First, let me state for the record that I have no built-in fondness for the fantasy genre: of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy I can only stomach the first; Legend and Willow, two 80’s fantasy films that cinephiles of my generation are want to praise, likewise leave me cold. I do however have a fondness for escapist cinema, and occasionally these two aspects overlap, but with fantasy there is a nerdy tendency to preoccupy with the minutiae of the ciphers to the detriment of any kind of forward motion and attention to fundamentals of storytelling. Escapist cinema appreciates that the world created is in service of something more lofty than Easter eggs and curiosities of names, that the goal is to create something immersive, allow the viewer to daydream in the peripheries but not get lost there without a tether, that tether is story, a story that unfolds without being barnacled by commentary and self-importance. It ought to be fun in a visceral sense, anything cerebral to be mere ornament towards that end.
With the juggernaut success of The Avengers it has become patently clear that bright, flashy and optimistic is the new black. Even closer to the point to be made, Mirror Mirror (which I have not seen) is the boldly ironic incantation of the Snow White story, which I am guessing is likewise, bright, flashy and optimistic. Snow White & the Huntsman, say what you will, is offering up something considerably unfashionable in this sardonic culture of winks and nods: a sober, grimy, Grimm fairytale with women no less as the pitted adversaries. Add the much reviled Kristen Stewart into the mix and you have a powder keg to y-chromosome film geek sensibilities (we mustn’t upset the status-quo of what constitutes ‘fun’). The tendencies are there to hate the movie, I knew early on this was going to be divisive, and irrespective of what legitimate claims people may have to disliking or hating this film, you got to admit, the deck is stacked against it and the tendency is to go Hulk Smash on it because, because it would rather tell a story then make a commentary on one, it would rather create a fully realized world that is committed to its story with a genuine sense of wonder then be beholden to a consensus view with reductive brand positioning in the guise of characters, plotting forward to sell merchandise. It would rather take a recognizable Disney property of everything sweet and magical and dunk it in the mud and put a woman in the lead that is unforgivably dour, and you know what, she fits. This is not an Amy Adams wonderland, this is a universe of dark happenings of actual stakes, pitted in a kingdom run by a hormonally crazy psychopath that eats bird hearts and sucks souls through people’s mouths.
You got a problem with that? Then go back to your Marvel-generic, canned fun, and be all optimistic and shit, I like my blockbusters dark and muddy, like my heart.
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