Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

Stars: Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin

Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sensuality, Running time 127 mins, Action/Adventure/Drama

Compare to: Sleepy Hollow (1999), Robin Hood (2010)

For all the remakes and adaptions of comic books and so on, a “sleeper sub-genre” if you will, seems to keep its place in the cinema ranks; I’m speaking of fairy tale adaptions of course. Last year’s Beastly and Red Riding Hood didn’t do too bad financially, but with Snow White, the sub-genre might be getting its big break.

Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is a woman of many talents: deception and magic, being her most powerful of skills. After tricking a king into marriage, she murders him and takes his throne. Instead of killing his daughter, Snow White (Kristen Stewart), she locks her into a cell while the rest of the world thinks her dead. Eventually, Snow White escapes and the queen sends the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down. The trick is, getting Snow White and devouring her heart before the queen’s spell that keeps her young is gone and she dies of a fast old age.

Ultimately, I don’t need to tell you the story of this one; you already know it. The major difference between this version and the others is that moodiness and a much darker tone take the reigns to tell an enjoyable, if not slightly boring, retelling of a classic. Another aspect you might not recognize in this version is the character of the Huntsman, played by Chris Hemsworth, whose box-office value only seems to be going up after this year’s Cabin in the Woods and playing Thor in The Avengers. His drunken, aggressive demeanor is a nice contrast to Stewart’s quiet, humble manner. To a point, the characters and chemistry feel all too familiar, but the writers never take us dow such a deep, melodramatic hole that they can’t get us out again. It seems that any filmmaker willing to use Stewart as their lead would be attempting to capitalize on her success in Twilight. So while her actions and tone might have you recall that terrible nightmare of a film series your girlfriend made you watch, she’s given a much heavier weight to carry here, thankfully.

The effects and landscape in Snow White feel like the real stars here, as we’re taken through the queen’s dirty, dying kingdom facing the sea to the amazingly rendered forest straight out of an old school fairy tale. Animals are part of the actual environment and vice versa. A subtle humming permeates the background as a sort of combination of sounds and music. It walks a thin line between too much and just right, but stays closer to the side of “just right.” While an earlier encounter with a large troll, made up of stone and trees gave off the impression that our main characters our never going to be safe no matter where they go, this is one of the very few scenes that shed a happy light on an otherwise near-morbid saga. The scenes of the dark forest also bring us to a more malevolent side to the story, apparitions and snakes dwelling in a place that only the Fire Swamp could contend with. No R.O.U.Ss, though.

The dwarves are a welcome addition as well, played by the likes of Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone and others. They come so late in the film, I forgot they would be appearing at all. They also lighten the film just enough that you don’t feel you’re in one of Tim Burton’s daydreams. The again, if it were Tim Burton’s fantasies, the main roles of Snow White and the Huntsman would be played by Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp. Or both just by Johnny Depp. Another positive thing is that the dwarves humor doesn’t become so light it that it turns to goofy, something this year’s earlier Mirror Mirror was designed for.

To skip over Charlize Theron’s performance as the Queen though, would be a crime. Any viewer can tell she has fun with the role, getting into some ridiculous get-ups and screaming orders at her weirdo, albino, right-hand man brother. Her affinity for crows and milk are also a disturbing, fun visuals. Her bizarre gesturing and desperate cries for Snow White’s heart is all a part of a dream role that Nicholas Cage would’ve killed for. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if he auditioned for the role. That man loves screaming. It seems that while many critics are finding this movie boring and overly mopey, Charlize Theron’s act is something everyone seems to agree is worth watching.

If there’s one problem with the film, it would have to be the pacing. Certain times feel like there aren’t even any words spoken and we’re having to watch Stewart emote solely for the purpose of filling time. Then again, her character’s been in a tower for like seven or eight years so I suppose I could give her a break. A suggestion would have been to have more focus on the backgrounds and sets. Everytime we get settled in to where the characters are, an awesome landscape of crashing waves and fertile valleys, we’re shoved into the characters faces again and have to feel like we’re talking to them.

As mentioned earlier, it seems the fantasy retellings are getting more and more buzz. This is fine with me, as long as they’re good of course. Next month’s Jack the Giant Killer may have potential while December’s The Hobbit is bound to break records. What I’m realling hoping for is that classics of all periods are introduced. The style of 300 is great but it’s a style of its own and anything similar comes off as a copy. Let’s see more of the serious drama/combination of special effects, like what Lord of the Rings did so well. While this is no LOTR, this may be part of the reason Snow White doesn’t feel like such a drag, despite what some critics project. Epic scenery, supernatural elements, and some decent action and we’ve got a decent movie here.

Also, a nice finishing touch is a new Florence + Machine song, Breath of Life, plays on through the credits. Too bad it’s only available on iTunes by purchasing the entire album, those jerks.

Grade: B-

2 Responses to “Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman”

  1. I’ve not seen this and was quite dubious at first… quite a few reviews have been positive though so I’m very tempted to give it a try!

    • Taylor Says:

      It’s a tough one to gauge… I know a lot of people who were not impressed. I don’t know if I’d watch it again, but going in ready to be disappointed helped since there was nowhere else to go but up for me. If
      ‘Lord of the Rings’ was a an ocean, Snow White is an indoor pool. Boring to some, enough for others.


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