Snow White and The Huntsman
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Written by: Evan Daugherty
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin
Rated PG-13 | 127 Minutes
Release Date: June 1, 2012
“Do you hear that? It’s the sound of battles fought and lives lost. It once pained me to know that I am the cause of such despair. But now their cries give me strength. Beauty is my power.” — Queen Ravenna
In director Rupert Sanders‘ feature-film debut, Snow White and the Huntsman, the ruthless and beautiful (ruthlessly beautiful?) Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) has spilled blood and conquered countless kingdoms. For the Queen, beauty is power – and by that measure she is a Goddess, omnipotent and sovereign. There is another, however, destined to undo Ravenna’s tyrannical rule. The Magic Mirror (Chris Obi) foresees the Queen will be overthrown by her stepdaughter, Snow White (Twilight‘s Kristen Stewart), who will surpass her as “Fairest of Them All”.
Luckily, destiny isn’t always set in stone. If Queen Ravenna can consume Snow White’s still-beating heart, she will achieve immortality and eternal beauty. She summons a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to journey through the Dark Forest and capture her dear, dear Snow White.
The huntsman takes pity on his prey and trains Snow White to be a bad-ass warrior princess, like Xena meets Joan of Arc. With the aid of several dwarves (yes, those dwarves) and her childhood companion Prince William (Sam Claflin), Snow White must unite the kingdoms to vanquish her wicked stepmother once and for all.
The dwarves are created using a combination of visual effects and old-school camera tricks, transforming some of Britain’s finest actors into pint-sized warriors and drunkards. Don’t expect to see Dopey, Sneezy, Doc, or Bashful singing “Heigh-Ho, Heigh-Ho” through the forest though, these dwarves are more Middle-Earth than Magic Kingdom.
There’s Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) as Beith, the leader of the clan; Bob Hoskins (Who Framed Roger Rabbit) as Muir, their blind senior statesman; Ray Winstone (The Departed) as the ill-tempered drunk Gort; Nick Frost (Attack the Block) as Nion; Toby Jones (Frost/Nixon) as Coll, the toughest soldier among them; Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes) as Duir; Johnny Harris (Atonement) as Quert, and Brian Gleeson (The Eagle) as Gus.
Visually, Snow White and the Huntsmen is an impressive directorial debut for Sanders. The dark imagery is composed exquisitely, with inspired cinematography by Greig Fraser (Let Me In). There’s a palpable medieval atmosphere created by top-notch production design and Collen Atwood’s fantastic costume designs. The problem is, while appealing to the eye, you’ve seen everything before. Ultimately the film feels like a mishmash of Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Chronicles of Narnia, Willow, The Never Ending Story, and Pan’s Labyrinth. The enchanted forests of Snow White and the Huntsman are filled with trolls and fairies ripped from the pages of Guillermo del Toro’s sketchbook, while other nightmarish creatures evoke the imagery of Nazgûl (Lord of the Rings) or Death Eaters from the Harry Potter series.
And then there’s Kristen Stewart. I hate to be your stereotypical male chauvinist who objectifies women and judges them solely on their physical appearance, but in what magical world of make-believe could Kristen Stewart be more fair (fairytale speak for “smoking hot”) than Charlize Theron?
Nothing personal against Kristen Stewart – she’s young, attractive, and a completely average actress in films like Adventureland and The Runaways, but she’s not Snow White material. Let’s be honest, Stewart is in this film because of her popularity with pre-teen audiences. To 13-year-olds (and some severely misguided 40-year-olds) Kristen Stewart is Bella Swan. For that reason alone, Twi-hards will show up to see Snow White and the Huntsman.
Unfortunately, she’s simply unconvincing in every aspect of this movie. I don’t buy her as a beyond-beautiful princess, and I certainly don’t believe she’s capable of kicking ass. I’m pretty sure K-Stew went to the C-3P0 school of facial expressions – she’s only got one, a mix of confusion and angst, the visual equivalent of a very audible “Uhhhh.”
Sadly, Stewart comes off as the same awkward, insecure girl she always portrays. Honestly, I think Megan Fox would have been a much better fit for this role. Firstly, Megan Fox is gorgeous – she’s pretty much the definition of “Lips as red as blood” and “hair as black as coal.” Secondly, she’s confident, something Kristen Stewart just isn’t. Fox would be more than convincing as a bad-ass slayer of soldiers and queens. I know, people love to talk at length about how awful she is in Transformers or Jonah Hex, but she’s turned in great performances in films like Jennifer’s Body and Friends With Kids. Unfortunately, Fox hasn’t been given a chance to act or portray an actual character – instead she’s been used as a sexual object for men to stare at during giant-robot-fight intermissions. I would have loved to see Fox and Theron entangled in a battle of brawn and beauty.
Even though Kristen Stewart’s dull, lifeless delivery nearly derails this clunky medieval affair, Charlize Theron saves it with her commanding performance as Queen Ravenna. Hemsworth does a good job as the huntsman, though he’s not exactly reinventing the wheel. Essentially the props department took the hammer out of his hand and replaced it with an axe and cut him loose.
Let’s call this movie what it really is: Bella and Thor’s Magical Middle-Earth Adventure. It’s not an altogether unworthy effort though, there are some fantastic visual effects and a terrific performance by Theron that make this movie worth watching. Overall Snow White and the Huntsmen is a much better revisionist fairytale than Mirror, Mirror (that other Snow White movie), Red Riding Hood, or Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.
I think I would rather watch Dragonslayer, Legend, or Willow before revisiting this film, though. Speaking of Willow, how soon can we expect a remake featuring Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) as the titular hero and Hemsworth as Madmartigan? Hey, while we’re at it, let’s put Megan Fox in there!