And for what exactly? This event – neither her meeting him not the shooting of the stag– has any effect whatsoever on the story. Wasted chances, I reiterate, wasted fucking chances.
Well, thanks movie. You could have been great, but admittedly you could have sucked sooooo much harder. So: thank you?