A Review of Snow White on Film
Snow White is one of the most famous of the Grimm brother’s fairy tales and has been one of the most adapted stories to film. In this article, we take a look at some of the most well-known of those adaptations and see how they stack up against each other and against the original fairytale.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)
Disney has a reputation for producing impeccable animated stories and their very first full-length animated feature was just that. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a treat for the eyes and the ears. With simple yet beautiful drawings in striking primary colors and lovely songs that are time-tested classics, this is a movie that simple can’t be topped. Snow White is a sweet and charming young princess, the dwarfs are each delightful characters with individual personalities, and the Evil Queen is both beautiful and terrifying. The story follows Grimm’s tale with the exception of a few minor details and does so with the wit and charm that only old-school Walt Disney could produce. You would be hard pressed to find any flaws in this film. A+
Trivia: Dancer Marge Champion’s movements were rotoscoped to be used as guide for Snow White.
Snow White (1987)
This version of Snow White is (unfortunately) a musical. Dianna Rigg plays the Evil Queen as a campy, singing version of a vain old lady. Sarah Patterson plays an older Snow White who, in this story, is chased away by her step-mother at a young age (played by Nicola Stapleton) and grows up with the dwarfs for a number of years. The dwarfs themselves are for some reason so hairy that they could be confused with animals. The one thing about this movie that worked was the Magic Mirror which was made to be quite scary. The idea of Dianna Rigg as the Evil Queen is not enough to make this more bearable. The horrible songs, coupled with a terribly dated look made it difficult to sit through. And it was also kind of racist. F
Trivia: Sarah Patterson also played Red Riding Hood in a movie made by the same company.
Snow White: A Tale of Terror (1997)
The scariest film on this list, Snow White: A Tale of Terror made a horror movie out of a fairy tale and it worked. Monica Keena as the innocent yet intelligent princess Lilli provides the perfect balance to Sigourney Weaver’s elegant queen who slowly loses her mind to magic. Both performances were stunning enough to outweigh any of the less-than-stellar performances by more minor characters. The dwarfs have less individual personalities in this movie, save for the one romantically interested in Lilli (who also happens to be not a dwarf but an average-sized human). The tone was dark and creepy, effectively created with setting, light, and story. Although this tale has quite a few differences from the original Grimm’s story, none of them manage to derail the plot in any way and it remains a fantastic adaptation of Snow White. A-
Trivia: The role of Lilli Hoffman (Snow White) was originally written with Alicia Silverstone in mind.
Snow White: The Fairest of Them All (2001)
This movie featured Kristin Kreuk (in her film debut) as Snow White. She was not the best actress, but she was surprising better than she was in the long-running Smallville. With the pounds of white make-up they put on her, she certainly looked the part but despite how pretty she was, it didn’t make up for the rest of the movie. The gut-wrenchingly corny music and lackluster special affects made it painfully obvious that this is a Hallmark movie. This is not a movie for critical viewers. The film is full of dreadful, oddly-contemporary dialogue delivered by bad actors. This movie also took the liberty of adding some sort of ice-demon that is inadvertently rescued by Snow White’s father and repays him by proving baby Snow with milk (since her mother has died by now and her father apparently doesn’t know how to feed her). Oh, and he gives him a kingdom too, complete with the Queen (Miranda Richardson) who was possibly the best part of the movie. The dwarfs were uncomfortably clothed in the most ridiculous looking rainbow ensemble and grating on the audience’s nerve from the very start. All in all, this version of Snow White’s many deviations from the original story worked against it, creating a ridiculous and unnecessary tale. D
Trivia: Kristin Kreuk is starring in the new CW television show Beauty and the Beast, another fairytale adaptation.
7 Zwerge (2004)
The German comedy 7 Zwerge has a quirky sort of humor (some of which I’m afraid was lost on this English-speaking viewer) that mixed in some modernity with its classic fairy tale. Cosma Shiva Hagen played Snow White and she has an ethereal sort of beauty about her that makes it hard to take your eyes away, which is appropriate for the role of the fairest of them all. The evil queen (played by Nina Hagen) resembled a woman gone delusional with old age; inches of blue eyeshadow and tall platinum blonde hair made look her as ridiculous and over-the-top as she acted. In this movie the dwarfs are actually grown men who live in a forbidden part of the kingdom to avoid women. This movie features over-the-top acting, silly costumes and ridiculous plot points but unlike some others on the list, it does so on purpose. There’s also a surprising and original twist ending. It’s not for everyone, but there are more than a few who would appreciate the sort of humor 7 Dwarfs has to offer. B-
Trivia: Cosma Shiva Hagen is the daughter of New Wave/punk singer Nina Hagen and the late musician Ferdinand Karmelk.
Grimm’s Snow White (2012)
I have low expectations from any movie made by the Asylum Company. That being said, this movie wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. This version of Snow White, although named “Grimm’s” is very far from the original tale. It in fact has a fantasy twist to it; with elves, dragons, and other beasts. When Snow is injured after escaping from her would-be murderers, she is taken in and healed by elves, whose species is persecuted by the humans for their magic. She then ends up fighting with them against the Queen (with no explanation as to how she can use weapons so well). Plenty of other changes were made to the story; a ring instead of an apple takes the princess down, for example. The acting was actually not bad, especially Jane March as the beautiful, Evil Queen. Jamie Thomas King as Prince Alexander was bland and forgettable and his romance with Snow White seemed undeveloped and boring. One thing this film did differently was cast a blonde as Snow White, which was interesting to see. Eliza Bennett is a cute girl didn’t really get to do all that much. The best part of the movie (besides Jane March) was the costume design, which was simple yet effective. An original take on the Snow White tale, Grimm’s Snow White is one of the better Asylum movies out there and managed to exceed my (very low) expectations, although it still ended up being anticlimactic and unnecessary. C-
Trivia: Jane March played Jane Porter in Tarzan and the Lost City.
Mirror Mirror (2012)
Tarsem Singh is famous for creating visual masterpieces and that goes for this film as well. Lovely special effects and bright colors make it a treat for the eyes. The dialogue was unnervingly modern but mostly for Julia Roberts. Roberts is a terrific actress but it was sometimes difficult to picture her as anyone BUT Julia Roberts, especially with the silly dialogue she had to work with. Lily Collins was good as the pretty but naïve princess although her insane eyebrows were pretty distracting. Arnie Hammer was a charming and endearing prince whose romance with Snow White seemed appropriately realistic even if his role was a bit shallow. Each of the dwarfs was superb with great talent and not written to be ridiculous like in other versions; I simply loved all of them. The Huntsman was substituted for a combination of the Queen’s servant who brings her into the woods to be eaten by a fearsome beast. Out of all the live action Snow White films, Mirror Mirror is one of the most visually exciting and if you don’t mind a little silliness and some deviation from the original story, then you’ll enjoy this one. B+
Trivia: Saoirse Ronan was considered for the role of Snow White, but the age difference between her and Armie Hammer was too big.
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Snow White and the Huntsman was a big budget blockbuster that didn’t quite live up to expectations. There were so many ridiculous plot points that they overshadowed what could have been a pretty awesome story about a young princess fighting to take back her kingdom from an evil sorceress. The main actors seemed like they were teenagers awkwardly delivering lines in a school play. Charlize Theron played the Queen and if there’s anyone whose beauty can enchant a king, it’s her. She plays the role in an over-the-top and campy way that most people would find annoying. Instead of writing a better story for Snow White they spent time having other characters tell us how beautiful, innocent and strong she is. Kristen Stewart was completely miscast as a princess who is supposed to possess great beauty and charisma. She delivered her lines in a very Bella Swan-esque manner, without emotion or interest (and in a terrible accent). Chris Hemsworth was appropriately ass-kicking as the Huntsman (who in this story, sides with Snow White) and Sam Claflin appropriately noble as the handsome suitor still hung up on his childhood crush. Both males were pretty much there just to give us a (completely forced) love triangle. The dwarves were all played by upstanding actors but don’t get enough screen time. The best thing about this film was the special effects including the changing scenery, magic mirror and phantom army. Overall this film is all style and no substance. C+
Trivia: Lily Collins auditioned for the lead role but lost to Kristen Stewart. Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder were considered to play Ravenna, the Evil Queen.
What’s your favorite Snow White film adaptation?
Author’s Note: Due to the overwhelming number of Snow White films I had to narrow it down to only the most well-known and those that were easy for me to get hold of (essentially, I couldn’t find many non-English or silent films). I also left out television shows (sorry Once Upon a Time) and very loose adaptations like Sydney White.