Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Snow White and the Huntsman vs. Mirror, Mirror, two films about what happens when the story of Snow White gets a live-action treatment.
PremiseThis week, we examine two big-budget, live-action reinventions of the Snow White fairy tale. Snow White and the Huntsman takes the action-packed approach to the classic Brothers Grimm story. At the start, the plot is pretty true to the original: the evil queen, played by a devilish Charlize Theron, sends her huntsman (Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth) to claim the heart of the one who will surpass her in beauty, Kristen Stewart. The twist is that our evil queen is suffering from just as much megalomania as vanity: she takes pleasure in death on the battlefield, and in her spare time, enjoys sucking the life from young girls. Once she finds out she can gain immortality by eating Snow White’s heart, the plot is set. From what we can tell from the random, adrenaline-filled scenes of the trailer, along with the short plot description, the queen’s plan goes—gasp!—awry. The huntsman joins up with Snow White and trains her in combat, to ultimately beat the evil queen.
To some extent, Mirror, Mirror also follows the same storyline—an aging queen, Julia Roberts, banishes the beautiful raven-haired princess to the forest. In this edition, Snow White is played by Phil Collins’ daughter, Lily Collins. However, economic motivations seem to be driving the queen in Mirror, Mirror: without Snow White as competition, the she has a good shot of marrying the rich Prince Albert, The Social Network‘s Armie Hammer, and solving her debt problem. And unlike the more serious Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror, Mirror has dwarfs! Dwarfs who say things like, “Snow who? Snow way!” Yet for all the whimsy, dwarfs aside, Mirror, Mirror just doesn’t excite us as much as the Braveheart-meets-Brothers Grimm approach of Snow White and the Huntsman. And it’s not just because of its faux-Daft Punk-for-Tron soundtrack. Advantage: Snow White and the Huntsman Snow Whites This is kind of an unfair bout, as the trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman doesn’t show Kristen Stewart saying anything. What we do get is an epic ponytail, tight armor, and the knowledge that Stewart has five years’ experience acting opposite sexy men in a fantasy world. Technically, yes, the little Twilighter can pull it off, but just seeing her laying around looking pretty or heading into battle looking pretty is not enough. Mirror, Mirror‘s Lilly Collins, meanwhile, makes sense in the role of spunky, gorgeous teenage princess, even in the swan-head dress she wears to the ball. We can’t wait to hear the explanation for that. Advantage: Mirror, Mirror Evil Queens As far as accents go, we’re not very impressed by either Julia Roberts or Charlize Theron. We understand: no one’s is trying to stay true to the Grimms’ material and speak in German accents, and Hollywood tends to conflate “foreign” with “British.” But Mirror, Mirror‘s Julia Roberts sounds like she’s using her British twang only when she remembers to. Charlize Theron remembers it a bit more often, which tilts her in the boat in her favor for now. In terms of magic, again, Roberts falls short to Theron. (Blame it on the misused puppy-love potion.) Charlize’s magical elements are quite a bit more sinister than America’s former sweetheart’s—her magic mirror takes human shape; she can turn into some bad-ass crows. Finally, we must compare the visuals. Both ladies are striking as the evil queen, except with Roberts it’s for all the wrong reasons. And we don’t blame her. It’s not like the actress chose that strange wardrobe, which made her look more dumpy and silly rather than regal and threatening. Theron, however, looks straight out of a darker fairy-tale book: the hair, the make up, that crown we can’t get over. Advantage: Snow White and the Huntsman Supporting Cast With big-budget fairy-tale movies like this, it’s no surprise there’s a solid group of actors to back up the leading ladies. However, in Snow White and the Huntsman, the list is short: Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth, and Oxford-educated model Lily Cole (The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) as the girl who gets her life sucked out. We assume her role is a bit bigger than that. And of course, Hemsworth has enough training as an Avenger to convincingly play a killer ax-wielding huntsman. Yet, for a movie that looks a bit too ridiculous to extract great performances from it’s cast, Mirror, Mirror ultimately has the better supporting cast. Armie Hammer is genetically rigged to be Prince Albert (i.e., Prince Charming), and then there’s Nathan Lane, who locks down the category for Mirror, Mirror. It may be the laziest use of Lane’s talent, but the guy adds a bit of pizzazz to any movie he’s in. Honestly, if a Snow White movie came out with him as the evil queen—we’d go see it. Advantage: Mirror, Mirror
The Look At the helm of Mirror, Mirror is Tarsem Singh, the director who brought us The Cell. Yes, Mirror, Mirror, with its nearly campy cinematography, came from the same mind that started off his feature film career with this. His last effort, Immortals, now in theaters, is a 300-resembling visual epic. Yet, we’re not sure if perhaps Singh was afraid to infuse his eerie aesthetic into a fairy tale, but what comes out is less than visionary. We would have been intrigued by a Bollywood-infused take on the fairy tale, but all the trailer lets on is one song with a massive dance number. Snow White and the Huntsman, the debut feature film from Rupert Sanders, meanwhile, looks a whole lot more promising. Until now, Sanders has only directed commercials, a career start similar to that of another dark visionary: David Fincher. And though it’s true, the trailer doesn’t give evidence of whether Kristen Stewart pulls off her role, visually, Sanders’ film just looks awesome. Advantage: Snow White and the Huntsman That Fairy-Tale Je Ne Sais Quoi Cartoons, TV shows, and movies have all been able to pull off fairy-tale worlds successfully, but it’s a tough task creating a believable fantasy. With the visually unbelievable, though utterly grotesque film The Cell, the first film by Mirror, Mirror‘s director Tarsem Singh, we had our expectations set high—but altogether, we just don’t see the elements tying together well. The cinematography and mise-en-scène seems loosely centered around a whimsical theme that just doesn’t get our imaginations going. Don’t even ask us about what we think of the outfits. True, Snow White and the Huntsman’s vision of the world does not compare to Pan’s Labyrinth—though that one monster sort of does, right?—but the magical touches are expertly done. The evil queen’s crown, the magic mirror, that one shot with Theron dipping into the white liquid: we’re impressed. Advantage: Snow White and the Huntsman The Verdict Both Snow White films have a can’t-take-your-eyes-off-it quality. But we’d probably only watch Mirror, Mirror out of annoying curiosity to see just how far it goes on the wacky-whimsy spectrum. Snow White and the Huntsman, meanwhile, is a novel action-packed take on the fairy tale we all grow up on. Yes, it may be lacking in dwarfs and pretty dresses and a hot prince—but who needs a cute prince when you’ve got a smoking outdoorsman? Winner: Snow White and the Huntsman