SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN TEASER: From a Marketing Perspective, Perhaps the Evil Queen is Fairest

The teaser trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman was released in November 2011, one week before the Kristen Stewart/ Bella Swan madness reached its peak with the release of Twilight: Breaking Dawn. And yet, Snow White (Kristen Stewart) and her hunky huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) appear in decidedly subordinate roles relative to Charlize Theron’s scene-eating Evil Queen, a character adapted from the Brothers Grimm’s account and inspired by the infamous Hungarian serial killer countess, Elizabeth Bathory.

The Queen’s villainous point of view is, I think, incontestably more interesting from a dramatic point of view than virtuous, hunted Snow White, and hence justifiable from a marketing perspective, especially in the teaser. And yet, when you’ve got premium fan-bait—Stewart in a bread and butter role—why not exploit it/her?

Reading through comments on youtube (where better to gauge lay reaction?), I noticed a pronounced hostility toward Ms. Stewart, expressed in disparagement of her acting , her appearance and her appropriateness for the iconic role of Ms. White. In the same space, Ms. Theron was praised to the skies for her acting chops, her beauty and role appropriateness.

Since the trailermakers at work last Summer/Fall could hardly have anticipated (with confidence) the Bella backlash of Spring 2012 and perhaps much earlier, what might have moved them to emphasize Theron’s role (months before her Funny or Die “Sex Tape,” a viral sensation) and to de-emphasize titular characters Snow and the Huntsman. (Like Stewart, Hemsworth, too, gets slammed by the commentariat for his 2011 portrayal of Thor). Without having read the brief or the research, I can only conjecture.

More than likely Theron– who we will stipulate is the more accomplished actor–delivers the more compelling performance in the more dramatic and vivid role. Thus, her scenes presumably constitute better, more iconic and more appealing samples of the film being promoted. And, as I’ve said above, her psycho-drama provokes and drives this narrative, so using her dialogue as narrative makes sense both in terms of story telling, but also in terms of emotional (horror, desire, jealousy) and promotional effect (identifying the film and branding it for audiences).

In the most famous lines from the tale, Theron conjures the spirit of the mirror (“mirror mirror, on the wall etc.”). Later in the trailer, she names her rival and casts the spell in a cruel incantation that ensures their climactic confrontation: “Lips red as blood / hair black as night/ bring me your heart/my dear, dear Snow White.” Any copywriter knows you won’t improve on rhyming couplets from a universally familiar fairy tale that not only describes the protagonist but limns her situation.

But while recognizable elements of the well-known fairy tale–to wit, the Queen’s vanity and her magic mirror– are foregrounded, Snow White’s dwarf posse get’s short shrift as does the poisoned apple. Perhaps such elements nudge the film away from the horror vein it works so effectively and so explicitly. Snow White whistling as she keeps house for her seven male roommates is not a direction either the teaser or the main trailer develop or desire to explore. It’s both too Disney and too Adult Film, at the same time.

Did I mention what a gorgeous piece of short form film art this is? The Queen, warmly bathed in golden, interior light; Snow White, bloodlessly pale within a hostile, wintry landscape. The editing, a mix of slow, metronymic cuts to black and quicker cuts without transition, as characters are introduced, conflict laid out and suspense built.

The camera movement is as dynamic as the movement within each shot. This is an epic action film, with scope and stakes, conveyed through master shots, important music, spectacular effects and high production values. After all, it’s from the producer’s of “Alice and Wonderland,” a sales message one of the few graphic cards specifies midway through.

As for that important music, it’s remarkably similar to the cue from Inception, a dreamlike, dread-inducing, bass-intensive chord, tolling a terrible though inevitable reckoning between the lusty and ruthless reigning beauty and her intrepid, chaste successor.

[The trailer makers appear to have recognized the success of their teaser, since the official trailer (above) does little more than double-down on the Evil Queen/Charlize Theron sell. She and the mirror spirit deliver all of the voice over, providing narration and promotion in an evil duet.]

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movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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