June 6, 2012

"Snow White and the Huntsman"

The hugely profitable Twilight series has left Hollywood scratching its collective heads. In theory, the discovery that there's a vast audience out of there of girls who don't mind cheap-looking crud churned out fast sounds financially exciting. So, let's take what's her name, the star of Twilight, Kristen Stewart, and slap her in some public domain fairy tale and maximize ROI! 

The funny thing, however, is that filmmakers have a hard time getting motivated by these blatant opportunities. So, rather than make a cheap "Snow White," they decided to try to bring in the boy audience, too, by promoting The Huntsman up to titular equality with Snow White. He's played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor in The Avengers) as a fairy tale version of True Grit's drunken marshall Rooster Cogburn. 

That marketing plan in turn justified a $170 million budget -- and it's all up there on the screen -- to make a lavish, scary, serious version of the old story with impressive levels of craftsmanship but not that much entertainment value. (For instance, the screenplay can't come up with a single laugh for Bob Hoskins to get as the eldest dwarf.)

The real star is Charlize Theron as the wicked stepmother / queen. Theron has been on a hot streak lately (e.g., last year's funny Young Adult) playing beauties who aren't as young as they used to be and aren't at all happy about it. 

A major problem for "Snow White and the Huntsman" is that Theron is a star, but Stewart is not. I thought Stewart was the best thing in the one Twilight movie I saw, but that says more about the slapdash quality of those movies. All the ingenue has to do in the Twilight movies is smell nice (literally -- that's the engine of the plot), but here she is supposed to be an extraordinary beauty, the embodiment of purity, and then turn into a charismatic political leader and buttkicking Joan of Arc. It would be an implausible role for any actress, and it's a massive stretch for a tomboyish actress not gifted with feminine charm.

Snow White and the Huntsman is set in mythic medieval England (and perhaps Wales), but we've seen a lot of Tolkienish fantasy-medieval England since Lord of the Rings. Snow White meets a giant stag, for example, much like in Narnia. The battle on the beach at the end is indistinguishable from the battle on the beach at the end of Ridley Scott's 2010 Robin Hood. Ye Olde British Isles have been well-served in movies lately (for example, the upcoming Pixar movie Brave looks like Braveheart with a buttkicking princess), so it's time to do some other European cultures. This famous Brothers Grimm story could have been an opportunity for a German setting.  

Obviously, there's not a lot of sense in comparing Snow White and the Huntsman to Walt Disney's 1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which are extremely different movies. But I do want to make one observation: household chores seem to have been a much larger theme in old kids' movies. (For example, Whistle While You Work from Disney's Snow White, Cinderella scrubbing the floor, the Sorcerer's Apprentice from Fantasia, and so forth). Maybe I've just missed out on the last decade of children's movies other than Pixar's, but this does seem like it could be a big cultural shift. Perhaps children don't respond to fantasies of getting out of chores as much anymore because they don't have to do as many?

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

Snow White? Sounds like Hunger Games.

Anonymous said...

This famous Brothers Grimm story could have been an opportunity for a German setting.

HOLOCAUST DENIER!!!

Jeff Burton said...

Great insight at the end. Tie it up with contemporary kids' delight in seeing sentient beings shot and stabbed, and you could have a whole series of posts.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the movie is its fundamental premise: When the evil queen asks, "Mirror, mirror, on the wall; who's the fairest of them all?", then it needs to be abundantly apparent to the movie-going public that Snow White really is the fairest.

Instead, somebody made the mistake of casting, as the evil queen, one Charlize Theron, who is very likely the single most beautiful woman on the face of the earth.

To their credit, the Daily Mail has been nailing this theme to the wall; I'd particularly encourage folks to glance at this photospread so as to understand the abject ludicrousness of the mirror's reply.

PS: Will Komment Kontrol allow us to broach the topic of a certain, ah, Hollyweird Ruling Class's obsession with the meme of "dark-haired, good; blonde-haired, evil"?

Or is that subject gonna be verboten?

Polynices said...

You already said it but it needs to be emphasized again how ludicrous it is to cast plain-Jane Kristin Stewart as Snow White against smoking-hot Charlize Theron as the Queen. It completely breaks the story. The Queen *is* the fairest in the land with that casting.

as said...

Also "A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down" from Mary Poppins.

gwern said...

> Snow White meets a giant stag, for example, much like in Narnia.

I actually took that as a dead ringer for _Princess Mononoke_, right down to the "being shot by a crossbow" Bad Ending.

Basement dwelling comicon nerd said...

What is the market for these reversal of traditional roles in media like film and video games? (eg Tangled, Brave, Lara Croft, Kill Bill, Aliens, Salt, etc)

Do children and young adults as well as boys and girls like to see brave, fearsome female warriors with marginalize, foolish and craven men in epic battles and physical struggles?

It's an odd cultural development, but is it really popular?

Anonymous said...

It's to much of a stretch to be asked to pretend that there's some actress somewhere who's hotter than Charlize Theron.

Kylie said...

I won't argue with your description of Kristen Stewart as a "tomboyish actress not gifted with feminine charm". But she can act.

Since just glancing through the pages of the novel, Twilight, made all my fillings ache, I've avoided the whole Bella drama like the plague that it is. But I did catch Stewart in a pre-Twilight Lifetime Movie, Speak, in which she plays a traumatized teen. I thought she was quite good. She did that whole vulnerable/sullen adolescent thing very convincingly.

Evil Sandmich said...

Snow White meets a giant stag, for example, much like in Narnia

I actually had visions of Princess Mononoke during that scene. But yeah, if any of the characters turned sideways you wouldn't be able to see them since they were all 2D.

SFG said...

A German setting? In Hollywood? Remember who owns Hollywood? They'll all get flashbacks to a place they were never imprisoned in.

France, on the other hand...

Anonymous said...

It would be an implausible role for any actress, and it's a massive stretch for a tomboyish actress not gifted with feminine charm.


A tomboyish actress devoid of feminine charm and with zero acting ability.

Seriously, "Stoneface" Stewart makes Jessica Biel seem like a marvelous actress. At least Biel has a face capable of more than one expression.

McGillicuddy said...

Despite the film's many irritations (bad acting and the over-looked holes in the plot), I enjoyed it, until it just kept going.

Regarding the acting, I actually thought that Stewart (who is so much more attractive than Theron, I think) gave a much better performance than Theron. Of course, Theron's role required an over-the-top performance, and is the most difficult part in the movie. Likewise, I have never seen any of the Twilight movies, and so I saw in Stewart's Snow White a somber determination, not the same sulky Bella character that others saw. Hemsworth is also pretty awful.

MC said...

Fascinating thought about chores! It immediately brought to my mind this scene from Sword in the Stone:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75BJ2ovo-S0&feature=related

IHTG said...

A German setting? In Hollywood? Remember who owns Hollywood? They'll all get flashbacks to a place they were never imprisoned in.

Terry Gilliam's "The Brothers Grimm"?

Anonymous said...

"A German setting? In Hollywood? Remember who owns Hollywood? They'll all get flashbacks to a place they were never imprisoned in.

France, on the other hand..."

The pre-Iraq invasion media driven Francophobia Blitzkrieg was encouraged by whon?

Anonymous said...

I did catch Stewart in a pre-Twilight Lifetime Movie, Speak, in which she plays a traumatized teen. I thought she was quite good. She did that whole vulnerable/sullen adolescent thing very convincingly



Has it crossed your mind that she does "sullen" so convincingly because she's not trying to act when she does it?

Anonymous said...

Stewart (who is so much more attractive than Theron, I think)


And there we see why the West is failing to reproduce.

I can walk outside for five minutes and see half a dozen women who are more attractive than Stewart.

Anonymous said...

The comment about Theron vs Stewart are not right.

Kristen Stewart IS "prettier" than Theron, in the sense of having a more feminine face.

Theron is gorgeous, but she has a little mannish face. If you look at her face, it is quite large and it's general shape is square. She also has a strong chin and, even though her jaw is small and feminine, it is well delineated. Theron is almost a "handsome" woman.

Stewart has a very feminine face with her full lips, high cheek bones, huge eyes and small, round face. She is "prettier"(more feminine-looking) than Theron, but is she more beautiful? No. There is more to attractiveness than just exemplifying the facial features of your gender. The World's most beautiful people often have a blend of both masculine and feminine features. Armie Hammer, for instance, the most handsome actor working in Hollywood now(by far!) has a pretty, delicate nose and huge, feminine eyes. Instead of making him look less manly, it actualy paradoxically makes him look more manly and handsome. People who are extremely dimorphic in facial feautures are usually not very attractive. Charles Bronson had the most masculine face ever, and he was ugly.

The one thing I agree with Sailer is about Stewart's tomboyishness. I find her facinating, because she a girly girl in terms of physical appearance who is butch in personality. She gave an interview where she stated that when she was little she loved climbing trees and playing with boys, and that she has no interest in girly things like fashion. Her favorite hobbies are playing basketball and video games. she is nerd boys' favorite dream come true, the girly-looking girl who is not a girly girl in terms of personality. Most girls who are into boyish things are either lesbians or girls that nerd boys wouldn't want to date.

The impression I get from Stewart is that she wanted to have been born a boy and not a girl.

Her tomboyishness is what makes her believable in the armor, though. I hate these feminist re-writing of stories where the femme has to be a butch leader type, but in the case of Stewart it is believable. It would have been much worse if they had hired an ├╝ber-girly girl like Mila Kunis to play the role of ass-kicking chick. Stewart seems a lot happier being the knight in shinning armor rather than the lady in distress.

Whiskey said...

The NBC show "Grimm" has had a great deal of fun with the German fairy tales and has a German descended hero.

As for Theron being beautiful, well she is but she is ... about 15 years OLDER than 22 year old Stewart. Who is Hollywood pretty, but youth beats great beauty 15 years older, at that age. Guys prefer younger to older. Theron is also a heavy, heavy smoker who could not do stunts according to the director because of the smoking.

Which feeds into the reality that the fairy tale speaks to: no woman no matter HOW pretty can be beautiful and desired by all men forever. EVENTUALLY a younger woman comes around who by youth alone beats her out.

And no, the idea that Hemsworth can draw the guys is laughable. Stewart is Twilight-derived guy repellent.

Anonymous said...

Kevin MacDonald analyzes Snow White and the Huntsman here.

Whiskey said...

As far as reproduction goes, it is easier for a 22 year old woman like Stewart to conceive than a 38 year old woman like Theron.

Aaron B. said...

"It's to much of a stretch to be asked to pretend that there's some actress somewhere who's hotter than Charlize Theron."

No kidding. Kristen Stewart is cute enough but Theron is otherworldly. There might be some equally hot women -- Sarah Chalke comes to mind -- but to say that anyone is hotter is like trying to win an argument by saying, "Oh yeah? I call infinity plus one."

Anonyia said...

"Do children and young adults as well as boys and girls like to see brave, fearsome female warriors with marginalize, foolish and craven men in epic battles and physical struggles? "

If you watched the movie you would see that the men in it were not remotely marginalized or craven. They were much tougher than the heroine physically, and rescued her multiple times. Kristen Stewart wasn't playing an Amazon. She didn't even fight that much, it was more about her journey to kill the Queen.

Anonyia said...

"And there we see why the West is failing to reproduce.

I can walk outside for five minutes and see half a dozen women who are more attractive than Stewart."

Oh, irony. Your statement is far more tantamount to why the West fails to reproduce. Stewart isn't super hot by Hollywood standards I suppose, but she is young, slender, with attractive European facial features. All this talk about her being so unattractive- in the age when People of Wal-Mart rule the streets no less, is the epitome of internet male syndrome.

Anonymous said...

My sense is that the Stewart fans are mostly female.

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

The West is failing to reproduce, of course, because beautiful White women such as Charlize Theron prefer to adopt African babies, rather than having White babies of their own.

That's the problem.

Simon in London said...

anon:
"PS: Will Komment Kontrol allow us to broach the topic of a certain, ah, Hollyweird Ruling Class's obsession with the meme of "dark-haired, good; blonde-haired, evil"?"

Hmm - traditional (post-60s) Hollywood has the dark-haired hero kill the blond male villain to get the blonde female heroine; blonde female villains are rarer. Marvel's 'Thor' of course dates to before the blond=evil trope really got going (Game of Thrones seems to take it to ridiculous lengths).

Personally, my son is blond, so I'm glad to see the occasional blond good guy character for him to identify with!

McGillicuddy said...

"Oh, irony. Your statement is far more tantamount to why the West fails to reproduce. Stewart isn't super hot by Hollywood standards I suppose, but she is young, slender, with attractive European facial features."

Not only is it ironic, it just doesn't make any sense. Stewart is so unattractive that if I find her more attractive than some other women, I am too picky? What?

Neither Stewart nor Theron is exactly Virginia Wolf, or Othilia Simon (see link) http://postimage.org/image/1s80vvj5w/
i.e. neither is beautiful, in my opinion, but Stewart is very pretty and has an interesting face; she has the drastic jaw-line of a Reese Witherspoon, but without the crescent moon profile, her face 'pops,' but she does not have the 'empty idiot eyes' that usually accompany, and even produce, that look. She's kinda like an animie character, but her nose is bigger, which is an improvement.

Theron by contrast, is not even interesting. And with her small pixie nose, though it's not a fine nose, with her big mouth, her subtle lack of facial definition, add in the fact that her skin is too dark relative to her hair, thus aging her, and I just don't find her attractive. Twenty years ago she would have been perfect as the bad guy bitch in some high school movie, the kind of person whom we are obviously supposed to accept as 'hot,' but whom we would not find too attractive, especially compared to the heroine.

By the way, am I the only one who thinks that young Meryl Streep was beautiful?

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Pixar missed an obvious marketing coup when they didn't name it “Brave♥”

Luther said...

By the way, am I the only one who thinks that young Meryl Streep was beautiful?

Assuming that you do, that's a big 10-4, good buddy!

Anonymous said...

Stewart is so unattractive that if I find her more attractive than some other women, I am too picky? What?



1) Stewart is not more attractive than Theron. That's not a big deal, in the big scheme of things, but in the movie she's supposed to be much more beautiful than the Wicked Witch. The film-makers could have gotten around this problem - if they wanted to keep Stewart - by making the WW be some actress in classical witch makeup and costume.

2) Stewart does not have much acting ability.

Anonymous said...

The looks of Theron and Stewart don't really matter that much because their roles are so opposed. Even if she is facially stunning the Wicked Queen is a vengeful virago, which is less alluring than a comparative plainer but compellingly gentle and feminine girl. So, Steve is right; Stewart's lack of feminine charm damns her more here than her looks. However, I think Angelina Jolie could have pulled off "extraordinary beauty, the embodiment of purity, and then turn into a charismatic political leader and buttkicking Joan of Arc." if she were younger but she is not. Still, many young American actresses have trouble playing feminine girls. Mexican or Russian actress would be better.


Gloria

Kylie said...

"Has it crossed your mind that she does 'sullen' so convincingly because she's not trying to act when she does it?"

She also did the vulnerable part quite well.

SFG said...

"The pre-Iraq invasion media driven Francophobia Blitzkrieg was encouraged by whon?"

Right-wing Jews, not the left-wing ones in Hollywood. Trust me, they hate each other.

Anonymous said...

I have difficulty looking at Kristen Stewart's face when her mouth is closed, just as I have difficulty looking at Julia Robert's face when her mouth is open.

Really weird looking. She'd make a great strung-out Southie dealer's girlfriend.

Silver said...

Personally, my son is blond, so I'm glad to see the occasional blond good guy character for him to identify with!

Keep him away from the Robin of Sherwood 80s TV series then. Very nasty blond Guy of Gisbourne there. (Seemed appropriate to mention this show here, given the whole medieval-fantasy bent of this thread.)

Anonymous said...

Blonde Afrikaner adopts black baby. Wackiness ensues. Now that's a movie.

Anonymous said...

I too find the idea of a Boer adopting a black baby to be creepy. But I think Theron Jr. will be laughing all the way to the bank.

Gloria

Udolpho.com said...

Kristen Stewart is indeed hard to look at. Seems angry. Can't act. Can't become a role, and isn't appealing as herself. I understand a lot of Twihards actually hate her. But Hollywood is going to keep selling us this tasteless bagel because they don't know anything about anything.

Anonymous said...

"not gifted with feminine charm" What a nice way to say she's a lesbian. (Celeb gossip sites are thick with rumors about her being one.)

Armie Hammer is attractive in a very generic way. Ian Sommerhalder, for example, is much more striking.

Anonymous said...

"but in the movie she's supposed to be much more beautiful than the Wicked Witch. "

beauty is a social construct.


"Theron is gorgeous, but she has a little mannish face. If you look at her face, it is quite large and it's general shape is square. She also has a strong chin and, even though her jaw is small and feminine, it is well delineated. Theron is almost a "handsome" woman."

Tall woman are usually more mannish in facial structure. They appear more striking at first glance.


"Armie Hammer, for instance, the most handsome actor working in Hollywood now(by far!) has a pretty, delicate nose and huge, feminine eyes."

don't agree with that, but

J. Edgar star Armie Hammer discusses playing Clyde Tolson, being mistaken for a girl when he was a young boy with feminine features, and gay subtext in The Lone Ranger, and breaks into a chorus of “I’m Too Sexy,”during an interview with Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers.

Hammer recalls that as a boy his effeminate features caused him to be picked on and called “girl.” He even recalls a time when a man at a public men’s room tried to prevent him from entering.



"They were much tougher than the heroine physically, and rescued her multiple times. Kristen Stewart wasn't playing an Amazon."

All in good time.

guest007 said...

Steve,

Maybe more people would have a different opinion of Stewart if they ever bothered to watched the critic favorite "Adventureland."

http://isteve.blogspot.com/2009/03/adventureland.html

Simon in London said...

me:
"Personally, my son is blond, so I'm glad to see the occasional blond good guy character for him to identify with!"

Silver:
"Keep him away from the Robin of Sherwood 80s TV series then. Very nasty blond Guy of Gisbourne there. (Seemed appropriate to mention this show here, given the whole medieval-fantasy bent of this thread.)"

Funny you should say that - we're sending him to private school to keep him out of the local hellhole, and several of his English-English classmates are Guy of Gisburne types, I've commented before that one friend of his is the spitting image, that I could just see him in some BBC production sneering "Burn the Village!".

As far as my son's exposure to media goes, well he's currently on an Avatar: The Last Airbender kick, after finishing the available 1980s X-Men episodes. Not many blonds in either of those. Previously it was Scooby Doo, where Fred made for a relatively manly role model! :)

Steve Sailer said...

Which actress in Hollywood history could have credibly pulled off all that this role called for? A very young Katherine Hepburn?

Anonymous said...

You mean Snow White isn't supposed to look high 16 hours a day? Who knew?

TGGP said...

I don't see a link to TakiMag or the American Conservative. So did both Steve Sailer and Kevin MacDonald watch this without getting paid? And then the review of Melancholia seemed to entirely be about the intro (available on youtube) along with some interviews, making me suspect he didn't actually watch the whole thing. But maybe I've just forgotten some portions of the review discussing the rest of the movie.

TGGP said...

Nevermind, he did mention the rest of the movie in that Taki column. It was just utterly forgettable. Thanks for warning me so I don't waste time watching anything other than the intro.

Londoner said...

Yeah, Theron is an absolute hound. Can't understand why any man would find her attractive.

Back on planet Earth, another poster beat me to it - "The Brothers Grimm" was a fine film which does have a sense of humour . And handles a grab bag of fairy tale lore pretty impressively.

England isn't such a natural setting for fairy tales IMO - the endless forests and mountains of central Europe and particularly Germany are their spiritual home. The Maerchen is a German phenomenon, essentially.

Anonymous said...

@Steve Sailer

"Which actress in Hollywood history could have credibly pulled off all that this role called for? A very young Katherine Hepburn?"

Dakota Fanning. Just die her hair raven and you've got the perfect Snow White: extremely beautiful, EXUDES femininity and female adorability, is engaging, gregarious and mature beyond her years. She can take the lead.

Another would be a teenage Monica Bellucci, but the problem is her Italian accent, which would lead the American audience to not accept her as Snow White. Americans like their stars American like apple pie.

pat said...

This review illustrates an emerging problem with movies and Home Theater.

People want to watch movies on a big screen with a big sound system and they also want to stay at home. In a poor society a big screen with a big sound system was beyond the reach of private citizens except for movie industry executives. For example see Singing in the Rain.

It used to be that you needed a projectionist to show a movie at home. Usually the chauffeur doubled up as the guy who ran the projector. Now it only takes a thousand dollars or so to get some Japanese (or Korean) gadgets that you can operate yourself.

Everyone can have now have a Home Theater and soon everyone will. The Chinese didn't have ovens in their homes so Peking Duck was a restaurant dish. Similarly Hollywood movies were originally created for public viewings in theaters. That's ending as we get richer. Already most Hollywood features earn more money in people's living rooms than they ever do in their initial theatrical release.

But today we live in a transitional period. We still have theatrical releases as part of a film's marketing plan. First the trailers are shown on TV. Then the movie is shown in the theaters domestically. Then in foreign theaters. Finally it is released on disks (DVDs and Blu-ray). That gets it onto Amazon VOD and Netflix. It will also show up on the cable providers like HBO and Starz.

Last week I saw The Ides of march on Starz. It was a premiere for me and millions of others who didn't choose to see it in a theater. Unfortunately, you Steve reviewed it months ago. Just as you are reviewing this movie many months too early.

I once won a radio contest and the prize was to see a movie in the press preview room. I saw Yes, Giorgio in a small (30 seat) movie theater off the lobby of a downtown office building. It was just me and some famous faces from the local TV news shows.

I was experiencing a preview. People who now go to a regular movie theater are experiencing a preview. The "real" Snow White will be seen by the public perhaps next September. If you want people to read your preview reviews you should fix your blog site layout so that they are easy to retrieve when the film comes to disk and cable.

Albertosaurus

Lucille said...

Pat: This blog has a search engine feature, and it also has archives.

Type the name of the movie (or another topic) in the search box at the top of the page and you'll probably find what you're looking for.