Category Archives: Movies

The shapeshifting Snow Queen and all things Frozen

Shameless confession time: I love Frozen.

frozen cast

There, I’ve said it, I’ve aligned myself with every six year old girl on the planet, and I don’t even care. It’s a great movie. The songs are catchy (painfully so). Elphaba and Veronica Mars sing in it. It’s a lot of fun. And there’s a ridiculously cute snowman.

olaf

Less fun is the creepy animation with the girls’ unnatural looks. Come on, Disney, enough with fake Barbie looking characters. (Beware the link; as an article about unrealistic body images for women, the lingerie ad that appeared when I read it was slightly ironic.)

frozen sisters2

Also less fun is the way “Let it Go” gets stuck in your head, or hearing every single small girl around the world sing it. Literally. I have been walking in Spain and heard a little girl singing it in the street. They were screening it in Norway when I was there (and you can go tour the places that inspired the film). Flying back home to Australia, I listened to another young girl singing it in the plane as we waited for take off. And for a while social media was awash with variations on “Let it Go” (and variations on “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?”). You can even sing along yourself.

Okay,  I don’t love it that much. Please, make it stop.

For anyone awakening today from a coma some years in the making, Frozen is a Disney animation based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale “The Snow Queen”.

In the original, parts of a cursed mirror fall into people’s eyes and distort their vision so they can no longer anything good or beautiful in the world but only what is bad and ugly. A boy, Kai, falls victim to the mirror, and begins to hate everything around him, even his best friend Gerda. He’s taken by the Snow Queen far, far away but Gerda’s a plucky girl, and battles her way through to save him with her love. It’s a great story.

The_Snow_Queen_by_Elena_Ringo

In Frozen, Disney has shaken up the story by making the Snow Queen a young queen called Elsa, who cannot control her ice-making powers and fears hurting those around her. Rather than offering her snowmaking services to local ski fields in need of some fresh powder, she runs off to set up camp on her own, far away from the rest of the world. She’s saved by the sacrificial love of a sibling rather than a suitor. Nobody gets married in the end. Is this a first for Disney fairytales?

frozen_anna

The Snow Queen has been a pretty popular lady lately, appearing in a range of popular texts. In Frozen, she’s a very sympathetic character who just wants to control her abilities without hurting anyone.

Frozen

She pops up on Once Upon a Time, the fairytale television program we’ve blogged about before, as a villain who turns out to be not such a villain after all.

Once upon

And she features in Jackson Pearce’s fourth book in her modern fairytales series, Cold Spell, a series we’ve previously blogged about. I shall not attempt to explain the complicated shapeshifting world in this series (seven sons, twins, triplets, mermaids, snow queens, gypsies, bad werewolves, misunderstood werewolves all appear), but suffice to say in this case, the Snow Queen is evil and has hidden herself away from society on a frozen island. She recruits a man-harem since she is desperate for love, men that she uses and abuses and turns into werewolves, until one day she gets her comeuppance from a plucky girl Ginny with a lot of love in her heart for one of the man-harem members, her best friend Kai. Cold Spell follows the original story more closely than other iterations, in a modern setting, and tries to engender some sympathy for the Snow Queen, though certainly not to the same extent as in Frozen.

cold spell

We’ve blogged here before about the current popularity of fairytales and how some have morphed over time into contemporary representations, as with Snow White and Red Riding Hood. The villain-misunderstood outsider-hero Snow Queen is yet another shapeshifting fairytale character to be recast in contemporary stories in more sympathetic terms. Based on the song and clothing choices of little girls around the world, Elsa from Frozen is the clear favourite of the current crop of Snow Queens.


Are zombies the new vampires? Part 2

Someone rather foolishly once wrote on this blog that vampires and werewolves are easily cast as romantic heroes, while zombies languish as the unwanted and rejected lovers, unable to ever meet anyone because they always want to eat everyone.

Okay, that was me, and I was wrong. An astute reader of this blog (thanks Frank) pointed me towards a film called Warm Bodies (2013), a romantic zombie comedy film (rozomedy?) about a teenage girl’s romance with a “sensitive undead” after a zombie apocalypse.

Sensitive undead? Apocalypse?

Sign me up right now!

So it is time to admit my error – sorry, two readers of this blog – and update my previous musings on the topic of paranormal suitors.

Warm Bodies takes place in a post-apocalyptic North American setting, 8 years after the usual kind of vague apocalyptic plague thingy happened. We begin with R, a zombie suffering existential angst as he wanders around an abandoned airport now inhabited by fellow zombies. He wonders about the meaning of life now that he has none: he feels alone, longs to connect with other people, and wonders if his life would be better if he worked on his posture and had more respect.

Nearby, humans are living in a fortified urban enclosure, worrying about extinction, and occasionally venturing outside to find more resources and medical supplies. A human team sent outside encounters R and fellow zombies who are out for a stroll looking for food. They fight. Zombies eat the humans. Well, most of them.

The humans include a girl called Julie and her boyfriend, and R eats her boyfriend’s brains but saves Julie and takes her back to his crib (an abandoned plane). R is embarrassed about his love of eating brains but he also relishes it … bad pun, sorry … because when he eats someone’s brains he captures their memories and feelings.

So, when he kills Julie’s boyfriend, his initial interest in Julie takes on an added dimension because of those captured feelings. Cue unexpected romance between our leads R and Julie, Shakespearean connotations and all. He plays her bad music, occasionally summons up an actual word or two instead of his usual grunts, and struggles to understand her. In other words, your typical man and woman attempting to date.

warm_bodies_ver12

The movie gives us levels of zombie-ness: R is unusual for the fact that he has some thinking and caring abilities despite his love of eating brains and limited speech, and over the course of the film he and fellow zombies gradually become more human. The bad zombies are those who have lost all humanity and turn into skeletal CGI “bonies”.

It’s a funny movie in a low-key way. There’s plenty of self-referential humour about the zombie genre and wordplay on life and death. “Welcome to the dead zone,” graffiti announces to the human team exiting the compound, “Look alive out there!!!!” “This date is not going well,” R thinks as he struggles to communicate with Julie. “I’m going to die all over again.”

At one point Julie holds up to R the DVD cover of Zombie (1979), the very image I chose for my earlier blog post to illustrate how unromantic most zombies would be as heroes, which is a nice contrast for this current post.

So was I wrong about the romantic lead thing? Maybe. R is appealing in the way of all awkward, socially inept characters whose communication skills might be lacking but whose sincerity can’t be doubted. Which makes a nice change from those uber handsome, rich, smooth talking vamps that so many teenage girls love. And the film’s celebration of brainy girls is worth some props.

OK so it’s kind of completely undermined by the busty blonde pose, but hey, let’s give them points for trying to be funny anyway. And, like the similar meme running round social media that there’s nothing hotter than a man who reads, they are sentiments we can heartily subscribe to here. But such sentiments mean the typical non-Warm Bodies zombie still remains unattractive as the thinking woman’s romantic lead, since most of them can’t exactly think, let alone read.

If nothing else, though, R has nailed the zombie version of the intense leading man stare, so maybe there’s hope for lonely zombies yet.

 

 

 

 

 


Pompeii: a disaster movie in more ways than one

It’s long overdue for a thoughtful, well-researched review on here of a provocative piece of cinema. This is not that. Instead: Pompeii.

Where to begin. That’s easy: the accents. Pompeii is a deeply entertaining film if only for the accents. I don’t know why we’re in the ancient Roman world hearing British accents, but okay, let’s go with it. But the entertaining part is how the actors attempt to do a British accent. Playing the villain, Kiefer Sutherland adopts a mystifying British accent that involves gratuitous amounts of lisping and negligible amounts of actual British accent. Take a listen here, if you can stand the ad. It’s a deleted scene but amply illustrates the pain the viewer suffers.

And lisper of bad British accents.

Look, I have fond memories of the first few seasons of the TV show 24, and Kiefer Sutherland in it, so I prefer to think he is doing the accent ironically.

Then there’s the main guy, Milo, to whom I objected for many reasons, primarily because his name belongs either to an iconic Australian drink, or one of the animals from that movie Milo and Otis. So, I can’t take him seriously for those two entirely valid reasons, but also for others: why is he whispering every line?

Why is he oiled up all the time and how did he get that six pack when he was a slave? I didn’t think slaves could choose their diets and spend hours in the gym, but hey, I’m no ancient Roman citizen, so maybe they could.

I have learned that this guy (Kit Harington) is some kind of big name in the Game of Thrones TV show, a role that apparently extends his acting range a lot, or so these pictures tell us.

Then there was the bewildering subplot that took up too much time at the start. So Milo’s family is slaughtered and that seems to be some kind of motivation for something, I guess revenge, but really, people, a volcano’s about to blow. A volcano! Apparently the volcano bit wasn’t enough, they thought we have to come up with a grand revenge plot of a slave taking on the evil people who murdered his family, while simultaneously sticking it to the evil Roman empire. Ha! Take that, evil Roman empire!

Pompeii Photos

But then, everyone dies in Pompeii, including our whispering hero and lisping villain, so I dunno if the evil Roman empire even got that memo from oiled up Milo sticking it to them.

And finally, the romance. This is how it goes. High born girl travels in a carriage, pouting about her sad, sad life. Horse falls over. Slaves wandering by at the same time look on at fallen horse. Oiled up slave Milo breaks the fallen horse’s neck and high born girl falls in love. As you do. Well, who doesn’t dream of meeting Mr Right while bonding over killing a horse. HOT!

Somehow, these two kids manage to meet up in Pompeii, give an entirely unconvincing performance of falling in eternal love, and then in the most baffling of baffling parts, they start riding off to escape the volcano (yes, gentle viewers, eventually the filmmakers remembered the volcano the film is named for), and then decide, hey, let’s not out-run this volcano lark, let’s just get off the horse and stand here and kiss instead while dying. Because it’s soooo romantic.

The end. And fortunately for you, gentle reader, this review is ending at this point too. Feel free to disagree and point out some of the good things about the movie instead…


Shapeshifting in the Magic Kingdom

Alright, I have a dirty little secret: despite being a well-educated feminist who understands all the gender problems with the princesses and the problematic cultural stereotypes on some of the older rides and in the older films, and who knows that the Pocahontas story was really *nothing* like that …

I love Disneyland.

Image

I didn’t think I would. As an 18 year old living in Tokyo, I resisted going to Disneyland because it was expensive, and it was for kids. Then someone actually took me there. And then I went again. And when we took my kids back to Japan in 2003, on our one “spare” day between visiting relatives, that’s where we went.

Since then, I’ve been to Disneyland in Anaheim three times (with my kids’ dance school), and Disney World in Orlando once. I’ll leave it up to Roslyn to confess her own Disney experiences, but suffice to say, there are photos of us both in Walt worlds. Together.

Last year, my daughter was cast as Panic in the dance school’s production of Hercules. Hades’ minions, Pain and and Panic, have the ability to shapeshift– as do a number of the Disney villains, including Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty, the evil stepmother in Snow White, and Jafar in Aladdin.

 

late 2012 early 2013 022Jamie (L) as Panic and her friend Lucy (R) as Pain. There’s a typecasting joke here, somewhere …

Very few of the good guys have this ability. The one obvious exception is the Beast, and let’s face it, we’re not sure he actually is a good guy for a while there. In fact, the only reason we don’t read him as a selfish jerk for the first half of the film is because Gaston is filling the role so admirably. The message seems to be: nice, solid guys are … well, solid. And shift-y guys are shifty!

Another confession: when I first saw the transformation scene at the climax of Beauty and the Beast, I didn’t quite respond the way the animators probably intended. In fact, I yelled, “Hey, that’s a rip -off of The Dark Crystal!” and wondered aloud why the Beast had to made beautiful to be acceptable. Of course, the ugly duckling motif is one which is familiar to Disney audiences.

 

makeovers

I much preferred the parallel transformation scene in Shrek. It’s OK, young viewers, for your true self to be somewhat less than a magical makeover. Honest. (When we were in Disneyland in April, a shop owner told me she wished Shrek was “one of theirs,” by the way; apparently she hadn’t read the whole DisneyWar story and realised that Jeffrey Katzenburg used disgruntled Disney animators on that film and that there’s a reason why the other Princesses in it are kind of lampooned …)

Despite all this, I really love Beauty and the Beast. I think the score has a lot to do with that, and the idea of a bookish brunette being the Princess seemed slightly more relatable than say, a downtrodden blonde stepdaughter whose best mates are sewing mice. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

In a little over a week’s time, Roslyn and I are off to see a local production of Beauty and the Beast. I can’t wait to see how they handle the shapeshifting scene, live. (For the record, Pain and Panic used a lot of velcro and props and hoped the audience knew the plot). A few of my former students are in the cast, and it’s our last big girls’ night out before Roslyn abandons me and flies to the other side of the world to start a new adventure.

As for my 14 year old, she’s just along for the ride because she LOVES Belle. And maybe she’s just a little bit fond of us, too.

ImageJamie & Belle


Iconic shapeshifters: Peter as the wolfboy in Jumanji. And, fake monkeys!

So a couple of corrections immediately: Peter’s not exactly an iconic shapeshifter. And he’s not really a wolf boy. He’s kind of a monkey boy. But there really are fake monkeys!

I want to blog about this because in a recent review of our book – which was very nice, thank you – the question of text choice came up. Our book covers a lot of novels, film and TV, but we never wanted to do a comprehensive survey of every shapeshifter, instead we wanted to pick some texts and discuss them in the context of particular themes. We also chose to focus on relatively recent texts from the last decade or two, because that’s what most readers are familiar with.

 But it did make me think about some texts we might have missed, and that will have to function as my segue into the topic of this blog post: Jumanji.

I have a weakness for this movie. Don’t judge me. Jumanji is a 1995 children’s fantasy film directed by Joe Johnston and starring Robin Williams, Bonnie Hunt, and Kirsten Dunst, and, most importantly, Bradley Pierce, our almost-wolfboy. You can watch the trailer here.

If you’ve not seen the film, the plot is about a couple of kids who find a board game called Jumanji, which brings jungle life to the real world: dangerous creatures appear, there’s a stampede, monsoonal rain, and even a nod to Australia with a giant crocodile and enormous spiders.

Well, that’s what I call a Hollywood nod to Australia anyway. So when the kids play, one of them gets sucked into the game (literally), and 26 years later emerges when 2 new kids find the game and start playing it. They then battle the jungle terrors together until one of them manages to get to the end of the game, which returns everything to normal.

The movie is notable for the fakest looking monkeys ever (that is an entirely unsubstantiated claim and I’m willing to see faker monkeys if anyone wants to find them).

They were probably okay for 1995 but honestly, I kept looking for the bits of string holding up the paper monkeys being moved around the set.

There’s a lovely moment when the monkeys pass a shop with a television screening a scene of the flying monkeys on The Wizard of Oz, and they get quite excited.

As I watched this again recently I realised that there is an element of shapeshifting in this film that I didn’t remember: the boy, played by Bradley Pierce, turns into a half monkey in the film after he cheats at the game. I think it’s a half monkey but initially I assumed it was a half wolf, because the sudden hairy hands/face and pointed ears look like most other human-wolf hybrids on screen.

Also, the boy’s name is Peter, hence another lupine connotation. But then you see the big tail and no, it’s a monkey. He stays as this human hybrid until the game is over and everything reverts back to before.

If we were to position this film within the other texts discussed in our book, we’d probably include it with other shapeshifters who have been turned into an animal as a punishment; ie, shapeshifting functions as a moral lesson. Remember Eustace from Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in the Chronicles of Narnia? His greed for gold turned him into a dragon. Only once he’d learned his lesson could he return to being a human. Many shapeshifters these days are framed in terms of redemption, where they are trying to overcome their darker side, and sometimes they have become shapeshifters because of wrongdoing. And so we have Peter, who cheated in the game, so he lost part of his humanity and became part animal.

 The thing is, he’s a very cute little wolf/monkey boy and it’s hard to shake your head for his lost humanity when you see this:

This is one of those blog posts without a real point, which I was hoping to disguise in cute pictures of the little wolf/monkey boy, but as I reach this point I think it’s best to just ‘fess up and say it’s just for fun. Anyway, here’s to the forgotten wolf/monkey boys and other shapeshifters permeating our popular culture texts that didn’t make the final cut for our book.


Breaking Dawn Part 2: Movie review

The usual disclaimers apply, beware of spoilers in this review, though most people keen to see the final instalment of The Twilight Saga were lined up at the midnight screenings back in November when the film was released, unlike me, who waited a leisurely few weeks to see it and an even more leisurely couple of months to post a review.

Nonetheless: **Spoiler alert!**

I should preface this by explaining that I come to this series with mixed feelings, having enjoyed the first film and novel, but not so much the sequels. So I’m by no means a devoted fan, but neither am I a(n entirely) scornful critic.

The film is based on the last part of Book Four, with the powers that be having decided to split the final book into two movies for reasons of commercial gain artistic expression. Bella has married vampire Edward Cullen, their half-human half-vampire child Renesmee has just been born, and Bella has survived being turned into a vampire. The plot builds towards a confrontation between the good vampires (the Cullens and friends) and the bad vampires (the reigning Volturi and friends), and our vampire lovebirds are now in danger (again).

We discussed the Twilight novels (and briefly, the films) in our book, and specifically we looked at how the novels use some of the werewolf characters in regard to adolescence, gender, class and race (just a few minor things, then). I’ll talk about those aspects briefly and then move onto less serious things.

However, the werewolves were downgraded to bit players for this film; none of the formerly major wolves appeared in human form except Jacob and, briefly, Sam. There was an odd Christmas scene where the characters formerly known as Seth and Leah were positioned carefully so we never saw anything but the back of their heads. Perhaps the budget was a bit tight so they brought in some hair doubles? Very odd.

So it’s difficult to really add anything here about shapeshifting in the series because the wolves do not feature as much. Adolescence isn’t really approached here, since Jacob and his Quileute friends are fairly stable by now in their lupine identities and able to control their aggression.

Gender is interesting only insofar as the book and film both describe Bella’s increased physical strength, which for a time is greater than anyone else’s strength. Bella’s mental power is also an important factor in the book because of her ability to control her lust for human blood and her discovery that she has a supernatural ability to “shield” herself and others from supernatural harm, but this film struggles to bring in all the plot threads so this isn’t as big a theme as it might have been. So while it might be worthwhile exploring how the series constructs Bella at long last as “equal” to those around her (and most importantly, in her eyes, almost equal to Edward), by virtue of her change into a vampire, the film doesn’t really add anything different to what we already talked about.

Class again doesn’t come up sufficiently for discussion because we’re almost entirely in the lap of Cullen luxury in this film, with a notable exception of Bella’s father Charlie and his Quileute girlfriend, and I say notable because it is a striking visual contrast between the Cullen conspicuous displays of wealth and Charlie’s working class background with respect to their appearance/clothes/houses, which is the same with the class divisions between vampire/werewolf (or, white/ Indigenous) in the series.

Finally, race. In our book we talked about how the Quileute wolves learn in the climactic scene of Book 4 that they are not “real” werewolves but shapeshifters. How do these Indigenous people learn this crucial part of their history? The white ruling vampires tell them. We mentioned in the book that this is a little odd (if not suggestive of neo colonization) that white people need to explain to the Indigenous group their very existence and history, but there’s no need for concerns here when that entire subplot becomes just one line: “But those werewolves are our natural enemies!” protests one bad Volturi vampire as they leave peacefully instead of fighting it out as they wished.

Now that I’ve shown such fortitude in taking the film seriously, I have to talk about the superficial:  some of those aspects of this movie that were just a bit too silly and provoked laughter where it presumably wasn’t intended.

It might have been the opening scenes of Bella’s red eyes and flitting about the forests in a pristine blue evening dress while devouring beasts with her bare teeth.

Or was it seeing these characters run at superhuman speed through forests and over cliffs, which has just not gotten any less silly from the first movie.

Maybe it’s Jacob’s “imprinting” with Renesmee, which the film tried to gloss over as quickly as possible, and yet somehow nothing can take the ick factor out of pairing an adult male with a little girl no matter how much Jacob insists “it’s not like that!” (no, Jacob, it’s not like that. Yet).

Or perhaps the endless close ups of vampiric red eyes, which unfailingly displayed the faint circular rim of the coloured contacts the actors were wearing?

How about Jacob’s strip tease for poor old Bella’s dad? Words failed me. Stifled laughter did not.

Renesmee’s name? Renesmee’s nickname?

Or those CGI wolves, who just looked fake most of the time?

Carlisle’s very uncool haircut and colour that turned him from Forks’ nicest looking doctor to its frumpiest?

How about the motley cast of red-eyed International X-Men: Vampires and their assortment of odd super powers?

Or what about the characterisation of Bella? It’s business as usual here, displaying a range of emotions from frowning over a grim future, to frowning over Alice’s cryptic note, to frowning over Jacob and Renesmee’s romance (though I’m with you on that one, sister), to frowning over making her psychic powers work. But she does smile sometimes (see that earlier picture of her running super fast with Edward?).

Several things struck me as weird. These vampires are supposed to be dazzlingly beautiful, quite literally. So why were many of the actors in obvious, heavy make up? One wouldn’t think gorgeous young sparkly things should need so much eyeliner, lipstick, eyeshadow, foundation, false lashes, ad nauseum, but apparently so.

How are we supposed to reconcile the inconsistent ethics in the series, where the Cullens are constructed as “good” because they choose to abstain from human blood no matter how badly they want it, but where the same good characters will watch, without a qualm, another “less-good (but not entirely evil)” vampire kill a human?

Other parts were much better than expected. For instance, I was, quite frankly, nervous about seeing Creepy Renesmee on screen, but the filmmakers did an okay job of turning the freakish vampire-human hybrid into an entirely unscary, cute little girl. Probably not showing her little girl teeth dripping with blood helped with that.

Several parts of the film were effective. The battle scene trick was quite convincing (I have heard others heap scorn on it, but it worked for me), I sat there thinking for a moment, Hey, this is a lot more gory than I remember in the books, and since when did Carlisle and Seth and Leah all die, did I somehow miss that in the books? When we were shown those deaths were not real but just one of Alice’s visions, I found it oddly comforting. And then I found it deeply disturbing that I found that comforting, but there you have it. Mind you, the fighting was still weird to see people flying and fake wolves jumping around and magical powers being used, and all so very gory, with the opposing forces finding a vast number of ways to detach heads from bodies.

The end was a nice strategy of paying tribute to the previous saga instalments, showing Bella finally learning to share her thoughts with Edward, which was a neat way not only of showing her increased power over her abilities but also of showing a montage of scenes from the earlier movies.

If anyone else has any thoughts on this film series – or the novels – please feel free to share, even if the film feels like a long time ago now!


Snow White and the Huntsman, and other modern fairytales

Fairytales have been getting a fair run lately. TV has given us Once Upon a Time and Grimm, and in cinema just this year we’ve seen two versions of the Snow White tale in Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. In novels the Red Riding Hood tale has been cropping up in a lot of teen werewolf romances, or in other novels where Red just kills the wolf herself, as is the theme in Jackson Pearce‘s Sisters Red; her sequel is a retelling of another fairytale, Hansel and Gretel (Sweetly).

I managed to catch Snow White and the Huntsman as its run ended here in Australia. Partly out of interest as a “new” fairytale, partly out of dedication to our loyal two readers of this shapeshifting blog because the promos suggested the Queen might just be a shapeshifter, and partly because there was a Hemsworth in it, and we are nothing if not patriotic here.

The villain of this film is the Queen, of course, named Ravenna and played by Charlize Theron channelling fellow blonde-powerful-beauty-in-fantasy-land Cate Blanchett’s Spooky Galadriel Voice from Lord of the Rings, although Charlize was much shoutier, to less effect.

Theron upon discovering the script calls for the Huntsman to kiss that Snow White upstart, not the Queen.

And of course, when both women are faced with the temptation of power, Galadriel’s answer is no, while Ravenna’s is a resounding yes, and her desire for power is her motivation throughout the film. Interesting ideas in the movie – and of course in the fairytale – about the importance that we as a society can place on outward appearance: Ravenna is stunning for much of the film as a woman obsessed with gaining immortality, and not just any old immortality but the kind that comes with Botox and perfectly shaped brows. She spends a lot of time sighing and pouting in the front of the mirror (yes, The Mirror) and worrying about looking tired and drawn (ie, like the rest of us).

They’re called wrinkles, Ravenna, and it’s going to be all right.

The heroine is Snow White, played by Kristen Stewart. Ravenna is after Snow White because The Mirror decides Snow is now the prettiest girl in the land, and that Ravenna can only win back the Miss Fantasy Universe title if she kills Snow White and takes her heart, with immortality as a bonus prize. I found the casting of Snow White or perhaps the film’s interpretation of the character unconvincing: the part seemed to call for someone warmer and more obviously embodying the qualities (fairness of character, kindness, love) that were supposed to represent Snow White. In fact, in this iteration of the fairytale Snow is quite literally the source of “life” in this world; restoring nature back to itself, winning forest creatures over, basically undoing the evil Ravenna has done.

But to my mind this was a rather remote, cold Snow White who was hard to really barrack for. This made it hard to engage with the character, and certainly when it comes to her big speech where she rallies the army to her side to fight against Ravenna, I was left cold when presumably we were supposed to feel inspired and excited.

Snow White demonstrating the passion, warmth, and charisma that made everyone fall about themselves to help her.

As is the case in so many fantasy narratives (and not just fantasy), Snow has somehow inspired love in two courageous handsome men and at least one very creepy man without many clues given as to why.

One of these is a drunken Aussie putting on an accent, I don’t know which – Scottish? Irish? – and I’m not sure he knew either. Okay, it’s the Huntsman of the title, and he’s played by Chris Hemsworth, who along with the Queen seems far more interesting than Snow White. The drunkenness seemed to serve no real point in the narrative, and the romance was unconvincing, but again I’d wonder if that’s due to the Snow White characterisation, where she just didn’t seem to exhibit much warmth or interest in anything.

It was also a mystery as to why the Mirror never named the Huntsman as the fairest in the land, when quite clearly Hemsworth eclipsed everyone else on screen for pouting good looks.

Hemsworth is not the only Huntsman trying to win The Mirror’s vote for Fairest Of Them All; Once Upon a Time also boasts (boasted? One never can tell who is dead, not dead, or only temporarily dead in these sorts of universes) a huntsman determined to out-pretty Snow and the Queen, this time played by Jamie Dornan, who actually is Irish (from Northern Ireland, apparently).

Are you sure you’re the fairest of them all, and not me?

The movie itself probably needed a little more sharpening in its story focus; it felt like there were a lot of really interesting ideas searching for development and cohesion, and I’m not convinced everything came together as well as it could and should have. For the looks of it, the special effects were good, and the scenery was quite stunning at times, but I couldn’t help but see the inheritance from the Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Harry Potter and other fantasy-horror movies, though of course it’s hard to be terribly original in this genre. For instance, Ravenna seemed to be a vain Dementor in sucking the souls/lives out of young girls to steal their beauty; the white stag moment seemed fairly similar to Aslan’s role in Narnia; and as noted earlier, Ravenna seemed to be a fan of Galadriel.

Give a Dementor a mirror, and look what happens.

As for shapeshifting, the Queen does shift shape a little, when she appears to Snow in the form of one of Snow’s allies, and transforms into herself/birds, so it’s linked to deceit and evil here, playing on the theme that you can’t trust appearances (with, apparently, the exception of Snow).

Can we compare this with how Once Upon a Time has tackled the same fairytale? Obviously the latter is a TV show with plenty more space to develop storylines and character arcs, and it is very different for the way we see dual stories between the characters in their fairytale lives and their modern day versions where they can’t remember who they are. And let’s be honest, most viewers probably can’t remember who the characters are either, it’s all so complicated. Apart from the pretty Huntsman, Ravenna is Regina (Lana Parrilla), another beauty who wasn’t brought up to share and play nicely with others, and Snow is the traditional character as well as the modern Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin), both interpreted in a much warmer way.

Both these iterations turn Snow White into the kind of post-Buffy butt-kicking heroine we find everywhere these days: they’ve got swords, they’ve got courage, and don’t need “rescuing” in the same way the traditional fairytale characters do.

Okay, so he might be prettier than me, but my armour’s shinier.

Back to shapeshifting, Once Upon a Time offers us a new version of Red Riding Hood: whereas in most modern versions she will just kill the (were)wolf herself, in the TV series she is the wolf, though she is unaware of her lupine alter ego until after she’s killed her romantic interest, Peter. So the danger to young women comes not from men in most of the modern versions (not all of them), but from herself.

So why all these fairytale revisions? Part of the popularity is probably linked to this imposition of contemporary ideas about gender and identity and power onto classic narratives. Maybe storytellers are getting lazy, where every second movie seems to be a remake, reboot, or a sequel. Have we really run out of ideas for new stories? With news of a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, maybe we have.