The tale of an unmatched beauty versus the wicked crone is a popular one this season on the big and small screen. It combines all the things that make fairy tales timeless and alluring, including a battle of good vs. evil, magic and the triumph of true love. A balance of sword fights and intimate moments has helped the story endure – but that doesn’t mean it’s immune to tampering. Snow White and the Huntsman
takes the ageless fable, and makes it dark and exhausting.
Snow White (Kristen Stewart) was the blessed daughter of the ruling king and queen. But in his grief over his wife’s death, the king was seduced by a ruthless, ambitious witch who takes his throne. Rather than kill the heir, Ravenna (Charlize Theron) permanently locks her in a tower as the once lush countryside whithers under her dark rule. Finally of age and feeling the weight of her ultimate fate, Snow White escapes her prison. With the help of The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) sent to kill her and a group of dwarves, the rightful queen eludes the tracking party trying to find her. Rousing the defeated spirits of her father’s men, Snow White returns with an army to regain her kingdom.
This is probably the darkest telling of the fairy tale to be related on screen. Theron is brilliantly captivating as the evil witch. Her performance is sometimes over-the-top, but it matches the insane actions of her character. Moreover, the repeated physical transformations that then rely on the expressiveness of her eyes and the tone of her voice only further emphasize her focal point in the narrative. And the black, raven-like coat she dons near the end of the picture is beyond stunning with its real feathers and contrast to her pale complexion (she's also the only character in the film with a notable number of wardrobe changes.)
Stewart plays a character more responsible for her own safety - but only slightly. Instead of moving away from her Twilight
persona, she just recreates it here – with no help from the script that confines her heroism to feminine ploys. Even at the end when her allies easily cower at the breadth of their task, her desire to keep a promise rather than cite a stronger will is insufficient. Hemsworth is a physical presence displaying powerful feats, but with little call for true acting. That said, he carries one of the most powerful scenes in the movie flawlessly. On the other hand, the employment of popular British actors in the roles of the dwarves is off-putting and probably unnecessary.
The special effects are impressive, from the enchanted faerie forest to Ravenna’s demonstrations of supernatural power. But in the end the film runs far too long, making it difficult to align yourself with any of the characters. With at least 30 minutes too many in the more than two-hour feature, it's easy to identify the redundant characters (William) and superfluous scenes (one or the other of the so-called safe havens). In addition, the by-the-book script that throws in an action beat at predetermined increments fragments the narrative by appearing random and/or forced. This is likely the combined fault of a first-time director and four writers assigned to a big budget picture.
The vivid imagery and moments of excellence cannot make up for the unrestrained storytelling and poor decisions.
Director: Rupert Sanders
Starring: Kristen Stewart
, Chris Hemsworth
and Charlize Theron