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Book Review: Snow White and The Huntsman, A Novel by Lily Blake


Title:                   Snow White and The Huntsman, A Novel
Author:             Lily Blake
Format:             Paperback
Price:                  PHP 520.00
Read Date:      12 June 2012

Synopsis (From Goodreads):
A breathtaking new vision of a legendary tale. Snow White is the only person in the land fairer than the evil queen who is out to destroy her. But what the wicked ruler never imagined is that the young woman threatening her reign has been training in the art of war with a huntsman who was dispatched to kill her.

Review In A Nutshell:
I delved right in to reading this book within hours after my second screening of Snow White and The Huntsman. Having discovered its existence, I satisfied my curiosity to see if the novelization was any better, if there were some things that were missed out. If there’s one thing that I learned this time around, I lowered my expectations. And I’m glad I did, for I surprisingly enjoyed the book even more than the movie from which it was inspired.

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Who will you be when faced with the end?
The end of a kingdom,
The end of good men,
Will you run?
Will you hide?
Or will you hunt down evil with a venomous pride?

Rise to the ashes,
Rise to the winter sky,
Rise to the calling,
Make heard the battle cry.
Let it scream from the mountains
From the forest to the chapel,
Because death is a hungry mouth
And you are the apple.

So who will you be when faced with the end?
When the vultures are circling
And the shadows descend
Will you cower?
Or will you fight?
Is your heart made of glass?
Or a pure Snow White?

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DISCLAIMER:
This review contains spoilers especially pertaining to plot angles that were not covered in the movie. If you are planning to read this book, you have been properly warned. 😉

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I delved right in to reading this book within hours after my second screening of Snow White and The Huntsman. Having discovered its existence, I satisfied my curiosity to see if the novelization was any better, if there were some things that were missed out. If there’s one thing that I learned this time around, I lowered my expectations. And I’m glad I did, for I surprisingly enjoyed the book even more than the movie from which it was inspired.

Remembering most of the movie reviews I’ve read about Snow White and The Huntsman, one of the common complaints among the critics was that the script was completely underwhelming and uninspired, that it did a disservice to the actors cast for the roles. I agree to a certain extent, especially if I were to consider how I felt the first time I watched the movie. I think I have learned to deal with it by my second screening, almost to the point of ignorance, save for a few lines and monologues like that eulogy from Chris Hemsworth… err, The Huntsman. I don’t mind being told that. No, sir.

For the novelization though, Lily Blake – a first-time author/adapter – did a fine job in adding more meat into the almost emaciated script. A good chunk of the dialogue (and sequences) in the movie was retained but these read so much better. Perhaps what got me to read deeper was that she kicked off the novel from a different point than the movie: she went straight into the time where King Magnus was still in deep sorrow after losing his wife and has gone into battle when a dark army was threatening the peace of his kingdom. From here on, I was treated to a lot of differences – some were subtle, some were not – that made me want to beg the big guys at Universal to churn out a director’s cut or something because it was obvious that a lot got lost in the cutting room.

One of the more striking differences that I loved in the novel was that the marriage between King Magnus and soon-to-be Queen Ravenna took a while and not within 24 hours after their encounter in the battlefield. She earned the hearts of the people surrounding the king: befriending Duke Hammond and reading stories to Snow White and William. And the reason for her scheme to take over the kingdom was out of revenge for her mother, one of the travelling gypsies that were killed during one of raids done by King Magnus’ men.

Another difference (which is of importance to me and my friend, Meann) is that the motivation for The Huntsman, named Eric, for teaching Snow White that random self-defense lesson was because he needed someone who could be able to defend him or set him straight since the Dark Forest was getting on his nerves too. Eric took note of Snow White’s defiance in their first meeting as a sign of raw bravery, something that can be nurtured if given the chance. Plus, the novel offered a longer conversation/interaction between the two characters sufficing the development of their relationship, which was more than the slight puns, sidelong stares and seething grunts that I was treated to. If that was incorporated in the movie, the chemistry between Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth – although present – would have exploded more on screen. I felt that during their confrontation at Fenland Village; reading the novel made me want more of it.

The novel ended a little clearer than the movie did. While it still made you pray for the fate of Snow White’s heart, it was more definite who she has chosen. She chose Eric. However, Eric’s decision to leave because he had no place around royalty and Snow White’s new duty as the Queen of her kingdom taking more precedence found each of them taking different roads. As to when those roads would meet again, Snow White sure seems hopeful but it was obvious that Eric’s departure caused her sadness that even Prince William, who is just a friend in her eyes, would not be able to erase.

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My Rating:
4.5 out of 5 stars

My Two-Cents:
If you liked the movie and you can afford it, buy it. The paperback copy comes with a free 2-sided Triptych pullout poster featuring Kristen Stewart as Snow White, Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen, and Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman, which you can check out the images below:

The 2-sided Triptych pullout poster included in the novel.
Image Source: MTV Hollywood Crush

If you cannot afford it, well… I don’t need to tell you what to do, right? 😛

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Movie Review: Snow White and The Huntsman

Title:
Snow  White and The Huntsman
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Sam Spruell, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, Brian Gleeson
Director: Rupert Sanders
Writing Credits: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, Hossein Amini
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Running Time: 127 minutes
Philippine Release Date: 1 June 2012

Movie Synopsis:
In the epic action-adventure Snow White and the Huntsman, Kristen Stewart (Twilight) plays the only person in the land fairer than the evil queen (Oscar® winner Charlize Theron) who is out to destroy her. But what the wicked ruler never imagined is that the young woman threatening her reign has been training in the art of war with a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, Thor) who was dispatched to kill her. Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) joins the cast as the prince long enchanted by Snow White’s beauty and power.

Official Movie Trailer:

Review In A Nutshell:
Between the two Snow White movie remakes to be released this year, I looked forward to Snow White and the Huntsman the most for several reasons. I drowned myself in its world, eagerly anticipating seeing it on the big screen. The first time, I came out of the cinema with my feelings torn and my mind ablaze with images that warmed my fangirl heart. It didn’t make sense to me why I felt that way that I gave it a second go. And with it came a full understanding of what I loved, and not, about the movie.

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DISCLAIMER:
This review contains mild spoilers. If you know the fairy tale and don’t mind having your mind pre-blown before seeing the movie, then go ahead and read along. 😉

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Among all the fairy tale princesses I’ve come across, Snow White is actually my least favorite. Hers was a journey that didn’t tickle my fancy as there wasn’t much of a struggle or sacrifice. Sure, there was loss — being orphaned by both parents at a young age. But what irks me is that her beauty is somewhat her source of redemption and is the one that’s most sought after by the Evil Queen. So you can probably imagine my surprise last year that there will be two movies showcasing a remake/re-telling of her story, all to be shown in 2012, just months apart. The first quarter of the year saw the release of Mirror, Mirror; this quarter, it was Snow White and the Huntsman. However, between the two, I looked forward to Snow White and the Huntsman the most for several reasons. And looked forward to it I did. I drowned myself in its world, eagerly anticipating seeing it on the big screen. And saw it, I did. The first time, I came out of the cinema with my feelings torn and my mind ablaze with images that warmed my fangirl heart. It didn’t make sense to me why I felt that way that I gave it a second go. And with it came a full understanding of what I loved, and not, about the movie.

A snow-filled opening sequence
Image c/o Universal Pictures

Snow White and the Huntsman begins with a familiar yet soothing opening, of a childless Queen wishing for a daughter with lips red as blood, hair black as night and skin as white as snow. The wish came as it should, for the kingdom was gifted with a girl of rare beauty and a heart of gold. Snow White charmed everyone she came across her path and the kingdom was happy. However, one day, the Queen fell ill and she died leaving Snow White and her father, King Magnus, inconsolable. A threat to the kingdom lured King Magnus out of his misery and after winning the battle, he found a prisoner named Ravenna, whose beauty made his heart beat again and prompting him to marry her. Unknown to him, his marriage to Ravenna was all a part of her scheme to take over his kingdom. He died by Ravenna’s hand and with it came hardship across the land. Perhaps because of sympathy, Queen Ravenna kept Snow White imprisoned for several years until she came of age and realized that she needed her heart to sustain her youth and beauty. Snow White escaped into the Dark Forest where she eventually meets a Huntsman who agrees to help her to reach the Duke Hammond’s castle to convince them to go into war. In her journey, she encounters many people – a village full of scarred women and children, a band of dwarves – all whom were affected by Queen Ravenna’s reign. Snow White was also reunited with her childhood love, Prince William. It was in this journey, Snow White discovered her mission and her duty to the people who suffered after her father died.

It’s funny that I was able to write that previous paragraph and it came with a somewhat hefty price, a second screening of the movie. I do not think that I would have been able to pen it down if I did not watch the movie again. I attribute it to the fact that my anticipation was too high and it left me with nothing to fathom when I was done with my first screening. Well, except for those two frames of Chris Hemsworth during the coronation and Sam Claflin in the snow that sent my fangirl heart screaming for a freeze button inside the cinema.

Sam Claflin (Prince William) & Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman) in their OMGorgeous moments in the film.

I guess that’s a problem with anticipation and expectation; sometimes it can only carry you so far enough to buy a ticket. Having said that, it may suggest that I did not like the movie but I actually did, enough for me to ignore the fact that its original inspiration came from a fairy tale that I least liked. Now, you may be wondering, if I had any beef with the movie. Yes, I had and I can sum it up in one word: inspiration. And a whole lot of it.

Inspirations from other movies, if incorporated and executed well, can work to a movie’s advantage. Snow White and the Huntsman was riddled with a mishmash of inspirations in its bid to be the grander, darker version of the fairy tale remake. And it obviously was, but to some extent, it fell flat and I even questioned its necessity. There was a lot of stuff in the movie inspired by The Lord of the Rings franchise: the sweeping landscapes, Snow White riding an unbridled white horse that look eerily like Shadowfax, the King’s shield with a symbol that looks like the White Tree of Gondor, etc. The mythical white hart felt like a non-speaking reincarnation of Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia. Snow White being hailed as “The One” by Muir, who leads the not-so-merry band of dwarves, reminds me of Neo from The Matrix. And a lot more. Even so, for some reason, I couldn’t find myself blaming the first-time director, Rupert Sanders, for these. If anything, I feel I should be blaming the studio and the producers for putting too much pressure on this particular movie by investing a huge budget that any crew would kill for. Sometimes, when you have a seemingly unlimited resource, anyone’s imagination can run wild because there is so much room to move around. I guess for this particular case, a slightly smaller budget would’ve helped everyone to streamline the vision and thereby produce a more cohesive product.

Director Rupert Sanders with Charlize Theron (Queen Ravenna)
Image c/o Universal Pictures

Aside from having to deal with so many inspirations, what also derailed the movie’s epic grace is its editing. After having read the novel version of the movie, of which I’ll review separately, I felt the editing process may have removed some key aspects that would’ve made Snow White and the Huntsman flow better. There was so much substance in the novelization that got lost in translation in the actual movie. One good example is that random bit of self-defense lesson given by the Huntsman to Snow White while journeying in the Dark Forest. The Huntsman had a very valid reason for teaching her that but it wasn’t apparent in the movie. It proved useful in the end as it was the self-defense move that killed Queen Ravenna. But having that lesson in the forest, without so much of a reason for doing it, was very odd to see.

Other than those two things that I mentioned, there were a lot of aspects from Snow White and the Huntsman that I loved: the beautifully detailed and intricate costumes created by two-time Academy Award winner, Colleen Atwood; the score created by the critically-acclaimed James Newton Howard; the theme song sung by the lovely and ethereal, Florence Welch, etc. As for the actors, Charlize Theron scared the daylights out of me with her performance as Queen Ravenna. Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman had a very commanding presence on screen. Sam Claflin as Prince William was both charming and courageous. Kristen Stewart – although often argued by some critics and observers as miscast for the role given that her physical beauty doesn’t really stack up against the model-esque Theron – did a fairly good job in embodying this movie’s Snow White. The biggest surprise for me in this film was Sam Spruell, who plays Finn, Queen Ravenna’s brother. He had a very eerie, frightening quality that made him an effective match with Charlize Theron and his fight sequences with Chris Hemsworth were fascinating to watch. And I have to mention that it was delightful to see the ensemble of really awesome British actors who comprised the band of dwarves in the movie: Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris and Brian Gleeson.

From L-R: Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna, Kristen Stewart as Snow White, Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman, Sam Claflin as Prince William

Overall, Snow White and the Huntsman makes for a good visual experience, one that is best enjoyed inside the cinema. It does have its share of twists from the original fairy tale but don’t expect much as it hardly strayed away. If anything, empty your mind and open your heart before entering the cinema so that you can enjoy a simple but not-so-much a family-friendly movie.

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My Rating:
4 out of 5 stars

My Two-Cents:
If you can afford it, watch it twice. It’s that kind of movie that is best appreciated by a second screening. Also, it never hurts to see two actors who look really gorgeous, even with full beard and all, on screen.  Pardon my silly fangirl mode. If you can’t afford it though, lower your expectations and just enjoy the movie for what it is.

Other Fun Stuff:
– The official music video for Breath of Life sung by Florence + The Machine

– Fans visit Snow White and The Huntsman (I want to be in this group hug!)

– Best promotional circuit interview: The cast reading Fifty Shades of Grey

– MTV After Hours with Josh Horowitz: The Yes/No Show