Early evidence suggests the sumptuous Snow White and the Huntsman will at least look better than its Julia Roberts-fronted rival
Film-makers who begin their careers in commercial advertising do not always emerge as dead-eyed journeymen when they arrive in Hollywood. Ridley Scott conjured up Blade Runner and Alien from the ashes of some much-loved 1970s ads for Hovis bread, and I'm something of an apologist for Zack Snyder, at least when he's in Watchmen mode and not hawking spectacularly ill-advised video game porn in the vein of last year's Sucker Punch.
Rupert Sanders is the latest director to emerge from ad-land, and I can't help feeling that the British film-maker's forthcoming take on Snow White has retained a whiff of festive perfume commercial that you might think was a hangover from his old job. Perhaps it's the presence of Charlize Theron as the evil Queen Ravenna, or, more likely, the pretentious, faux-edgy fantasy imagery – but I feel a desperate need to rush out and purchase a dozen bottles of Poison by Christian Dior every time I watch the trailer.
Three new featurettes have dropped this week ahead of Snow White and the Huntsman's June release, and none of them do an awful lot to extinguish the suspicion that Sanders is keener on style than substance. In the first, Theron boasts of a "feast for the eyes", while Kristen Stewart (Snow White) discusses "visuals that absolutely transport you somewhere else". Chris Hemsworth (the Huntsman) helpfully offers that because Sanders has made oodles of adverts, he will be able to tell "a vivid story with such great imagery", while something that looks like Castrol GTX (actually the famous mirror on the wall morphing into human form) flows ominously around the screen.
The second video centres on the story, which doesn't seem to have been adapted too much from the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale. The evil queen is still out to murder poor Snow White for being hotter than her, but this time she has added superpowers such as the ability to transform into a flock of crows and drain the lifeblood from unfortunate servants, a bit like Ingrid Pitt in classic Hammer horror Countess Dracula mode. The censors might well have handed Snow White and the Huntsman an 18 certificate back in the early 1970s: it's intriguing to see that a film about an evil murderess who wants to cut out the heart of her rival is these days being pitched at the pre-teen Twilight crew.
Finally, we get the chance to have a look at the sumptuous costumes prepared for the film by three-time Oscar winner Colleen Atwood. No complaints here: the movie looks spectacular. Can it develop into something more than a visual tour de force, and does it need to? There's something fitting about bringing the story of Snow White to the big screen in superficial form. Fairytales are often opaque, sepia-toned devices: horror stories for children, as it were, with the awful goings-on obscured by the dream-like nature of the storytelling. On this basis, Snow White and the Huntsman appears appropriately vacuous.
I should also be fair to Sanders by pointing out that his previous work seems to have been mostly for video game or trainer companies, rather than perfume firms, and there are several excellent short films on his website. Black Hole, a creepily effective, nightmarish bit of body horror with a touch of David Lynch about it, is particularly worth checking out.
Snow White and the Huntsman's final plus point is that no matter how bad it ends up being, it cannot possibly get close to rival production Mirror, Mirror's level of abomination. The Julia Roberts-fronted version seems to have fed the entire cast truckloads of happy pills before setting them loose on set, and you'd struggle to find more ropey, half-hearted acting work at a Romford pantomime.
Snow White and the Huntsman arrives on 1 June, while Mirror, Mirror will be inflicted on us as early as 30 March in the US and 6 April in the UK. Which, if any, will you be queueing up for?DramaBen Childguardian.co.uk © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds