Fri
Mar 9 2012 9:00am

Snow White Trailer v. Snow White Trailer: A Sorta Fairy Tale

DISCLAIMER: I have seen neither Mirror, Mirror nor Snow White and the Huntsman. Mirror, Mirror may turn out to be a delightful romp, a fresh take on an old tale that will leave you laughing! (Unbloodylikely.)

The trailer for Mirror, Mirror sends me into a tizzy of rage. Admittedly, lots of things send me into a tizzy of rage. It’s kind of my thing. But the Snow White and the Huntsman trailer is all I have ever wanted in this world. In fact, they don’t even have to release a movie–I would watch that trailer for three hours straight. Why? Let’s break it down.

First, let’s watch:

Who’s the fairest?

The weirdest thing about Mirror, Mirror is that it looks more like a really ambitious theater production than a movie. This is baffling because, say what you will about Tarsem Singh, the man has a gift for spectacle–overwrought, overworked, occasionally involving hilarious hats–but he knows his movie magic. So what happened here? Why does everything look so flat and wrong? Why does every shot scream “sound stage”?

By contrast, Snow White and the Huntsman (SWATH) looks like A MOVIE. Every shot breathes with a sense of space. The icy landscape comes alive with soldiers and sound. Clothes look lived in. Surfaces sparkle or buckle beneath grime.

Clearly, Mirror, Mirror isn’t aiming for the same kind of believability, but whimsical should still feel tangible.

 

Bring me her heart

Still, the big problem isn’t Mirror, Mirror‘s surface. The problem is its soul.

Fairy tales frequently locate all evil and danger in older women (witches, fairies, wicked stepmothers). Driven by greed, vanity, and malice, they murder their rivals, steal infants, and if they’re feeling particularly peckish, they eat children. (I’m not going to go deep here, but I think it’s worth keeping in mind that of the thousands of people put to death for practicing witchcraft in Europe during the 16th and 17th centuries, the majority were women of a certain age–widows, spinsters, wives who had failed to give their husbands children.)

When we think about fairy tales, we should consider what these patterns might imply. And, from a storytelling perspective, if you’re going to make a two-hour movie based on such a tale, then you will be forced to ask, why would a woman resort to murder just to remain the fairest of them all?

According to Mirror, Mirror, it’s because the Evil Queen is vain, and vicious, and up to her ears in debt. In short, she’s the embodiment of every nasty fairy tale trope about women. But it’s much worse, because this Queen is also pathetic. Isn’t it ridiculous how women obsess over their looks? Isn’t it hilarious to see an older woman cram herself into a corset and try to bed a younger man? And what do you want to bet the Queen racked up those debts acquiring new gowns and redecorating the palace? How droll! At least the witches of the Brothers Grimm (and for that matter Disney) got to be genuinely scary and powerful. (This poor Queen is also hopelessly dated. Her one-liners sound like cast-offs from a particularly tired episode of Sex & the City.)

When it comes to the question of the Queen’s motives, SWATH is trying something entirely new. Based on the trailer, it looks like the writers have created a magical conceit that ties beauty directly to military might. This is just such a cool narrative trick. It takes what is essentially a passive power (the power of being beheld, coveted, envied, desired, the power that draws the eyes and protection of a prince) and makes it an active power (the power to wage war and command armies).

Like I said, I could be wrong. Mirror, Mirror could turn out to be a hoot. SWATH could come off as a humorless, ponderous mess. But based on the trailers, my gut says Mirror, Mirror is peddling old poison, and I’m not going to bite.

This article originally appeared on Leigh Bardugo’s blog.

 


Leigh Bardugo’s debut novel, Shadow & Bone will be released in June 2012.

17 comments
Alana Abbott
1. alanajoli
Mirror, Mirror could turn out to be a hoot.SWATH could come off as a humorless, ponderous mess.

Funnily enough, your "I could be wrong" scenario was my gut reaction to the trailers! To me, MM looks like fun, and SWATH looks like it will take itself way too seriously to get any enjoyment out of it at all (which is much how I felt about UNDERWORLD when it first came out).

It's a good thing that not all things have to appeal to all audiences equally!
Robert H. Bedford
2. RobB
When I first saw the trailer for Mirror, Mirror a threw up a little in my mouth. It looks over-wrought and all flash and no substance, almost a desperate attempt to cash in on the current trend of modernizing fairy-tales. From the trailer, Julia Roberts doesn't even seem to believe in the movie.

SWATH just looks like it takes itself seriously and it looks more...real and believable.
Eric Craddock
3. ebonecircus
I, too, am looking forward to SWATH more than the other, but I do find it interesting that in the marketing campaign for SWATH, they're not allowing Kristen Stewart to utter a word and barely show her in the trailer at all. You'd think, as one of the titular characters of the film, that she would be a large part of the movie, but, based on the trailer, one would think she's hardly a part of the movie. I hope this doesn't mean that she's horrible in the movie and they know it...
TB
4. TB
"When I first saw the trailer for Mirror, Mirror a threw up a little in
my mouth. It looks over-wrought and all flash and no substance, almost a desperate attempt to cash in on the current trend of modernizing fairy-tales. From the trailer, Julia Roberts doesn't even seem to believe in the movie."

I could say pretty much the same thing about SWatH. Mirror mirror on the other hand looks like a fun movie who does something different with the source material.

Now I'm not necessarily saying that MM will be a good movie, or SWatH will be bad... But I think they have about the same chance for either both of them.
Marcus W
5. toryx
I find the comparison funny because Mirror Mirror looked like a movie starring Julia Roberts and Snow White and the Huntsman seemed to pretty much be about a woman afraid of growing old and starring Thor. In either case Snow White seems kind of an afterthought and neither of the trailers exemplify in any way a "serious story."
Jenny Thrash
6. Sihaya
See, I thought SWATH looked like an extended perfume commercial (specifically Charlize Theron's Dior commercial). It did not appeal to me.
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
7. Lisamarie
I think they both look like guilty pleasures. I can't stand the way Charlize Theron talks - that overwrought, overdramatic low voice. Who actually talks like that???? She's trying too hard to be epic, in my opinion.

Mirror,Mirror actually looks a little more fun, to be honest. Although I agree about the unfortunate implications of the fairy tale in general regarding women and vanity.
TB
8. Lori M. Lee
I was really blown away by the trailer for SWATH. It was nothing like what I expected, and I can't wait to see it. Mirror, Mirror... kind of left me cocking my head a bit lol. It looks fun? But I kept rolling my eyes at some of the lines. "Say hello to my little friend." Like... srsly? >_
TB
9. bibliopunkk
I find it refreshing that both of the films seem to draw the focus back to the Queen, who is the main character of the story when you read it. Many people think the story is about Snow White but when you reread the original tale it focuses largely on the Queen and her journey within the narrative and how she directs the story, not Snow White. Whether one actress will perform better than the other is purely in the eye of the beholder, though there are many factors propelling the success of either film. I'm interested in the plot behind SWATH myself.

MM looks to be pure camp - It's a Bollywood style take on fairy tales and (as Leigh put it so well in the post) it reminds me of an overproduced theatre show. It puts me in the mind of the Fairy Tale Theatre show that Shelley Duvall was making in the 80's, but with more budget and less heart. SWATH looks to get back to the darkness that permeates every fairy tale and, in the end, that would be what I want to focus on as a viewer. Fairy tales are meant to be cautionary tales. They are meant to warn people away from possible entrapments (be it magical, realistic, or whatever). I think the audience that gravitates towards either one will do it because that is ultimately what they want out of the film - silliness or darkness.
Leigh Bardugo
10. LeighBardugo
I find the comparison funny because Mirror Mirror looked like a movie starring Julia Roberts and Snow White and the Huntsman seemed to pretty much be about a woman afraid of growing old and starring Thor. In either case Snow White seems kind of an afterthought and neither of the trailers exemplify in any way a "serious story."
Gotta disagree. Battles! Horses! Men being smashed to bits! Life and death on the edge of a sword. Seems pretty serious to me.

In both cases, the "Who is the fairest" question is central-- as well it should be. But in Mirror, Mirror, the Queen frets over seducing a young prince. In SWATH, the Queen seems to be all about control of her kingdom. (I am going to be VERY put out if there isn't a strong magical conceit in SWATH and it's just about dudes looking at Charlize and saying, "Buh buh buh. I will do your bidding.")
I think they both look like guilty pleasures. I can't stand the way Charlize Theron talks - that overwrought, overdramatic low voice. Who actually talks like that???? She's trying too hard to be epic, in my opinion.
Ha! Fair enough. No one. But does anyone really talk like usual trailer guy? All gritty and gravelly and, "In a land without justice, one man will stand against the odds"?
Lisamarie LiGreci-Newton
11. Lisamarie
LOL....well, yes, trailer guy is a little overdramatic, but he's not actually a character.

I do think the plot looks more interesting in SWATH...but I think whichever movie I decided to watch on a given day would depend largely on my mood. The person above this who described Mirror, Mirror as camp got it right I think. And sometimes I just want camp.
TB
12. sofrina
why would a woman resort to murder just to remain the fairest of them all?

I believe Neil Gaiman asked just that question of "Snow White" and then wrote his own version from the queen's point of view:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snow,_Glass,_Apples
Leigh Bardugo
13. LeighBardugo
It puts me in the mind of the Fairy Tale Theatre show that Shelley Duvall was making in the 80's, but with more budget and less heart.
YES. Brilliant call. Also, loved Fairy Tale Theatre. But "heart" also speaks to the success of a film like The Princess Bride which strikes a tone far closer to Mirror, Mirror than SWATH. As I said on my blog, TPB has a deep core of sincerity as well as a very smart script. Based on the trailer, I'm not convinced Mirror, Mirror has either. (See Lori's comment re "say hello to my little friend.")
Fairy tales are meant to be cautionary tales.
And I'll be interested to see what lesson (if any) either film conveys.
The person above this who described Mirror, Mirror as camp got it right I think. And sometimes I just want camp.
Again, I'm willing to be won over, but I tend to think deliberate camp is pretty hard to get right. (And if I'm not careful, I'll start babbling about Black Swan.)
Jenny Kristine
14. jennygadget
"...Snow White and the Huntsman seemed to pretty much be about a woman afraid of growing old and starring Thor. In either case Snow White seems kind of an afterthought and neither of the trailers exemplify in any way a "serious story."

I'm not sure if I am simply reading this into it, but it sounds like maybe you are saying women being afraid of growing old is not a "serious story"? (although possibly you meant just the way the trailers are presenting the premise) Which I would have to disagree with, it's a pretty universal and serious story, imho.

I do agree that Snow White seems very much an afterthought in both, which I don't really mind - we could do with more stories that focus on older women, and looking at the story from the pov of the stepmother may be interesting. Although it does make me more nervous in terms of potential fail. Are we going to come to see Theron's Wicked Stepmother as a complex, real person - only to still see her as inevitably deserving defeat, in the way that powerful women always do?

hmm...that now has me thinking that Mirror Mirror might not have the typical ending. I would be very disappointed if they spent this much time introducing the stepmother in such a silly way and still gave her the usual fate.
Allana Schneidmuller
15. blutnocheinmal
I can only hope that Mirror, Mirror doesn't do the typical ending.

It would make up for the "stereotypical older woman feeling insecure" bit if she learned to accept her aging and settle down with a nice older guy and stop trying to fix everything with money.

"...Hunstman" looks good, but if the quality of the movie can't carry the seriousness it has, it will fail hard. I do think the downplaying of Stewart is odd, possibly to distance itself from Twilight, possibly because her acting turned out bad.
I wish the real reason was because her character is mute. I think that would be a really cool, but risky decision.
Leigh Bardugo
16. LeighBardugo
Would be fun to wager on this one. I suspect Julia will end up in a hovel with Nathan Lane. There are worse things, I suppose.

KStew's character is most definitely not a mute ;) I'm pretty sure she has lines in the trailer cut from Spain.

Again, I don't think this is necessarily about sympathizing with the Queen. It's okay for women to be evil, but how are they empowered? Is a woman empowered only through beauty? Through goodness? Courage? This is why I'm most intrigued by SWATH and the potential for a magical conceit that links beauty to military power.

I do worry that SWATH will fall down under the weight of the EPIC. I hope it has a good dose of gallows humor.
Donia L
17. Donia
@LeighBardugo I’m curious if you’ve now seen SWATH what your opinion of it is… I thought the trailer looked fantastic for all the reasons you state above, but the movie sorely suffered for casting Kristin Stewart. Perhaps she would be better playing Pinocchio? (Except he has to convincingly turn into a real human at the end, so nevermind.) The last scene where the director lingers on her face for what seems like 5 minutes and we’re obviously supposed to be experiencing her overwhelming emotions as she’s put on the throne… yet we simply stare at an empty face… was truly agonizing to watch. (And personally, I don’t understand how one could ever claim that Stewart is “fairer” than Charlize Theron — when that’s the whole basis of conflict for the movie, it’s just too unbelievable as Stewart is simply ordinary looking.)

Sad waste of what looked like great effort and opportunity by casting a popular actress rather than a good one. But unfortunately that seems to be the way Hollywood works more often than not. (I *sincerely* hope the adaptation of your books doesn't fall to that fate.)

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