If Snow White and the Huntsman initially seemed like yet more fairy tale fodder (another film to push Hollywood’s fantasy trend from comic books to storybooks), then the second trailer promotes the movie as a formidable CG spectacle, serving as a veritable effects reel for awards consideration. Given the sheer abundance of eye candy, it takes a moment to remember that this is not the Snow White film by wild visionary Tarsem Singh, but rather a Universal Pictures tentpole helmed by debut filmmaker Rupert Sanders. Epic battles, first-rate makeup, and a very nifty man in the mirror loudly convey that the studio spared no expense in the pursuit of visual pizzazz. Whether or not that will translate to actual quality is another story.
Unless you’re considering a work by someone like David Cronenberg, an uncompromising filmmaker who cast Robert Pattinson in his latest effort, the trippy drama Cosmopolis, it’s tough to regard films that headline Twilight stars as anything more than cash-hungry. While clearly committed to making the most of its budget, Snow White and the Huntsman waves a red flag, almost more so than Taylor Lautner’s action mess Abduction. Kristen Stewart, who is confidently showcased as being “fairer” than great beauty (and wicked queen) Charlize Theron, is given nary a line in this extended clip, implying that the studio puts little stock in either her performance or her grasp of an English accent.
And it’s probably best that the starlet largely remains silent, for what is heard here is a hokey string of catchy one-liners, an unfortunate staple of modern trailer creation. In general, Theron can’t do much wrong as an actress, but she’s chewing the scenery like the Big Bad Wolf in this showy, nimble clip, calling to mind the histrionics of ABC’s Once Upon a Time. “Let them come,” she growls as an on-screen battle starts to rage, her words implying that Universal doesn’t much care about subtlety when it comes to courting audiences.
Perhaps the greatest concern introduced by the Snow White trailer is that the movie, at least as represented here, seems to lack an identity of its own. It may not resemble prior incarnations of the fairy tale, but its visuals appear derivative at nearly every turn. Theron’s milky bath recalls the finale of the dreaded Queen of the Damned, her life-sucking powers mimic Bette Midler’s in Disney’s Hocus Pocus, and her bursting into blackbirds owes a serious debt to Madonna’s “Frozen” video. It’s evident that the film has polish to spare, but one would hope there’s more up Sanders’s sleeve than variations of established tricks.
Like most movie previews, what this glimpse does promise is that you’ll get your money’s worth at the multiplex, a notion supported by the expensive-looking shards that finally attack the sword-wielding do-gooders, in a scene that is most likely the film’s climactic showdown (admittedly, this is the one effect that truly reads as innovative). But how many viewers are content with just getting the requisite bang for their buck? Surely they deserve more than one big pricey mirror, which looks to merely reflect extravagant magic that’s come before.
R. Kurt Osenlund is the Managing Editor of Slant Magazine’s The House Next Door, as well as a film critic & contributor for Slant, South Philly Review, Film Experience, Cineaste, Fandor, ICON, and many other publications.