Year Released: 2012
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron
(PG-13, 127 min.)
"Beauty is a short-lived tyranny." Socrates
Forget Disney's Snow White waving her handkerchief as Dopey, Grumpy and the rest of those assorted dwarfs scoot out the cottage door to strains of "Off to Work We Go." This reboot of the fairy tale classic is imbued with the same sense of dark urgency as Christian Bale's Batman Begins. And both reboots blow away their saccharine or campy predecessors.
Snow White and the Huntsman explores the issue of a rightful, true-blooded, and just king - or in this case queen —with the same seriousness as Excalibur probing the King Arthur legend. It's filled with butt-kicking dwarves like the ones we met in Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and its dark forests and fairyland are equally alive with magic and menace. Kristen Stewart's Snow White is no sweet young thing blithely unaware of evil; she's more of a young Joan of Arc, suited up and ready to battle for what is rightly hers. And as Chris Hemworth's Huntsman tells her, she does look "rather fetching in mail."
Almost all the characters have both depth and presence. Probably most mesmerizing is Charlize Theron's evil queen, Ravenna. We are reminded of her Oscar winning talent for playing a Monster (2003) not terribly fond of men, as Ravenna's history as seen in flashbacks also shows sexual exploitation, not prostitution, per se, more a variation of the old raping and pillaging routine. The old king who abducted her as a child beauty abandons his old queen, but Ravenna foresees her ultimate fall from grace when youth and beauty would desert her also. So we see her questions to the mirror not stemming from vainity as much as a will to survive, which ultimately becomes a Nietzsche-like Will to Power, corrupting both her and her brother Finn (Sam Spreill) who lives off Ravenna's dark magic droppings like a mongrel cur awaiting casual crumbs.
Snow White's stepmother/black widow queen, having picked up her wedding crown and promptly disposed of Snow White's father the king, locks her up in a tower, waiting for the child to bloom into womanhood when she will be most dangerous but also most alluring to the queen, who can achieve immortality by eating her pure little heart. During that time Snow White watches a legion of young girls make short stops in the empty cells next to her like unwilling assignations at a by-the-hour hotel, where they lose nothing so slight as their virginity. No it is not their maidenheads but their entire youth and beauty that is destroyed. Ravenna stands over them and literally draws their sweet breath into her voracious maw with a hunger that, we will learn, never dies. So our Snow White, though still pure of heart, is not innocent anymore, a hardened resolve coating her as securely as a coat of armour.
Perhaps that is why she wades through the castle sewers with such alacrity as she makes a desperate escape, culminating in a leap off a rocky outcropping over a streaming waterfall reminiscent of the jump Harrison Ford makes in The Fugitive or Sherlock Holmes' descent over the treacherous Reichenbach Falls.
The Huntsman (Thor's Chris Hemsworth), having once survived the Dark Forest, where Ravenna is powerless and Snow White is hiding, is recruited to find her. Swinging a mighty axe with just as much might as he did Thor's hammer, Hemsworth a bereaved widower who now finds solace only in drink, is at once filled with rage and regret, as well as a certain vulnerability that tops his hulking form with irresistible, soulful puppy dog eyes.
The inevitable dwarves also arrive, led by Muir (Bob Hoskins), their blind elder who possesses powers of premonition, almost like the seers of Greek and Roman tragedy. Accompanying him are Quert, Beith, Coll, Duir, Gort, Nion and Gus, names much more befitting sober duties to their exiled true queen than Dopey or Sleepy of Disney fame. They are not played for comic relief, either, but treated with dignity and endowed with no small measure of courage, once they realize the regal identity of the little woman they have strung upside down in their trap in the woods. That real full-sized actors had their heads digitally affixed to smaller bodies for these roles has drawn protests from the "Little People," a protest that garners some empathy from this writer as well.
The traditional love story of Snow White has also been updated. It is Snow White and not the axe wielding huntsman who ultimately rids them of a very large, ugly, and persistent troll. (Sorry Shrek, he's not a nice guy like you.) Not willing to be passively rescued by a Prince Charming, Snow White leads the troops into battle to retake the castle, albeit with her huntsman and childhood sweetheart William riding by her side. She will reign as queen on her own rights, not because she has been awakened by a kiss from her prince.
There is also a variation on that ritual kiss and her awakening. True love for this true queen? We shall see. The final scene only hints at her final choice. Of course, Different Drummer may not be blind, but she is, at times, a seer. I see right now, but I'm not telling.
A young girl's heart or a poisoned apple? Some choice! Neither sounds particularly appetizing to me, but maybe that's because my name is not Ravenna and I haven't been having visions of these little gems as my ticket to enternal beauty and immortality, not to mention ultimate power, for the last decade or two.
I will go with the latter, but since I have my dog and family to consider, I will skip the poison marinate and stick with a little lemon juice instead.
BTW, just found out that the phrase "As American as apple pie" might be a bit of a misnomer, since the first recipe for an English apple pie dates back to the 14th century. Not to worry, since our recipe is really for a cake pudding sort of thing, the kind of sweet gooey mess that tastes delightful.
Enjoy. I promise you will not go into an endless slumber only to be awakened by the kiss of Mr. Wonderful. In this day and age, that might be a little too "iffy."
English Apple Traybake
- 1 lb bramley cooking apples
- 1/2 lemon, juice of
- 8 ounces butter, softened
- 10 ounces golden caster sugar
- 4 eggs
- 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 12 ounces self raising flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 2 tablespoons demerara sugar
|1||Preheat oven to 180°C/360°F or Gas mark 4.|
|2||Grease & line a rectangular baking tray - approx 9" x 7" or 27 cms x 20 cms.|
|3||Peel, core & thinly slice apples; squeeze the lemon juice over them to stop them discolouring and set them to one side.|
|4||Place butter, caster sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, flour & baking powder into a large roomy mixing bowl & mix well until smooth. You can use an electric hand whisk if it's easier.|
|5||Spread half of the cake/pudding mixture into the prepared tin. Arrange half of the apples over the top of the mixture.|
|6||Repeat the layer with the remaining half of cake/pudding mixture & apples - the apples should be arranged over the top of the cake/pudding mixture.|
|7||Sprinkle over with the demerara sugar.|
|8||Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden brown, well risen & springy to the touch.|
|9||Leave to cool slightly for 10 minutes & then cut into squares or bars.|
|10||Wait until the cake has completely cooled before removing the cake & the baking paper from the tin - store in an airtight tin or container.|
|11||If you wish to serve this warm as a pudding, wait 5-10 minutes and then cut and serve with cream, custard or ice cream.|
It can also be microwaved too, for a future hot pudding!