As a lover of fairy tales, it is a rare and special time when movies portray something of the classics outside of Disney. I recently attended Mirror Mirror, and shortly afterwards Snow White and the Huntsman, at my local cinema. Both tell the story of Snow White, both feature a strong female protagonist as well as antagonist, and both are visually beautiful. However, though each features the classic elements of the story, the tone and focus of the movies vary greatly.
For one thing, Snow White and the Huntsman is a horror story as well as an action adventure. Within ten minutes of the movie’s start, I was thanking my lucky stars I didn’t take my eleven year old to see this flick. There’s murder, betrayal, startling special effects, and scenes of intense cruelty and terror. It was definitely too scary for younger children, though for adults it is a compelling narrative featuring mythological themes. Several scenes used elements of Arthurian lore.
Mirror Mirror, on the other hand, takes a more light-hearted, tongue-in-cheek approach to the tale. The evil queen is not so much cruel as extremely vain and looking to marry a young stud. Snow White must flee the castle in order to grow into the kind of person who can and will rule the kingdom wisely. Her prince comes, but she’s more proactive about her own fate and takes matters into her own hands. This movie, in my opinion, is safe for children ten and older.
There were things I enjoyed about both films. Both portrayed more feminist interpretations of the tale, and I must admit that I am a sucker for any princess that rescues – not only herself – but her entire kingdom. However, while Mirror Mirror focused on humor and romance, those things were non-existent in Snow White in the Huntsman – which took a much darker and more dramatic approach to the subject. While Julia Robert’s queen in Mirror Mirror was vain and selfish, she lacked the backstory of Charlize Theron’s queen in Snow White and the Huntsman. In the latter, the queen’s motivations and obsession with beauty – while not justifable – at least become understandable. If it wasn’t for her inherent cruelty, the viewer might even feel sorry for the queen.
There is honestly no real way to compare these movies well. I can not recommend one more than the other, because they are too different. While the same tale inspired both, one is a humorous, family friendly movie and the other a darkly disturbing tale. I would recommend any lover of fairy tales see both and judge for themselves.