The stereotype for today’s Hollywood action movie is a story that barrels along at lightspeed, all flash and no substance. We’ve seen it many times now. A hero is called to action, big toys go boom, the girl gives the hero hope with a little sex on the side and all is right in the end. That movie may be two hours long, yet you leave the theater feeling as if all you saw was a big explosion, flashing lights and a whole lotta nothing.
There is, however, the rare occasion when a Hollywood blockbuster lands on the other side of things. In these cases, there is no shortage of visual flair and action-packed razzle dazzle. The story, rather than a quick flash of nothing, saunters along at a snails pace and looks to stunning visuals to make up for a slow story. This type of film is usually the lesser of two evils – after all, these movies usually have a good story to back them up and at least somewhat developed characters to push it along, if not fast enough.
But the too-slow film can be just as unsatisfying as the too-quick film. In the latter, you leave the theater empty after a plotless film wondering what you just saw and why anyone felt it was a story worth telling. In the former, though, you wonder how one or a few small changes could have turned a good movie into a great movie.
Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is a perfect example of this second type of film – it had all the elements of a truly fantastic film on the screen. But the way it was put together, the final product just fell a little flat. It could have been so good. But, try as hard as Burton, screenwriter Linda Woolverton and Johnny Depp did, it just never quite clicked.
This lackluster storytelling is a disappointment at its grandest – when a great
movie stops at only good because someone in the editing bay missed a few beats, brilliance is lost on the cusp of a breakthrough.
And so we find another Hollywood tentpole falling just below its cusp of greatness.
Snow White and the Huntsman is a good movie. Rupert Sanders has a brilliant
eye in his feature directing debut and the film is nothing short of stunning — at least in parts.
Charlize Theron’s evil queen is frighteningly cold yet human all the same. The film is well-cast, well-written and well-conceptualized. It never tries to be more than popcorn fun, but in taking a darkly revisionist take on a classic fairy tale, it becomes more complex — both a lesson for our time and a lesson of our time.
Throughout the course of the film, though, something just seemed off. Shots lingered on one character for too long, or let an actor chew the scenery too much or hovered too long on something not important and not long enough on something fascinating. Trivialities were made large and the twitching muscles of a struggling character became something to build shots around.
I was in awe of Theron’s deliciously over-the-top portrayal of the queen, but even her scenes became tedious at times. Too much time spent on her fuming and not enough on her desperation. Snow White had the substance, but it also had too much time to explore it. In its case, more screentime did not enrich the story, but rather diluted its potency. And if the film’s ultimate goal was my complete and utter enjoyment, then it failed by taking me out of the story one time too many with poor pacing.
I will take this poor pacing, which is only a consequence of a rich story, over a quick-moving film that has no real plot to back it up. My complaints are ultimately minor and I enjoyed Snow White and the Huntsman despite its flaws. I am disheartened, though, to see such a powerful new vision for a classic story fall short of its full potential, much as Alice in Wonderland did as well.
Fairytales might not being doing so well at the box office this year, but it sure looks to be a great summer for superheroes.
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