I was looking forward to SWATH. The promos looked really cool and it seemed to have a unique balance of style, grit, and action. Unfortunately, only one of those is present in the actual film. SWATH is chock full of striking visuals, enough to populate a really cool music video, but when it comes to a 2-hour movie, it’s not enough. The acting is convincing enough, with Theron doing the most scene chewing, as expected, but with mixed results. The main problems with SWATH is that it’s completely illogical and lazy in the story department, which makes me actually hate the visuals, because it shows that the filmmakers got so wrapped up in making something “look” cool that they forget that it still had to make sense.
The depth provided to the characters is all the same ol’, same ol’ bullshit you’ve seen or heard in a hundred different other movies. There isn’t a shred of originality or creativity in their backstory. You are simply expected to accept and go along with everything…but look, cool images!
Kristen Stewart is fine as Snow White and her big speech at the end was at least mildly rousing. Chris Hemsworth is wasted with a bad accent, weak back story, and uninspired fight sequences. He never rises above anything or changes in any way throughout.
Logically, the film is a mess. The Queen kills Snow White’s father, the king, and takes over the kingdom, choosing to imprison Snow White in a tower. Now, Snow White is about 10 years old or so when imprisoned and the next time we see her, she’s all grown up and in the form of Kristen Stewart. Complete with red lips, nice black hair, and sparkly white teeth…and a little bit of dirt. We learn nothing of what she’s done that whole time, but she sure as shit wouldn’t be in that good of shape after being trapped in a tower cell for 10 years.
To top it off, The Queen, talking to her mirror (which gets ZERO explanation as to why it exists, what it is, etc.) is told that if she kills Snow White and eats her beating heart then she will have immortality. So, the mirror waited ten fucking years to tell her this? It makes no fucking sense, even in a fantasy world, why this news just “suddenly” comes about.
So, The Queen sends her evil brother to bring Snow White to her so she can start heart munchin’. It’s at this very point that Snow White suddenly discovers a very loose nail just outside her window and FINALLY pulls it loose to use as a weapon against The Queen’s brother and make her escape. Now, this may seem like nitpicking, but seriously, if you were locked in a cell for ten years you would know that place INSIDE AND OUT. There would be no “loose” screws just lying around. You would have that shit locked down tight, like Andy Dufresne in THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION. The point is, this bitch would have nails, screws, and all kinds of little hidden weapons of some sort hidden throughout her cell. It was a forced discovery (read: lazy).
“Shit, we need her to escape somehow,” says screenwriter one.
“Fuck, dude, just write in a nail or some shit,” says screenwriter two.
“Good call. Done. What time do you want to start working on the Chipmunks sequel?”
This little quibble is ballooned throughout the movie as more and more illogical happenings take place, which arrive much like the bullshit scenes in last year’s SUCKERPUNCH, which was basically a cluster of cool sequences that suddenly realized they needed a story to tie them together. The story exists only as an anchor for the visuals, and SWATH, unfortunately, is the same way.
The other issue is that there is so much time wasted on petty sequences and not enough time spent on the scenes that really needed to develop. How did the Huntsman become the Huntsman? What makes him so goddamn special that he would even be referred to as such? He is essentially a cardboard cutout with axes and a drinking problem. A complete snooze compared to the lively and engaging role of Thor, which Hemsworth has owned in its two incarnations thus far.
The dwarves, all made up of some very well-known actors like Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane and Nick Frost, are fine in their roles, but never quite amount to much. They play music, talk about mystical shit, and open a drawbridge. Yippie. Their connection to Snow White is downplayed to a large degree.
Naturally, there’s a love triangle thing going on, as The Prince and The Huntsman both have feelings for Snow White. The film’s big “twist” is that The Prince’s kiss doesn’t awaken Snow White, but The Huntsman’s does, which is the filmmakers telling us that he’s her “true” love, I suppose. It’s such a “whatever” moment that it’s more curious than surprising.
Snow White awakens and gives her big speech to go and take back her kingdom to a neighboring duke (The Prince’s father) and they all mount up and lead a charge. They don’t make plans or preparations. Their idea is simply to have the dwarves sneak in and open the gate. Then, they’ll just ride on in and fight it out. Now, perhaps that’s what it all would’ve amounted to anyway, but they could’ve at least tried to convince us that they gave it some thought and it wasn’t all about a slow motion sunset charge on the beach just so they could look cool for the movie.
Then, we take another leap into the illogical as Snow White leads the charge, wearing some armor and her hair all “did” up. The bitch has been in a tower half her life and now she’s a swordswoman with armor leading a cavalry charge. Riiiiight. Fairy fucking tale INDEED.
And, to top the moment off, The Queen starts shooting trebuchet fireballs and arrows at her. Now, let’s stop and remember that she needs Snow White’s “beating” heart to chow down on in order to be immortal. Now, let’s imagine that one of those fireballs slams into Snow White during the charge and kills her instantly. Does that bode well for the all-powerful Queen? Or is she just that stupid? Or are we just expected to all be stupid and go along with this horseshit?
Once inside the caste, we are treated to a bunch of yawn-inducing battles that don’t even compare to the Styrofoam swordfights I have with my three year old. Since there’s no plan, Snow White just kind of goes off on her own to find that bitch ass Queen and kill her. Nevermind that the Queen’s own men are hacking at her left and right as she makes her way into the castle. Did no one listen to The Queen’s directions?
When Snow White finally runs into The Queen she just gets tossed around and yelled at, looking quite pathetic. There’s no suspense, because by this point you realize there will be no epic battle. There will be no swordplay between the two women, no knock down, drag out fight. No, just a bunch of shoving, hair-pulling, and shit talking. I can see that at an 8th grade playground.
The Huntsman and his crew fight a bunch of fairly cool-looking glass creatures that end up being just another visual gimmick with no payoff. The Huntsman has no final battle, no character arc challenge to overcome, so he just kind of hacks at a few things and survives. And before you try to tell me that “It’s about Snow White,” then you may want to take a second look at the title, because it’s called SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, which leads me to believe its about both of them.
The final, predictable, sudden knife jab that kills The Queen was eye-rollingly predictable and the final nail in the coffin of any hope that the movie would have a satisfying battle. The last sequence is yet another “Star Wars” throne room ending. Snow White is crowned as the new Queen and everyone stands around and looks at each other until someone smiles. The Huntsman stands in the back and Snow White looks to him, as if there’s something keeping them apart. There’s not. Not once is she claimed or spoken for. It’s like they created this last minute moment to suggest that they have a tough road of love ahead. It’s cheap and stupid.
Ultimately, SWATH is the very picture of missed opportunity. Visually, it’s very striking with some cool-looking stuff, but that doesn’t trump the massive black hole where the story and character development belong. It’s like a PG version of Paul Verhoeven’s FLESH+BLOOD. Had the actual Paul Verhoeven directed SWATH I think we’d have a much more honest and engaging film. I’d stake my life on it.
SWATH is like the picture of a Big Mac at a McDonalds drive-thru. That picture looks sweet as hell and appetizing as fuck. Yet, once you order and open that fucker up, you’re left with a lie. The promise of that great-looking burger is nothing more than a sad frozen patty tossed together with no love and smooshed into a carton for you to consume and forget.
And forget SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN you will.