Hollywood has had a mini-love affair with fairy tales. If you notice I said ‘had’. After this weekend the chances of studio heads green lighting another film, especially an expensive one, based on a fairy tale will be slim.
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN opens today. It is about some virginal princess beset by an evil step-mom/queen who has a thing for being the most beautiful babe in the kingdom. When the virginal one surpasses the step-mom inn the looks department, all sorts of evil doings start developing. Yeah, we know the story and we know the tropes. The wonderful world of Disney drilled it into us.
The cast for this latest entry is quite good and they do acquit themselves well. There is Charlize Theron as the evil Queen, chewing scenery quite nicely thank you very much. Liam Hemsworth, the hunk du jour, acting all sorts of like the bad boy, but with a heart of gold. He’s the huntsman, big surprise. Playing yet another virginal waif is Kristen Stewart, who better watch out, she may play a virgin until she dies. She’s OK in the film. She does’t pout like she did throughout those TWILIGHT films.
Overall the film is OK. The ads stress this is not a fairy tale as we know it. This is because the marketing people in Hollywood have see the writing on the wall. For Hollywood brand name recognition is a pre-requisite for any film to be made these days. They fervently believe that to make gobs of money, the audience is too stupid to see anything unless its name rises above the advertising clutter. If they know it, they will come.
But there is an inherent problem. Though there is remarkably high brand name recognition for these fairy tale films, the public wants it’s fairly tales like its politicians, full of lies and spouting happy endings. And to achieve that goal requires deft writing to repeatedly repackage the same old, same old. Sadly, quality writing is an art lost on studio executives who see writers as an expense they’d rather be without.
This has proven to be the downfall of many of the fairy tale films. Trying to update them to a modern audience is at best difficult especially since many of the writers don’t have a clue of what a fairy tale truly is. In MIRROR, MIRROR they took the snarky, wink-wink approach. In SNOW WHITE, they go for a dark, LORD OF THE RINGS approach. In the latter it almost works, but in their desire to be ‘cool’ or ‘modern’, they forget one of the most central of themes for any movie. It has to have a heart, a core.
Ironically the heart theme plays throughout SNOW WHITE. Unfortunately it is never fully developed, it is left weakly beating and ultimately the film does not satisfy. The film’s grosses will be at best so-so. So Hollywood will bemoan the public’s disdain for fairy tale movies and never admit they simple truth. You can’t make a good movie without good, intelligent writing. Now we have to wonder what will happen to HANSEL & GRETEL WITCH HUNTERS. Oh, that’s from Paramount and quite another story, especially after the GI JOE debacle.