The one sentence review: Great movie killed by terrible cast and production.
I can’t remember the last time I was actually pissed off at the casting for a movie. Sam Spruell plays his part really well and carries the film. Charlize Theron does fairly well for herself but doesn’t get the room she needs to actually be a character. The wicked witch is indeed wicked right up until the end but I suspect a lot of the performance was robbed because of production, the first part of the movie actually seems like it occurred much later in the film and was cut and pasted in. Granted, that’s the visual effect I get, the plot itself makes better sense with it there but it feels like more of a flashback like something was missing. Kristen Stewart plays Snow White as though she has shoes filled with rocks. She can’t act. Chris Hemsworth puts up a valiant effort not to be Thor in this film and while it works, he has the same problem Charlize does where you know they can do better but something is really awkward about their performance. My take is he spends so much time watching Kirsten act terribly he’s consumed by a desire to punch her in the face repeatedly just to get a different expression out of her.
Frankly, the director (Rupert Sanders) probably ruined it.
Here’s why: The production is shit in this film. You can clearly tell ivy is just plastic ivy they threw onto the set pieces. There are elements missing from the screenplay including one scene where the dwarfs complain about “fairy music” and “put moss in your ears” and people are reacting to it but the music is conspicuously not playing. There are places where Kristen’s hair and wardrobe changes for no obvious reason early on in the movie. Furthermore they stole a lot of the visuals from Princess Mononoke and Lord of the Rings. It’s like they went out of their way to make sure that they got “that scene” from the movies. The party crossing the mountains in the rain is straight out of the Lord of the Rings. The Queens crown was borrowed directly from the Witch King in LotR. Thankfully they avoided lifting Rivendale for the fairy realm, but the fairy realm is the enchanted forest from Princess Mononoke complete with the fairies as domokun and the lord of the wood as an elk with wooden antlers.
You want the movie to work, but the director is so uninspired it feels laborious. This includes accents, they force everyone to talk in ye olden english and its obvious everyone thought it was stupid. It ends up getting in the way of the dialogue because people won’t pronounce the words the same way twice.
That being said, the writing is top notch. My suspicion is that John Lee Hancock carried most of that and the dialog is witty if you’re paying attention to it. Actually paying attention to it is sometimes hard because of the reasons above, but it’s there.
I almost wish someone re-directs it much later. Seeing a different cast and a director who actually has some inspiration would be a nice change and really redeem the movie. Particularly annoying is Kristen’s absolute fear of horses and how much time she spends on a horse. You would have thought they would have worked it out in preproduction with her.
That being said the set pieces were really good once they covered up the fake ivy. The castle is well done. The fairy realm, while borrowing heavily from Mononoke, looks great down to the turtles and snakes covered in moss. The mushrooms amused me greatly. The dark forest was fantastic and a neat twist was notion that monsters don’t live there, but hallucinogenic spores from mushrooms do. The magic mirror in particular shows insight from the writing, the spirit evoked from the mirror is only visible to the queen, which gives her the appearance of insanity to her brother.
Is it worth a view? Yes, but don’t expect it to be perfect.
Should you see it in theaters? Not really, there’s not enough grandiosity to warrant the big screen.