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Snow White and the Huntsman: Dark Twist on Classic Tale
Ravenna (Theron) tricks Snow White’s (Stewart) father, the king, marries him, kills him and takes over his kingdom. As the result of a spell cast upon her at childhood, she sucks the youth out of beautiful women so she can stay young and pretty forever. She then uses this beauty to grab as much power as she can. Foreseeing a day in which Snow White’s beauty would make her immortal, she locks the girl up in a tower. Years pass and the time has come for Snow White to be of use to the queen, however she manages to escape into the dark forest bordering the kingdom. The queen sends the Huntsman (Hemsworth) to bring her back but he instead turns rogue and pledges to help Snow White cross the forest and reach the rebel stronghold where they can assemble an army to take on the queen and her minions.
The thing about this story is that so much of it has been changed that it’s essentially become a Lord of The Rings-esque film. But while the filmmakers were busy making everything darker and more epic, they forgot to give Snow White a personality. Rooting for a character just because she’s pretty and fairies like her is too much to ask of an audience. Besides, throughout the entire film she’s more of a run-as-fast-as-you-can type of girl - she’s no wilting flower but she’s not a fighter either. Suddenly though during the last act, she’s decked out in full armour, wielding a sword and heading into battle. She’s a blank slate and Stewart doesn’t give her even a tiny sliver of spirit.
We’d heard people, before the film came out, complaining about how Stewart was miscast because there’s no way she’d ever be considered prettier than Theron. This is actually the least of the film’s problems, especially considering that the film keeps emphasising that everyone loves Snow White for her beauty and spirit without showing us any evidence of the latter.
Theron’s performance is fine. She’s consistently dramatic, evil and over the top, but it’s just not the scenery chewing performance that the trailers had led us to expect. All in all, Theron’s Ravenna is far more interesting than Stewart’s Snow White, but Hemsworth’s Huntsman tops them both. He gives the best performance of the film, is the only one we emotionally connect with and, as a result, is the most watchable character. The only downside is that in the film’s love triangle, the Huntsman seems too good for Snow White who’s more in line with William (Claflin), the ‘Prince Charming’ character who’s even more vacant than Stewart is.
The visuals save this film from being completely ordinary and it’s here where the attempt to turn the fairy tale into a fantasy epic really shines. The trolls, dwarves, fairies and magical armies all look spectacular. Theron’s aging effects are truly creepy and so is the dark forest which, with its bugs, serpents and barren trees, is basically death on screen.
It’s an interesting take on the fairy tale and the detours that the film takes from the traditional narrative work really well. But while the general atmosphere is as far as you can possibly get from the Disney version, it’s a shame that the main character isn’t. While she doesn’t pine continuously for a prince, the general everybody-loves-her-because-she’s-pretty essence is still intact and it’s just too Disney for a film that tries to be a gritty epic.
Is love stronger than the laws of gravity? Well, that's one peculiar question that the Argentinean director, Juan Diego Solanas, attempts to answer in newest trippy sci-fi adventure, Upside Down.
Upside Down begins with an informative voiceover explaining the story of two parallel planets – Down and Up – that are stationed exactly opposite each other, existing in the same solar system, with shared yet opposing gravity. All physical matter must obey the gravity of the world from which it comes; both planets exert an equal, but opposite, pull and messing with these laws of physics can potentially result in deadly consequences.
While Down is poor and rundown, Up is rich and affluent; going Up or interacting with the people from Up is deeply forbidden, and the only thing bridging the two is the sinister company, TransWorld.
As a child, Adam (Sturgees) – a hopeful young boy from Down – climbs to the top of Sage Mountain to get close to Up, only to meet the pretty young blonde, Eden (Dunst), from the planet Up. The couple’s affections soon blossom; however, they also attract unwanted attention from the authorities. A bloody confrontation occurs, leaving the soul-mates stranded on their own individual planets for the next ten years.
The story then moves forward and Adam – who is convinced that Eden is gone forever – is working in a run-down lab, trying to perfect a secret, pink bee pollen ingredient he’s inherited; one that allows matter to detect the gravitational fields of both planets at once.
Soon, he lands a job at the intimidating TransWorld and finds that Eden is working there as well. However, in order to get to her, Adam needs to fight against strict corporate rules and against the forces of gravity to find his way into her arms again.
The concept is definitely unorthodox, but not entirely ridiculous. It's a rather creative concept, yes, but perhaps a little too grand for its own good.
The backdrop is not the problem here – it's the story itself. To begin with, this is a tale of star-crossed lovers who will do anything – even challenge the laws of gravity – in order to be with each other. However, their story never really gets a chance to develop, and thanks to a couple of ridiculous subplots and the overpowering presence of their parallel worlds – shot beautifully using CGI effects – it never gets a chance to evoke any sympathy from, or connection to, the audience.
Both Sturgees and Dunst share a decent amount of on-screen chemistry, but the characters get a little lost in their parallel worlds. With no real story to work with, Sturgees looks flustered and Dunst lacks the charisma and allure to draw the audiences in.
Packing in an enormous amount of visual thrills, Upside Down is quirky, original and pleasing to the eye. However, its overly ambitious approach manages to forsake the heart of the story – or rather, lack thereof.
Subtlety has never really concerned Australian-born filmmaker, Baz Luhrmann. The man who brought us as Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge is both known and reviled for his dazzling and glitzy visual panache, and the notion of impossible love is forever present as the heart of his largely theatrical and melodramatic productions.
Flamboyant and extravagant, The Great Gatsby is visually striking, but when stripped down, has little to offer.
The film opens with a depressed and weary Nick Carraway (Maguire) who is being treated for alcoholism. Unable to articulate his thoughts on a man named Gatsby, he begins to put pen to paper under instructions from his doctors.
We then flash back to 1922, where Nick, then a bond salesman, moves to the fictional town of West Egg, nearby to his cousin Daisy Buchanan (Mulligan) and her husband Tom (Edgerton). Nick’s new home happens to neighbour that of a mysterious and elusive Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio). An enigma to his neighbours, Gatsby perennially throws the most extravagant parties, but the millionaire generally lives his life as a recluse.
After discovering that Tom is having an affair, Nick receives an invitation to one of the Gatsby’s infamous parties. Once there, Gatsby reveals that he is still in love with Nick’s cousin Daisy, after a brief romantic encounter years before. As Nick slowly becomes entangled in the bizarre life of Gatsby, the cynicism and hypocrisy of West Egg’s inhabitants drives the characters to great lengths to preserve their own vanity and sense of self-importance.
F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel has continually struggled to translate onto the big-screen and previous adaptations have failed to capture the essence that made this the ‘Great American Novel’.
Disappointingly, Luhrmann’s stab at the project has yielded few improvements. The director’s trademark approach is extraordinary, and over-the-top doesn't begin to describe the flamboyant visual experience that he creates. But while for the most part it works, the unflinching visual style and the sweeping overhead shots prove to be a little too sensational for what is an intricate and complex plot.
However, the biggest downfall is the emotional hollowness of the story. Luhrmann fails to infuse emotional connections between the characters, while the soundtrack – which features everything from jazz and hip-hop to techno and dance – is every bit as awkward as it sounds.
Despite Luhrmann’s misguided post-modern motions, DiCaprio gives the film depth with an excellent interpretation of the eponymous character’s charm and allure. Meanwhile, Mulligan plays her character in a way that maintains her position as the object of desire perfectly; though she too is a victim of the absurdities of West Egg, it becomes difficult to surrender any sympathy to her. Maguire, on the other hand, shines in his wallflower role; although he is guilty of enabling many of the decisions that the characters make, he retains an innocence and naivety that is integral to the plot.
All in all, Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby fails to render the novel’s grandness in terms of plot, but taken as a whole package, the stylistics make for an entertaining piece of cinema.