The other option, “Mirror, Mirror,” had Julia Roberts, and somebody who looked like Audrey Hepburn, and Nathan Lane, and fantastically colorful costumes which looked like Disney on pastel-colored acid , and trailers which emphasized the color and the humor and the fantastical elements—as opposed to “Snow White and the Huntsman,” which looked GRITTY and ACTION-ORIENTED and like the princess would be... well, more about the action, and the leading the forces of good to fight the evil, power-hungry queen who was literally draining the life from the kingdom, as opposed to being all chirpy birds and flowery dresses and prettiness and sparkles and dwarves on boingy accordion stilt things.
Not that there’s anything wrong with prettiness and sparkles and fairy tales- -I mean, I love “The Slipper and the Rose,” which is definitely pretty and sparkly and occasionally silly (and, okay, sometimes snarky—gotta love a prince whose first line is, “Why do they always sound so many trumpets? I’m not Jehovah!”). But, when trying to figure out what I want to see on the big screen, I’m kind of going to go for the action and the movie that look like it will have a more serious plot.
That didn’t mean that I didn’t, you know, think, “Gee, I should see “Mirror, Mirror” when I get a chance, when it’s out on video, I can get it from the library, but, you know, whatever, silly camp film version, watch for pretty costumes whenever...”
Wow, guys, I was soooo wrong.....
First, of all, of course, there is the fact that “Snow White and the Huntsman” was basically a trainwreck with. plotholes so big you could drive an entirely different train right through them. That is the first thing.
The second thing is that “Mirror, Mirror” was, in fact, AWESOME. To the point where I watched it, then made the Intrepid Roommate also watch it, and we could not stop making squee noises and pausing it to comment excitedly and there was much awesome.
There are, of course, the spectacular costumes, where “spectacular” sometimes means pop culture Versailles on drugs. But that was only the beginning.
First, there is this fantastic prologue. It’s visually intriguing—it’s done sort of like a puppet show/flashback. And it’s narrated by the Queen, which means that she can be snarky (“the King and Queen named their daughter Snow White... probably because it was the most pretentious name they could think of”). It’s not your typical sweetness and light and alas, Snow White’s mother died, her father vanished off in the forest of darkness, woe, kind of fairytale prologue.
And that leads to the next thing: Evil Julia Roberts.
No, seriously. Evil. Julia. Roberts. As in, “Gah, what, why is she creepy, and why is she so good at it?”
The really amazing thing was that not only was Julia Roberts evil as the Queen, she was also evil as the Mirror. The Mirror is literally her reflection—and it does not like her very much. It is silver and exact; it has no preconceptions—it will cheerfully attack Snow White when ordered, but it will also cheerfully tell the Queen truths she does not want to hear—and it will not share important information unasked.
There is no “Oh, you are the fairest”—the only reference to that line is, in fact, when the Mirror tells the Queen that someday, the Queen will ask the question, and won’t like the answer.
The other interesting thing about Evil Julia Roberts is actually the way that she is evil. She’s not evil in quite the same way as Charlize Theron’s Queen was—and I don’t just mean she is not literally sucking the life out of beautiful women to keep her youth and thus her power intact. She’s... more subtle. She’s smiles and flattery and throwing parties for the gentry and telling the people that the high taxes are just because she needs the money to protect them from the horrible beast that lurks in the Dark Forest (technically, Nathan Lane, Chief Steward and Bootlicker, says that, but it’s a strategy in keeping with the Evil Queen).
Part of the difference is seen very clearly in how she treats Snow White. The Disney version of the Evil Queen was, specifically, freaked out about Snow White’s beauty, and thus made her dress in rags and work as a servant, with only the assorted cheerful birds and so on to talk to. Charlize Theron had an actual
Evil Julia Roberts makes sure Snow White has beautiful (if kind of childlike) dresses, makes sure Snow White stays isolated, and makes sure that everybody- EVERYBODY—knows that poor Snow White is fragile, and delicate, and not up to leaving the palace, and, in short, not quite right in the head, poor girl. No way to make her into a political symbol, or an attractive prospect for an alliance, or anybody that could be used against the Queen, because the Queen has made sure that nobody—including Snow White—thinks of her stepdaughter as anybody who could ever do or be anything.
And, like all such psychological stuff, it only really works because Snow White herself starts out believing it. She tries to sneak out to attend one of the Queen’s parties (where, um, the queen has her courtiers and the gentry set up and playing a game which I thought was living chess, but which is, in fact, Battleship. With ships as headdresses. Headdresses with actual miniature cannons), gets caught, and verbally eviscerated before being sent back to her room.
Snow White does in fact sneak out to see what the kingdom looks like, at the urging of her best friend, the woman who is the castle baker (and also a more general sort of servant, I think)—this Snow White doesn’t have chirpy forest animal friends; she’s made friends with the staff, and sneaks down to the kitchen (where the Queen would never go, so that works out).
Meanwhile, out in the Dark Forest, the Prince is riding through with his valet. Now, I have to say, he’s cute, but he also kind of has it coming when the dwarves—who are robbers with some impressive accordion stilts and acrobatic skills—beat him up, strip him, and tie him and his valet upside down from a tree branch. Because he laughs at them and refuses to fight them on the grounds of basically being a jerk who assumes that dwarves cannot possibly be serious opponents.
Snow White, of course, is the one who finds them and cuts them down, on her way to The Only Village In The Kingdom (yeah.. that bit was kind of silly- I mean, you can’t at least say “city,” if you mean it’s the ONLY quasi-urban area—or say “Capitol” if you mean “urban area near the palace”?), to see the tragic, impoverished state of things.
The Prince and his valet find their way to palace (the Queen being distracted by there being a semi-naked prince in her throne room is very, very funny). And, of course, the Queen decides to throw a ball in his honor—and by “in his honor” she means, “so that I can lure him into marriage.”
Now, this is not in fact because he is attractive. It is, quite simply, because he mentions that his kingdom is rich in natural resources—and the Queen’s lavish lifestyle has pretty much bankrupted the kingdom (noting what the aristocracy wears and how they act, I’m pretty sure the problems are NOT just with the Queen). In fact, the leader of the gentry has already proposed that he and the Queen get hitched, because “the gentry” are nervous about the kingdom’s finances—basically, she has the option to get married, fast, or to risk her power base rebelling against her (and it’s not like she can call upon the people she’s been taxing to destitution for the past decade to help her out). The Prince is clearly the more attractive choice.
Meanwhile, Snow White has run back to tearfully tell her best friend the baker about the horrible conditions in the kingdom. The baker’s solution? She tells Snow White that there is going to be a ball—a ball held in honor of a visiting prince. A visiting prince, Snow White notes excitedly, whose country would probably have an army—which could be used to help her retake the throne which is rightfully hers.
Let me just say that again—this is not “someday my prince will come, someday I’ll find my love,” this is “Hey, he might be able to contribute to the fight!” It’s not even, “I’ll propose marriage as an alliance between our kingdoms”—there’s no mention of marriage, or romance, or anything except the military aid issue.
Of course, once they meet at the ball (where Evil Julia Roberts looks spectacular as a scarlet-and-white peacock), Snow White and the Prince recognize each other from the woods, and flirt and giggle until the Queen notices and catches Snow White as she tries to flee. This is the point where Snow White gets tossed out to the woods to be messily devoured by the horrible beast—because she dares to point out to the Queen that she is in fact the rightful ruler. It’s not about flirting with the prince—it’s not about being “the fairest”- it’s specifically because Snow White threatens the Queen’s political power.
The dwarves, who are thankfully all individual characters with their own traits and backstories and so on, are reluctant to let Snow White stay—but finally agree to let her spend one night, while they go off to rob the Queen’s tax delivery. And by the time they come back, Snow White has set the table, there are candles, there is some kind of centerpiece thing going on, and there is an amazing meal all set (remember how Snow White’s only friends in the castle were the kitchen staff/the servants? This is a Snow White who has in-universe justification for being able to cook). And, yeah, it is totally a strategy to get them to let her stay longer (as opposed to, “oh, these poor unfed dears, they need somebody to cook for them!”).
Thereupon follows the Ubiquitous Training Montage, combined with the Picking A New Wardrobe Montage. Since the Prince, upon hearing that the same bandits who
When they meet—and once they’ve gotten over the shock of “You’re with the bandits?” “You’re with the Queen?”—the Prince, unfortunately, falls back into the pattern of, “Oh, don’t be silly, you’re so cute when you’re angry, of course I’m not going to fight a girl.” Snow White, armed with her status as the heroine, and fresh off of a training montage.... is nowhere near his level of skill with a sword. In fact, he mocks her by basically spanking her with the flat of her own sword (really? seriously?).
Snow White, however, has gumption, and a determination not to give up... and the ability to calculate angles to know where she needs to throw the rock to get the Prince’s horse to solidly kick him right in the royal posterior, thus setting him up for her to knock him out with a solid right cross. I have to say, I respect a solution that involves the heroine being clever and thinking over a “My magically-acquired instant sword skills will defeat you!”
It’s at this point—when the Prince has been sent back to the palace sans clothing for the second time in a row, and Snow White has turned out to not only not be dead but to be leading the bandits—that the Queen loses her temper, and demands that the Mirror provide magical solutions. Regardless of any hypothetical future costs.
The Prince gets dosed with... err.. the only love potion the Mirror still has left, after the Queen’s use of it in the past, and the dwarves’ house gets attacked by extremely creepy marionettes manipulated by the Mirror (seriously; very nicely creepy).
The interesting thing about the Prince being the victim of the Queen’s spell is that... well, the Prince is the victim of the Queen’s spell. And it’s Snow White who gets to break said spell—in the traditional fashion, of course—after she and the dwarves steal the Prince straight from the wedding.
The Queen’s response is to send the Beast after Snow White—and the Beast turns out to be not a representation of the kingdom or nature or anything, but to in fact be Snow White’s father, under an evil spell. An evil spell, by the way, that involved some very interesting CGI design; the Beast was kind of a furry serpent with elements of an Oriental Dragon, and a tail that had a sharp point that split into four claws.
Breaking the spell over the King means that the Queen’s debt to the Mirror (or the extent to which she has recklessly overspent her own magic) comes due.
Once the King has gotten slightly less confused, the next scene is the wedding—and, seriously, considering some of the nonsense that the Prince had gotten up to, I’m totally envisioning a scene where the King has a talk with Snow White and says, “Look, sweetie, the kingdom is still bankrupt, and, well... he’s cute, he’s rich, so what if he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer, two out of three ain’t bad...” The Queen—now old—shows up, with the apple, and almost-- almost gets Snow White to eat it. Instead, however, Snow White hands a piece back to the Queen.
We don’t actually know if the Queen eats it... but the Mirror ends up exploding into tiny pieces, so, clearly, there was something fairly permanent. Not on the level of red-hot iron shoes, but still, Snow White very clearly has no compunction about smiling coldly at her stepmother and saying, “Age before beauty.”
Of course, considering the fact that Snow White has learned that the Queen not only kept her effectively imprisoned for a decade while bankrupting the kingdom through taxes, but also turned her father into a horrible monster which she then used to murder her opponents.. yeah, I’d say being snarky in victory—snarky and sure that the enemy will not be coming back—is justified.
Snow White, in this version, does not bite the apple. She sees through the Queen’s disguise, because she continues to be, well, smart. Also, this movie has already HAD the “protagonist must be freed from the Evil Queen’s evil spell by means of true love’s first kiss,” so, really, doing it again would just be superfluous.
....wow, this was more than I expected to say. Final verdict? I don’t know who would win in an Evil Queen Contest, and I suspect that the Prince and the Huntsman would just end up going out for drinks. But this Snow White? Yeah, she would kick Bella Snow Swann White Sparklepire Princess all the way back to Forks.
Or, rather, she would calculate the angles to get a horse to do it for her.