06 September 2012

A Diary of Two or More Snow Whites

In the past few days I finally got around to watching the two Snow White films that came out earlier this year. They're both mildly entertaining and more or less inoffensive, but personally I favored the darker Snow White and the Huntsman to the silly Mirror Mirror. What I found most intriguing about the films is how much they had in common.

Both feature a cast of adult actors hamming it up and actresses in the Snow White role who seem peculiarly miscast. Generally, I don't like to pick on an actress's looks, but in this particular role where so much is made of the character's beauty, it was weird to see the Show White in Mirror Mirror ruined by poor makeup and in SWatH, well, I don't find that Kristen Stewart has the kind of traditional beauty that one would associate with Snow White. As much as I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of her performance, I was distracted by her thin lips and angular features. I also felt that she came across as too contemporary to work in that role, although I'm sure the intent was for her to be more relatable to the modern viewers. I think this is the first time I've ever seen her onscreen and to me she came across as though she were Keira Knightley's little sister who everyone tries to pretend for a while is as talented and as pretty as the older sister. Lily Collins was also likable in her performance as Snow White, but the I also found her incredibly forgettable.
In fact, I guess I found Mirror Mirror forgettable as a whole. Julia Roberts is sometimes fun to watch. Nathan Lane does what Nathan Lane does, which some people seem to like. I think the main thing I'll actually remember is the way the Stepmother goes through the mirror into another world. In general, I'd probably sum it up by saying it's an intermittently bland adaptation spruced up by the presence of Julia Roberts and some Burtonesque touches.  I also thought Armie Hammer was good as the prince even though his name is Armie Hammer and he's an Arm & Hammer heir who made his start in a Billy Graham biopic (oh brother).
I found the other film more imaginative, overall, although I preferred Mirror Mirror's handling of the mirror. I found the prince to be bland, but I liked the Huntsman even though he's that goofball from Thor. In general I like that they mixed things up and seemed to have her fall in love with the commoner even though there's no clear indication of what happens with them. That change aside, if I hadn't read Snow White (aka, Schneewittchen) in a German class many years ago I'd have thought that maybe they went back to the original material or something, but in fact the original is relatively spare and lacks many of the details we come to associate from the story. Therefore it's really strange to me that the films so share many common plot elements that weren't in the original story. (one thing I didn't care for in Snow White and the Huntsman was the bit about the fairy land or whatever. It could have been interesting, but I don't think it was executed very well.)

In the original story the father is never really discussed again after he marries the Stepmother. He doesn't fall victim to any enchantments or murder plots, he's just a nonentity who supposedly loves his daughter but clearly doesn't seem too interested in her disappearance. Even at the end when Snow White marries the prince they go to the prince's kingdom and though the evil queen shows up at the end for her just desserts, the king does not. There is no discussion of everything dying after the queen takes over or of the dwarves becoming thieves. There's no mention of her exploiting or otherwise affecting her subjects. The enchanted forest we remember from the Disney film is not in the book. Hell, there's not even a kiss that breaks the spell (the coffin gets knocked over and the apple chunk gets dislodged from her mouth!), though of course that's clearly part of the cultural understanding of the story by now. It's also interesting that both stories invoke this idea that the evil queen's magic sucks the youth out of her and brings about downfall.

I don't know, I guess my point is that I can't say how interesting I'd have found the films on their own, but it was fun to wonder about the weird similarities and so forth...

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