01 June 2012

Frightened, but Brave

Just got back from Snow White and the Huntsman, and I'm not even going to make a comment about Mirror Mirror leaving bad taste in my mouth and this being the cleansing swig because it's an unfair comparison.

In short, loved it. Awesome. Highly recommended.

In the interest of full disclosure, let's address the elephant in the room: I have never seen the Twilight movies. Actually, that's a lie; I've seen five minutes of a scene with two groups of vampires comparing notes on feeding habits and it pretty much told me all I need to know about what I'd be in for if I stayed and watched the rest. I bring this up because my roommate has seen the Twilight films and as such her biggest hangup about seeing the film was Kristen Stewart, fearing a wooden performance.

I think she gets a bit of a bum rap. Granted, the only thing I've seen her in prior to this was Zathura, where she played the older sister of the two boys. Not much meat to the role, but I liked her in it.

Something most people will probably notice right away regarding performances, hers as well as others, is that dialogue is rather sparse, and given that Stewart has a fair amount of screen time in the first act, people might be led to believe that her part was toned back because of fear about her ability to deliver dialogue. This really isn't the case; overall, it's a very visual film with very long passages of silence. I think that's one of the film's greatest assets, not feeling like it has to hold the audience's hand or keep spouting little throwaway lines of expository dialogue. What little dialogue there actually is serves almost as padding. Seriously, this would make a dandy silent film.

At the risk of sounding like I'm gushing, and going back to what I was saying about Kristen's performance, I think she's one of the best female leads I've seen in a fantasy film. She's got a very rare quality that I first heard leveled at the late Elisabeth Sladen by former Doctor Who producer Barry Letts. He said of her:

"She could be frightened and brave at the same time. Most actresses can only do one or the other."

This is also how I felt about Naomi Watts in the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong, someone who has a confidence and inner strength, but is also a human being with a full emotional palette. On that note, I think my favorite scene in the film (stop reading if you don't want any spoilers) is one where she stares down a monstrous troll that's just made a rag doll of the Huntsman and sets its sights on her. Admittedly, it waxes incredibly silly, but it made me smile and, frankly, if I made a fantasy film, you bet I'd have a scene like this. It's Dorothy slapping the Cowardly Lion, but done better. It speaks to her character, saying, "Look, I'm cold, tired, and terrified, but damned if I'm going to run now!"

Sure, not a terribly deep review, more just first impressions, but it's a very good first impression. Again, highly recommend it.
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