It may only be a minor consolation, but it’s worth noting that Snow White and the Huntsman has very little to do with the Twilight series beyond its lead star. Pre-release comparisons purporting their similarities are nothing more than cynical assumptions. Those people who scoffed at its existence will most likely find themselves pleasantly surprised after viewing. Coming hot on the heels of March’s Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman once again tells the oft told story of Snow White as she conquers the evil witch and claims her rightful place as queen, but the story is tonally more aligned with the original Brothers Grimm story than the cutesy versions we show our children. The movie is dark, violent, sinister and frightening. Other movies glossed over the evil underpinnings of the story, including the eventual murder of the title character, but not this one. This is a mature telling that is worthy of admiration.
Snow White (Kristen Stewart) used to be a happy girl. Her father and mother, the countryside’s king and queen, loved her and each other dearly. Unfortunately, her mother quickly fell ill and passed away. Her father was overcome with grief until he met a beautiful woman named Ravenna (Charlize Theron), who he immediately married. However, right as they were about to consummate their marriage, Ravenna murdered him and began a takeover of his city, locking Snow White in a tower. Years later, right as Ravenna is about to take Snow White’s life, she escapes. Ravenna, determined to get her back, employs a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down, but he soon learns of Ravenna’s wicked ways and instead helps Snow White in her quest to bring justice to her land.
Snow White and the Huntsman does for the classic story what Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban did for that popular series—it progresses it with true passion, meaning and thematic growth. It’s not just an attempt to cash in on the Snow White name or the star power of Kristen Stewart. It is instead a visionary approach to the story, full of beautiful imagery and wondrous imagination. Throughout the movie, the characters travel to different places, all with their own distinct feelings and visual styles. Some are bright and lovely like an animated movie come to life, a place you’d love to spend time in. Others are morbid and unsettling, like the Dark Forest Snow White escapes to, which gains its strength through its visitors’ weaknesses. It’s the place nightmares are made of. Other landscapes include beautiful snow covered gardens, war torn battlefields and more.
If nothing else, Show White and the Huntsman is visually arresting, a surprisingly gorgeous bit of eye candy coming from first time director, Rupert Sanders. He puts a deft touch to the tiniest of details, almost as if he had been doing this for many years, and he makes his vision come to grandiose life. Still, being a first time director poses many challenges and he is unable to overcome all of them. Action clichés abound, including an excessive use of slow motion, and though he pulls some decent performances from Hemsworth and Stewart (the former who finally gets to play someone other than the bland and emotionless Thor and the latter who gets to do something other than bite her lip), he fails to contain Charlize Theron. She goes all out in the movie, chewing the scenery like it’s bubble gum. She is so over-the-top, her supposed menace turns to amusement. She’s not bad per se, but she doesn’t fit in what is otherwise a tonally balanced movie.
The film occasionally suffers from cinematic ADD, like when a gruesome troll shows up for a fight and then walks away before anything actually happens, but its biggest detractor is its fluctuation in believability. Kristen Stewart, though more impressive in this role than many others, is not a convincing warrior, making her late movie transformation tough to swallow. Even more difficult to believe is her ability to outrun, outmaneuver and outwit a team of guards (thanks partially to a randomly placed horse resting on a nearby beach) once she escapes from the confined tower she’s been locked in for so many years. Yet the movie still pulls you in, your suspension of disbelief never wavering for too long. Snow White and the Huntsman doesn’t eclipse every adaptation of the story that has come before it, but among the more adult oriented versions, including 1997’s acclaimed Snow White: A Tale of Terror starring Sigourney Weaver as the witch, it stands alone.
Snow White and the Huntsman receives 4/5