Snow White and the Sloppy Storytelling

Not much luck with movies again this weekend. I talked Sailor Boy into watching Snow White and the Huntsman (“you love Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth!”) and I know he’ll be reminding me of that for a while. It was very beautiful. So much so that about halfway through, SB suggested we just turn off the sound. The script didn’t make a lot of sense, either from a story or a simple “words” perspective. I don’t know if this is something I care more about than the average viewer because of my job as a storyteller but there were so many ways this could have gone right and didn’t and it makes me sad.

The set up was very interesting. The evil queen stepmother in this version purposefully set out to entrap and destroy the king. She had a “phantom army” for the king to easily destroy and acted like she was it’s captive. Then she bewitched him, married him, killed him, and took over the kingdom in short order. Well done, lady. Charlize (or possibly the director) played Queen Ravenna constantly on the verge of tears. It reminded me a lot of the blonde Cylon from Battlestar, who always seemed so moved and tragic about the evil she was doing.There are hints throughout about how Ravenna became this person. I wished for more, actually.

There is a running theme of leaving people behind in this movie. It happens five or six times, first (and most appallingly) on the night of Ravenna’s invasion when the duke immediately gathers up all the soldiers and runs away with his kid and is like “whatever, Princess Snow” with barely a backwards glance. Why Snow doesn’t off-with-his-head him as soon as she’s back in power is beyond me. Coward.

Anyway, Ravenna takes over the palace and the kingdom and imprisons Snow (Why? Because STORY) even as she sends out her brother to capture other random maidens so she can suck out their lives, Bathory-style. Why she never bothers doing so to Snow is beyond me, but she doesn’t, until the story requires her to do so. And then, conveniently, as Ravenna is sending her brother up to the tower jail to get Snow after all these years, Snow finds a nail in the wall (AFTER ALL THESE YEARS) and stabs Blond Brother with it, then escapes through a very clean looking sewer. Then, despite being imprisoned for like 10 years, she swims all the way around the crazy cliffs where Dumbledore took Harry at the end of book six, and finds a convenient beautiful white horse to ride bareback through the forest.

Except as soon as they hit the forest, the white horse splashes into some quicksand (SB and me, simultaneously: “Atreyu!” and then realized that was the warrior’s name, not the horse’s) and is dispatched. So she starts running, crashes into some magic mushrooms (this part is cool), and then passes out in a position that is crazy reminiscent of the cover of Malinda Lo’s ASH.

Meanwhile, the queen is upset, and gets her hands on a huntsman to go get Snow, since her brother failed. The Queen is wearing an amazing dress made of bird skulls. Charlize Theron’s clothes are awesome in this movie. I totally understand why she did it. Also, there’s a long scene where she takes a bath in Elmer’s glue (why? Because it’s pretty, because it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with anything), and then feeds the dregs to poor villagers. Also, her mirror kind of melts and flows and talks to her, but only once. Beautiful, but doesn’t seem connected to anything else. Oh, and she can kill people by vibrating her hand over their hearts, like that dude from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

Honestly, the entire script reads like they just thought of a whole bunch of cool images for a trailer or a music video and strung them together.

Huntsman betrays blond brother, decides to help Snow, tells her how to kill people with a knife (“I don’t think I could do that” and “I feel sorry for the Queen” says the Pure Snow), and they decide to head toward the Duke’s castle, which apparently a perilous and extremely long, long trip.

Meanwhile, in Duke Coward’s beautiful sunny castle, the duke’s son is all like, “Snow White is alive, I’m going to find her.” He is apparently instantly transported to the village outside Ravenna’s castle, where he enlists with the Blond Brother to go find Snow. He does not have to cross the dark forest, or deal with the very cool looking bridge-troll (VERY COOL LOOKING MOVIE) or any of the other things Snow and the Huntsman are running into.

Right, so… troll. It’s about to kill the Huntsman but then Snow yells at it and then smiles at it and it goes away, Because she’s “the one” as the Bob Hoskins dwarf later explains. Which I guess means she’s the only one who can manipulate The Matrix? Who knows.

Then the Huntsman and Snow go to Egypt, where dwell many scarved and scarred (so they aren’t “beautiful” and will therefore not be kidnapped and life-sucked by Ravenna) ladies on the banks of the reedy Nile. Or so it appears. The Blond Brother finds them very quickly, and though the duke’s son shoots a lot of his comrades while they are burning the reedy village, no one sniffs him out as a traitor in their midst. Honestly, I wish he’d caught up to her then, because he could have just beamed them back to the duke’s castle the same way he got from there to Ravenna’s castle so quickly to start.

After that, Snow and the Huntsman, still soaking wet, find their way from the Nile into a nice first growth forest, where they are instantly captured by eight dwarves (foreshadowing) and strung up in PRECISELY the same manner as the Prince and his Squire in Mirror, Mirror.

But the Blond brother is hot on their trail, so the dwarves lead them through some quick caves into “the land of the fairies” where Snow fairy tale princesses around for a bit while Bob Hoskins dwarf opines to the Huntsman that she’s totally “the one” who is “life” and who will bring life back to the land and aren’t all their “ailments healed” (except not his blindness, apparently) and etc. All the dwarves carry pick axes as weapons, and say they used to be gold miners.They also sing in Irish or Gaelic or something.

Then Snow meets some fairies and a really really cool looking White Stag with antlers like birch branches, who is apparently the spirit of Life, The Forest, and Everything, and it’s all just gorgeous — until Blond Brother shows up and shoots the stag (who, very beautifully, explodes into a sea of butterflies) and chases everyone. One of the dwarves dies in the encounter (and Snow can’t “heal” him, despite being the symbol of life or whatever), and the Huntsman kills Blond Brother after BB makes a few cracks about his wife. Oh, and BB and the Queen have some kind of psychic link because she has a heart attack and gets really old after BB dies. Also, the duke’s son, William, finally reunites with Snow.

Then they walk. And walk. And walk. It’s like Fellowship of the Ring, how much they walk. One morning, Snow and William wake up in a frosty forest and go for a romantic little stroll. They make out some. Snow has somewhere found a very fetching hooded coat. William has somewhere found a very ripe apple, which reminds Snow of one time when they were kids when she ordered him to go pick her an apple and then ate it himself. She takes a bite, whereupon William does a fantastic Charlize Theron impression (well done, Sam Claflin. I can’t wait to see your Finnick Odair), and Snow starts choking, etc. Luckily, the Huntsman and the real William show up to attack the Queen, who beautifully turns into a whole bunch of ravens (really pretty movie, guys) and flies away, which leads to another really awesome looking scene whereby all the ravens splat back in Ravenna’s throne room and she turns into this black sludge…

Right, So Snow is like, asleep, and the real William is making out with her, and the Huntsman turns to the dwarves (previously identified as former gold miners) as says (I am NOT making this up): “You are dwarves, healers, can’t you do anything?”

What? With their pickaxe scalpels? They couldn’t heal their fallen eighth. I have no idea what is going on with this script.

Anyway, they finally get to Duke Coward’s castle (and they should all have an issue with William for not using the shortcut) where they lay Snow out in a beautiful white linen gown on a bed of furs. It looks suspiciously like the throne room from Game of Thrones. Everyone is hanging out in the courtyard except the Huntsman, who monologues for a bit about how Snow reminds him so much of his dead wife. Then he kisses her, too. And she wakes up.

And then the script dies. Honestly, I don’t know how Kristen Stewart delivers the speech she proceeds to give. She goes and has a private convo with Duke Coward where she says what might be a good line at the end of some big, St. Crispin’s day-style speech, but is utter nonsense when it’s the first words out of her mouth. “Death favors no man. We must ride like thundering waves under the tattered battle flag of my father.”

And it only gets better, because then she turns to the assembled crowd and goes stark raving mad. Like, Drusilla-from-Buffy style madness. Halfway through SB and I turned to each other in shock. “Is she speaking in tongues?” he asked incredulously. It’s just…. a torrent of sentences that don’t make any sense next to each other. And some of them are just nonsensical altogether, like this one:

“Iron will melt, but it will writhe within itself!”

And the rest of it just kind of doesn’t add up to anything. All this stuff about the brightness of the flame of the weapons of the hearts of the people and she can see what the witch sees (except how?)

“Frost to fire and fire to frost.”

“I would rather die today than live another day of this death.”

“Who will be my brother?”

But it moves people, somehow, so you know, that very night they dress her up in sexy well-fitted chain mail (no helmet) and ride back to Ravenna’s castle using the same magic swift route that William earlier utilized. Then they realize they can’t breach the castle walls before the tide comes in, or something, so they send the dwarves into that sewer, which was water when Snow escaped through it, but is now filled with poop. Seriously.

Then there is a big battle sequence where all these soldiers in full mail and helmets are dying left and right to protect very unhelmeted but suddenly master warrior Snow, who slips away from the battle and runs up a flight of stairs to find Ravenna standing all alone in front of a fire in the throne room. She’s so badass she doesn’t even turn around. And Snow is so stupid she doesn’t even take that opportunity to attack. She stands there for a ridiculously long amount of time. Then the rest of the army shows up, and she TURNS AROUND TO LOOK AT THEM.

Which is when Ravenna, who up until now has been bizarrely relying on real soldiers, shrugs a little, and unleashes these shard-creatures who proceed to completely shred the army. I mean, that is in her back pocket and she hasn’t used them yet? Why?

So then she tosses Snow around like a rag doll for a few minutes and then goes and stands in the fire, burning herself to a crisp and then healing while monologuing — in order to… I don’t know, show she can do it. Then she finally straddles a weak and beaten Snow and goes to cut out her heart (no Temple of Doom hand-vibrating this time) and Snow, who has spent the entire fight fumbling for her sword, pulls a dagger out of nowhere and stabs the Queen in the abdomen, which, although it’s precisely where some dude stabbed her earlier in the movie, this time apparently does the trick. Because Snow knows the magic words to break the spell because… she heard Ravenna saying something similar while she was choking to death on the apple and divined that this was the Key to Everything.

Anyway, Ravenna sort of shies away and backs into the mirror and is doing that crying thing again, and Snow comes over, and polite as you please, in the exact same tone we are teaching Q to use when asking to share, tells Ravenna that she cannot have her heart. Because…pity?

Anyway, the shard monsters die and I guess several of the spells are broken, because the previously life-sucked old lady in the dungeon is young and gorgeous again. But the Huntsman’s wife is still dead. And then Kristen Stewart puts on an awesome red gown and gets crowned Queen, and there is a really really, really, long, several seconds long shot from her perspective looking out over the throne room at the closed doors at the end, and then we see the exact same shot from the other angle except now the doors are open and they close on us. Because… Oh, I don’t even know anymore.

Cue credits over cool Florence + the Machine song. Which is when I realize I would have preferred to watch the entire movie with the sound off or synced up to a Florence album. Because it was so pretty and made no sense. I don’t know what happened to the script. Did it need more rewrites? Did it get cut and cut and cut? Were the people involved interested only in imagery and not in story? What was up with her not-speech to the troops? Did she end up realizing it was the Huntsman who broke her spell by making out with her while she was dead? Why didn’t the fairies help her at the end? Or the troll! That would have been awesome.The troll storming the castle!

And in the end, that was my main problem. Nothing in the story added up. It kept breaking its own rules or forgetting things it had done or having the characters make silly choices for silly reasons and there were all kinds of guns on the wall that never got fired or were forgotten about and it just rankles my storytelling brain. And that’s two movies in two weeks that were far more concerned with some pretty set pieces than with stories to put them in.

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10 Responses to Snow White and the Sloppy Storytelling

  1. Cassidy says:

    You pretty much summed it up. Visually is was stunning.

    I assumed the white horse never really died, and it was the “spirit” of the white stag helping her. In fact I wish that was what was going on because that would be kind of cool.

    • Diana says:

      oh, that would have been cool! In fact, I’ve decided that you’re right and that’s what it was. Fairy-inhabited horse. Like the magpies.

      Except the Neverending Story reference was so strong there!

  2. Frea says:

    You weren’t alone in shouting “Atreyu!” That movie is embedded into my psyche.

    I saw it in the theaters with my siblings and my mom. At the end of it, my brother-in-law-to-be turns to me and goes, “It’s like they turned a D&D campaign into a movie script.”

    Also the troll had bark on its butt. I was giggling like a very mature individual whenever we were shown the troll from behind.

  3. Shanella says:

    I’m glad I opted out of seeing this one. It would have driven me nutty!

  4. I’m trying to think of better movies for you to watch. This sounds hysterically horrible. Have you seen Ball of Fire? =) I know it’s old, but man, is that a fun movie.

  5. Jenna says:

    I saw this on opening day and the theater was so crowded that, even though we got there early, I had to sit really close and all the way to the right. I twisted my body so much to be able to see the screen, which hurt my back so badly it took about three weeks to fully heal. BUT YOU JUST MADE IT ALL WORTH IT WITH THIS SUMMARY.

  6. Brilliant summary. It was pretty, but made no sense…

  7. Oh m gosh, this made me laugh so much. I was definitely disappointed with Snow White and the Huntsman too. I agree, it is such a pretty movie, but the story was ridiculous. And Snow’s speech made no sense. I feel like it could have been so much better, though.

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