Contributed by Donna Marie
Kristen Stewart (known famously for her hesitant, yet strong-willed character in the Twilight film series and much earlier as Jody Foster’s daughter in Panic Room) stars as Snow White in this adventure tale. The movie is replete with fantastical elements reminiscent of those that appear in Lord of The Rings and, at the heart of the movie is the message of obsession superficial beauty and how having it at all costs can lead to one’s undoing.
In this version of the fairytale, Queen Ravenna (diabolically played by Charlize Theron) becomes beauty conscious when her mother wishes for her to be beautiful and to use her beauty to control the men she encounters. Her mother seals the deal with witchcraft which enables her daughter to become quite the manipulator. But, to maintain her beauty, she needs to go to some extremes.
The Queen is not unlike many women who willingly inject Botox (poisonous botulism) or spend extraordinary sums of money on products like La Mer or services like cosmetic surgery (sometimes at serious health costs) to turn back the hands of time. Queen Ravenna has been practicing her own fountain of youth regimen. She gathers the young, beautiful innocents of the kingdom and sucks the youth out of them, ‘forcing’ many to do what it takes to be undesirable to the youth-sucking Queen.
Queen Ravenna (depicting outer beauty, stunningly portrayed by Theron) lives out her mother’s declaration for her daughter to perfection until she encounters Snow White who threatens the Queen’s quest because Snow White is the image of purity and beauty. What separates these two women is that Snow White could care less about physical beauty and the way she is reflected in the film (dark smudges on her face, dirt along her nail beds) confirms her disinterest. In addition, Snow White shows resilience as she survives the Queen’s attempts to squash her beauty and displays an inner beauty through the compassion she shows for her jail mates.
Snow White was gifted with outer and inner beauty by her own mother’s declaration that Snow White, then in-utero, would grow up to be strong-willed, resilient and beautiful like the solitary rose her mother observed thriving in a snow-covered garden. Good thinking by her Mom since Snow White would need every ounce of those skills to elude the reach of the powerful Queen, her Dark Army and the many pitfalls of the Dark Forest with its camouflaged monsters (one that she silenced with a blood-curdling scream) and its murky, quicksand-like earth!
I enjoyed being taken on this adventure and, at moments I even felt as if I was ‘in’ the action as I found myself flinching with each new ‘attack’ from the various forces in the Dark Forest. I was certainly grateful to have chosen to see Snow White in regular viewing mode than the 3D version of the movie.
While Snow White and The Huntsman is just one more way that movie makers are hoping to get people into the theaters (rather than wait to watch theatricals on the various visual delivery systems available from the convenience and comfort of their living rooms), it also reflects the 21st century version of the strong female. In the 1940s, strong women in film were represented by the likes of Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Barbara Stanwyck and so many other wonderful performers that might be described as “mature,” all representing equal parts of beauty and brains. Today I feel the focus is on younger protagonists featured in movies such as Twilight, The Hunger Games, and now Snow White who represent a trifecta of qualities: beauty, brains and brawn. I for one like this latter movie-making direction as there can never be enough role models (for young women) who project deeper levels of beauty–the inner strength and resolve to stand up for themselves and embrace their strength rather than being singularly focused on external traits of beauty. There are certainly enough superficial models to choose from in our pop culture!
So, what of the movie itself? I did find myself thinking more of Thor each time the Huntsman (played by Chris Hemsworth who played Thor) came on the screen and this made it difficult for me to believe him in the Snow White role. However, the movie was a pleasure to watch and worth an in-theater view. The seven dwarfs are funny and irreverent, and if you look closely you will see some familiar faces; the special effects are truly magnificent and transportational–I literally found myself in the world that Snow White is navigating as she escapes captivity, is guided by fantastical creatures, and eventually becomes a leader of men to take it to the Queen and her Dark Army and bring life back to the kingdom that has been literally sucked out by the Queen’s evil reign.