Two fairy tale reimaginings of Snow White came out this year with a couple of month intervals but I saw them both in one day, whether by chance or by fate. The two versions are as different as night and day and puts a twists to the fairy tale better associated with Disney princesses. Here’s my take on the extremely different approach to the story.
In the first one, Mirror Mirror, Lily Collins takes on the role of Snow White, a princess kept inside the palace for the better part of ten years while her vain and flamboyant stepmother, the queen (Julia Roberts) enjoys the excesses brought on by the people’s taxes, all this while the King is nowhere to be found and believed to be killed by the beast that roams the forest. On her eighteenth birthday, Snow sneaks out of the palace to witness the penury that the kingdom has succumbed to in the absence of her father and vows to help them out of their plight with the help of the dashing prince Ascot (Armie Hammer) who just happens to be smitten by her. However, the queen, who is now flat broke for all the years of luxury, also intends to marry the prince to sustain her lifestyle. She orders Snow killed. The twist in the story is that it is mainly narrated from the point of view of the wicked queen.
In the second tale, Snow White and the Huntsman, Kristen Stewart (Twilight) finds herself in the center of another love triangle with two hot guys — the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), and her childhood sweetheart, the nobleman William (Sam Claflin) in a much darker version of the fairy tale. The love story serves only as a subplot in this version and focuses mainly on the craziness of the evil queen and the blossoming of the Joan of Arc-like heroine that is Snow White. In this version of the tale, the queen (Charlize Theron) uses her dark magic to devour the beauty and youth of pretty young maidens across the palace and wants the heart of Snow White, whose purity and innocence will sustain her forever and make her immortal. In a similar vein, Snow White can also be the source of her downfall as the queen can only be killed my the fairest in the land. To this end, she employs the services of the widowed and embittered huntsman to track down the fugitive princess but he has a change of heart when he realizes that the queen does not have the power to deliver what she has promised him in exchange of her capture.
Its kind of hard to pick because the different approaches to the movie calls for different things from these two young ladies. While I appreciate Kristen’s grittiness and toughness in a role that calls for her to lead an army, I felt like she found it hard to detach herself from her portrayal of the tortured Bella from the Twilight franchise, and as a result, her Snow White never showed joy even in moments of triumph. At no point in the movie did she appear vulnerable or soft but rather remained depressed and stressed althroughout so it really comes as a surprise why the huntsman or William would want to protect her her or fight by her side. Lily, on the other hand, took the more traditional route, and played the sweet and unassuming role to the fullest. She was charming when she needed to be but she also showed spunk when the scenes called for it. She is girl power personified so I give this round to Lily.
I love both actresses, both Academy Award winners but I must say that I was a bit bothered by the excessive shouting and the overly played bravado of Charlize’s Ravana. She seemed more crazy than evil and was immediately forgotten when the cameras are nowhere focused on her. Julia, on the other hand embraced the role of the vain and ambitious queen, not entirely mean but still evil. She made light of her portryal and poked fun at herself (the mirror shows her alter ego) and the general premise of the fairy tale. She took it all in stride. Point goes to Julia.
The Seven Dwarves:
Mirror Mirror used real small people during the filming but modified them to become lithe and athletic bandits who use stilts to trick their enemies into giving them their money. They were quite entertaining and had names that were easier to remember but I must hand the victory to the creativity of SWATH team for employing tried and tested actors, familiar faces such as Blackbeard himself Ian McShane, Shawn of the Dead’s Nick Frost, Toby Jones and Rey Winstone and using CGI to make them appear as dwarves. Their version of the dwarves had more depth because they were world weary and battle tested than in the MM version.
The Dreamiest Prince(s):
Okay, so there are three contenders for this part but I must say that each prince charming has his own strength. Armie’s Ascot is funny and adorable; Sam’s William is sensitive and sincere while Chris’s huntsman is deep and brooding. Of the three, I liked Chris’s portrayal the best because he did a pretty good job not only in the action scenes but in the dramatic scenes as well. In fairness to the other two, I don’t think they were given such moments. So Chris takes this one.
I’m kind of conflicted about this but I think I must give this category a tie. I liked the darker approach to the tale, although I would have liked a more protracted battle scene a la Robin Hood. On the other hand, I’m a big fan of Mirror Mirror’s script. It was more in the line of the traditional Snow White but it was sassy and fun. It made people not hate the queen despite her excesses. I am not a big fan of the dancing in the end though. I understand poking fun at the cheesiness of the tale but it was a bit over the top for me. As for the costumes and the set, I give this to SWATH, as well as cinematography as the excessive amount of textile, and lace used for the set and the costumes in MM is quite bothersome.
At the end of the day, one would say its pretty even but I kind of liked Mirror Mirror more mainly because the characters are very relateable and it is generally more entertaining to more members of the family. It embraces its cheesiness and uses it as a selling point to the movie. Oh, and did I mention that Sean Bean was also in this movie? And the best part was HE DIDN’T DIE!
On the other hand, the strength of Snow White and The Huntsman is its ability to abandon the entire concept of the prince saving the princess and instead making it about the princess saving the entire kingdom.
However, I think both movies are good independently and caters to very very different markets. Critics bashed both films but I am fairly satisfied with each one. I should say that any of these movies are way better than the Red Riding Hood movie hands down so congratulations to directors Tarsem Singh and Rupert Sanders for adding a new flavor to age tested classic. The next challenge would have to be how to get Kristen Stewart to stop being so sullen. Her moods depress me, seriously.