This was the best acting Stewart did all movie... lifelessness.

I was watching HBO-Go the other day, catching up on the latest episode of Game of Thrones, and after its conclusion I found myself wandering around the site looking to satiate my need for more sword and sorcery fantasy. Unfortunately, the only thing I could find was the newest incarnation of the Snow White story, Snow White and the Huntsman. Also unfortunately, it was exactly what I expected.

Staring Kristen "What do you mean emote?" Stewart, maybe the only good thing I can say about the movie is that the resulting scandal/affair from it probably finished her career. It also starred, Thor, which means that every time he was on screen, the movie in my mind was much more interesting than what was actually happening in truth. The special effects looked unfinished and surprisingly insulting. For example, the seven dwarves were an amalgam of bodies and heads, as if the producers couldn't decide between going with the Lord of the Rings technique (and just using perspective to shrink the actors,) or the Game of Thrones technique (and actually cast an award winning little-person actor.) Instead, the dwarves were made up of the bodies of little people with the heads of average sized actors CGI imposed on them. This left lead dwarf, Bob Hoskins, looking like Super Mario before he found any mushrooms to eat... but I am digressing.

The point of this entry is not so much to point out the many flaws of the movie (many flaws,) but to try and understand the sudden resurgence of the popularity of fairy tales in pop culture. Take a look and the trend is all around you. Shows like Once Upon a Time and Grimm are bending these old stories to fit modern sensibilities and tastes, and movies like the aforementioned one, the new Jack the Giant Killer, and Hansel and Gretel are (unsuccessfully) trying to turn these stories into something they are not... blockbuster movies. I could also mention the comic book Fables, which unbeknownst to the general public was really one of the forerunners for this entire trend, (so much so that that many have argued that Once Upon a Time is really nothing more than a Disneyized version of Fables... but in all fairness Disney has been ripping off and homogenizing folklore and fairy tales since almost before cartoons were a "thing.")

So why all the fairy tale stuff? I suppose really that is a multi-part answer. The first and most obvious being, Nerd Culture is becoming prominent in the media. (I know I tend to argue this point... a lot.) With comic book movies breaking box office records, and comic conventions being more jam packed with advertisers than a broadcast by the NFL, Hollywood is looking for new (old) source material for which to keep things going. Fairy tales and mythology are actually a perfectly logical extension of this idea. After all, I have always argued that comic books really are nothing more than classical myths retold from modern perspectives. This brings me to my second point, fairy tales, like mythology, are the original source material for most of our modern stories, (I mean except for Inception whose source material was a Donald Duck cartoon.) So it makes sense to go back to the raw material and try to tell the old stories in new ways.
Once Upon a Time (sometimes to great success and sometimes
not) tries to delve into the motives and reasons why the
familiar characters act the way do. Ultimately, taking this risk
helps many characters, like the Evil Queen, become much
more interesting and even sympathetic.

Lastly, there is something inherently dark about fairy tales. They are stories made specifically for kids, in which people are eaten by wolves, (step) mothers try to kill their children, and the woods are always full of dark and sinister things just waiting to devour the souls of the innocent. Ultimately, these stories were meant as cautionary tales from a time when the world was dark and full of dangers, and when parents could be just as superstitious as their wide-eyed offspring. Nowadays, we think we know better. We see the world with science and logic. We take the old tales with a grain of pixie dust, but sometimes they prove right. Sometimes there are strangers intent on harm who have windowless vans instead of gingerbread houses, evil queens and kings who rule governments for power and personal gain, and a big bad wolf willing to crash planes into buildings. I don't know about you, but sometimes when I think about the world, it scares the hell out of me.  

It is no coincidence that superheroes, zombies, and fairy tales all saw a rise in popularity after the events of the past decade. We have seen the face of monsters and super villains, so it is only proper that we cling to the tales that caution us against their dangers and give us hope for heroes that offer salvation. These stories make light of our fears and allows us to play out our nightmares in safe ways. Some scientists claim that dreaming has similar purposes. We are presented with fears in safe environments where we can have the time to figure out how to deal with them and maybe even face them, so that (when in the waking world) when we are presented with an actual problem or normally terrifying situation we will be better prepared to cope. In other words, you watch a zombie movie not to prepare for the zombie apocalypse, but to prepare for stressful presentations at work or even being mugged on the streets. Stories like fairy tales allow us to conceptualize the dangers and maybe even reassure us that everything will work out. We want to know that it will be okay, and these stories are a way for us to put our deepest fears into a predictable box we can digest. This is no different than what our ancestors did when they first invented them, except today the stories are updated for the reality of war in the Middle East as opposed to something like the Crusades which were... well I guess war in the Middle East.... but it is a different war... I think... Anyway, that reason is why updating these stories to better reflect who we are is a fairly good idea for writers and movie producers.
If you like folklore and fairy tale, check out the 10th Kingdom.
I promise you won't be disappointed.

And maybe that is my biggest contention with Snow White and the Huntsman, because ultimately the story is not really a modern adaptation at all. Yes, there are some new special affects thrown in and some kind of hint at a convoluted love triangle, but the story was nothing new. At least Hansel and Gretel tried to put an unexpected twist on an old classic (and we won't even mention the creativity of shows like Once Upon a Time and Grimm.) There was nothing new or exciting in the revised Snow White... no twist. They even had singing dwarves (Hi ho, Hi ho,) and worst of all, Snow White was helpless, (almost as helpless as she was in the other role that the actress is so well known for playing.) The character spends most of the movie stumbling around with other people or even animals leading her one way or another. So by the end of the movie, when we are supposed to believe she has become a sword wielding warrior queen, the transformation is a little unbelievable, (considering two days prior she barely knew how to hold a knife.)

Maybe, Snow White as a weak female character may have worked in the 1550's or even in the 1950's, but in today's world, the concept no longer reflects the reality we live in, (Unless you live in a reality of sparkling vampires, which I guess Stewart kind of does.) For a really good adaptation of the a strong Snow White and stronge female characters in genreal, check out Once Upon a Time, or even my favorite modernized fairy tale (from way back when,) The 10th Kingdom. As for everything else, I am enjoying this new resurgence of folklore, and I am looking forward to seeing what new and creative directions it takes... as long as you leave Kristen Stewart out of it.

And remember, you can always check out more at my blog:


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Comment by Adam J Brunner on May 16, 2013 at 12:45pm

Thank you for your comments as always. I would definately agree that special effects are a part of it. It is now cheaper for Hollywood to do these sorts of movies as opposed to Wizard of Oz back in the times of technicolor, where it took an astronomical budget and a cast of hundreds of people (little and average sized). I also agree that Snow White has been done to death. I say we get a new live-action movie about an old Hans Christien Anderson story or something unique like that.

Comment by Anh Uong on May 13, 2013 at 11:21pm

Ooo very interesting! I agree, I have noticed a lot more fairy tales coming back in newer renditions. Starting with just Disney's The Princess and the Frog and Tangled as a take on Rapunzel (which i thoroughly enjoyed), to tv show adaptations and not one but TWO movies off of Snow White. With Snow White, that story has been used to death so I was tired of more movies, however I have enjoyed Disney animating older fairy tales. I'm sorry you had to endure more Kristen Stewart....she just doesn't act that well and always comes off somewhat annoying! 

Comment by BmcLaugh on May 13, 2013 at 2:06pm

Kudos for giving props to 10th Kingdom!!!

This was a fun post to read.

Might another reason for the resurgence be Special Effects/CGI is finally at a level to do Fairy Tales justice? 

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