The Hollywood dictionary defines dark as follows "The mostest and bestest superlative evar, an automatic improvement on any given subject, the easiest way to betterify every single story every written."
I keep hearing the word dark being used like a word that magically makes any film instantly utterly perfect.
Snow White is a drab, mirthless, plodding tale written in the belief that all you need to write a great story is to have near endless supplies of gloom.
The real shame is that in my opinion the film could have been up there with Lord of the Rings, Narnia etc as an epic, but it very consistently fails to deliver any payoffs, I simply greeted the end credits with a sigh of relief.
The first problem is Kristen Stewart, she's purty and has perfected the despondent look like no other, it's sad she doesn't have any other acting skills worth mentioning. They tried to salvage by giving her a lot of heavily suggested "inner beauty" and a sudden dose of pluck for the last chapter, but little else. No growth, she has near zero charisma. It's like she was sedated through all of her scenes.
The huntsman is a showcase of drama, all drama, nothing but drama, being used to pad out a character that lacks all characterization.
SWATH is a film that introduces a bunch of plot points, but seems to forget them as soon as the next scene rolls on. The love triangle between SW, The Huntsman and the duke's son is left dangling. (Note to Hollywood, we pay money to see a FINISHED PRODUCT, not a pre-release extended trailer of the Blu-Ray or a forthcoming longer special edition.)
Even the dwarves get the shaft and up poo creek without a pickaxe. I'll admit I liked their design more than the upcoming Hobbit ones, but they never really get to shine, despite a cast of mostly well-proven actors. Bob Hoskins' blind Muir keeps touchingly telling us about some incredible and fair Snow White, but we never get to see her on screen and we have to take his word for it, besides some ham fisted attempts with a magical deer and some bad CGI elves (effects were mostly seamless throughout the film). The Dwarves get a few token funny and touching scenes and a much welcome relief from the overbearing drabness of the whole film.
Charlize Theron gives us a superbly unhinged evil queen that is justifiably evil, but only if you truly believe that abused women turn into evil unhinged feminists.
At various points in the film, scenes seem to briefly channel previous epic films. Some scenes reminded me of classics such as Excalibur, Knights of the Round Table, or the silent Die Niebelungen. Being reminded of such great films just makes the comparison with SWATH all the more grating.
It's a very confused film that is ruined by the belief that "dark" will magically make it a masterpiece of cinema. It mistakes drama for character development or simply doesn't even bother, and ultimately fails to deliver a decent payoff for the audience.
It seems to have enough aces (superb actors, excellent design, top notch effects) in the deck to be a great film. I'd love it to be a great film, but it lacks a decent plot and tries to apply a formula to the story in the same way a rapist applies himself to a young woman in a dark alley.
The plot just never adds up. Snow White manages to escape her many years of confinement in a medieval dungeon, before finding herself whisked off by a magical horse into an evil forest for no other reason than to be trapped there and to be found/rescued by the Huntsman. They do encounter a troll for the sole purpose of having a money shot in the trailer. Am I the only one who believed the troll would return at the end for a good can of whoopass ? Alas, it seems that SWATH believed it was to cool for such a conceit.
One final note. Who has the name and address of the person who made it mandatory that every single medieval/ancient film should have some kind of flaming, highly-explosive catapult projectiles ? I'd love to have a meeting with that person and a blunt, rusty hacksaw. The assault on the castle briefly turned into Omaha beach being shelled by 150mm artillery.
My conclusion is that SWATH is not only a bad film, but one where you can do little but wonder why so much great potential ended up being so utterly mediocre.